The worst kept secret in the dining world is that LA’s restaurant scene just keeps getting better and better to the highest levels found anywhere in this country (although some would argue that it has always been this great but it has taken the rest of the country this long to catch up to the notion). It’s almost cliche to mention what national publications such as Esquire, Bon Appetit and GQ have been telling us year after year in their annual lists of best restaurants and best new restaurants in the USA.
However, almost all of these restaurants have been fine establishments that only opened at 5 pm or later for dinner service. Lunch is and has always been more of an on-the-go afterthought in LA, food wise. Got a few minutes to nosh during lunch break? There are top shelf quick stops and delis to grab sandwiches, salads, etc. Looking for places to drink a boozy lunch? Again, plenty of bars to choose from with a limited bar food menu. However, if you want a high end, chef-driven dining experience where the food is the main focus around noon? Good luck. That’s a tough request. Or was a tough request.
Until now. And who better than Terrine to lead the lunch charge? You know, LA Weekly’s 2015 Best New Restaurant of the Year. That Terrine. The fine ladies of Lalascoop were kind enough to invite me to the opening of the new lunch menu and boy did this restaurant not disappoint.
Let’s start with the overall ambiance of the place itself. When people hear “French restaurant” they generally think of a stuffy space with small plates and marginally (or non) friendly waitstaff. This does not describe Terrine. As part of the new wave of LA French restaurants (think Trois Mec, Petit Trois), they have taken all of the delicious flavors and elements of French cooking and added LA’s unique casual SoCal style. The waitstaff is friendly, professional and helpful and the restaurant is a place where you can comfortably sit and enjoy the views of the gorgeous patio and the fellow beautiful diners. Everything we all love about the ambiance at dinner at Terrine remains the same during lunch service.
Now on to the food.
The prevailing theme of the new lunch menu is simple – perfectly executing French classics with the odd new Terrine twist. We started with the house-made Charcuterie board aka Assiette de Charcuteries (How could we not? The place is called “Terrine” for Pete’s sakes). Accompanied with house picked carrots, pickles and radishes, along with date jam, mustard and what tasted to be a form of honey, this meat on this board had Pate Grand-Mere, Truffled Chicken Liver (think foie mousse), Rillettes, Testa (smokier version of prosciutto) and Andouille Sausage. Each bite was a perfectly executed charcuterie umami taste. The Truffled Chicken Liver was a decadent whip cream that might very well have been the best item of the entire meal. Perfect balance of salt, umami, fat, acid, and sweet with the honey and jams. What a start!
Next came the appetizer round. Onion Soup (I guess you drop the “French” in French Onion Soup when you’re French), Escargots, Avocado Tartine and Terrine de Foie Gras. They have taken dishes that many of us have tried before and elevated them and made them their own. The onion soup was perfectly thick and not too salty as is often the case when restaurants use cheaper boxed soup base, with high quality cheese melted over the top.
The escargots were made with an emphasis on chopped parsley bringing out a lighter fresh flavor than the usual heavily salted classic. They were fantastic as well so do not miss out on them. Oh and the foie gras… combined with their baguette bread and fig jam it was just delicious. Sorry PETA, I loves me some foie. And make no mistake, this was some premium foie.
Finally came the salads and main courses. In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that there may have been some overeating happening in the first two courses. Couldn’t help it. It was too good. Despite beginning to get full of all the decadent appetizers we soldiered on. The Smoked Chicken Breast Salad (new menu item) and Broccoli and Chicory Salad were meals in and of themselves. The chicken smoked for hours in the chicken salad had a deep flavor that almost has to be compared to bacon and that smokiness elevated the entire hearty salad along with a salted egg. The broccoli salad was the perfect opposite complement as a light acidic salad that was dressed lightly with lemon anchovy dressing. The sear grilling of the broccoli was yet another example of Terrine going the extra step to really put a dish over the top.
Finally after the salads we had classic Moules Frites in a white wine sauce – again, like moules frites we’ve all had in our lifetimes, only executed better. I say finally because although we ordered the Croque Madame, we just did not save enough room in our stomachs to sample even a single bite. Total rookie mistake.
So there you have it. Terrine, if it is not one of the first fine establishments in this city to make the move into fine lunches, it certainly is among the best. It is odd that in a city where so many people who do not work regular hours and loaf around during the day have so few chef-driven lunch spaces where they can sit down and enjoy superb food. Why does only dinner get all the love? The hope here is that this is among the first of many more to come. Bring on the new era of gourmet lunches. Dinner is so 2015…
LA has just upped its lunch game in a major way. Bon Appetit!Monday – Friday now open 11:30 – 2:30 in addition to evenings and weekend brunch