I had read on Chowhound that 2117 was a wonderful but largely undiscovered restaurant, so I went with high hopes. Unfortunately, for me, 2117 falls under the same category as Osteria Latini: it is mighty tasty food--for people with boring palettes.
The small menu (one page of appetizers and one page of entrees, plus a few specials) is not very vegetarian friendly, especially if you are a true vegetarian who does not eat fish. Almost all, if not all, of the entrees are centered around some type of meat. My friend ordered the roasted chicken, which came scattered with cauliflower, brocolli, diced potatoes, and string beans, all in a thin, mustardy sauce. The chicken was nicely cooked and somewhat juicy, but like most roasted chickens, it had a residual dryness. Though the chicken appeared to be coated in a spice rub, it was really just salt and pepper. The sauce was necessary for the chicken to be at all interesting in flavor, but I like bold flavors, and this sauce had a timid, home kitchen flavor.
The potatoes were pretty good, but the other veggies were too saucy and buttery to showcase their own flavors. The menu says that organic or unsprayed produce is used whenever available. I appreciate the gesture, but it is, to some extent, still just a gesture. Organic produce is abundant in Los Angeles, both in grocery stores and at farmer's markets, and anyone who wants to can commit themselves to only buying organic.
I ordered two appetizers for my meal--the red snapper carpaccio and the wild mushroom risotto, which was the risotto of the day. I've only had risotto once before, and wasn't too excited about it, but it seems to be an often praised dish, so I thought I should investigate what I might be missing. The risotto was good as a comfort food dish, but the flavor of the mushrooms failed to stand out. At one point, I became alarmed by what I thought was lobster in my dish (shellfish and I do not get along) but it turned out to be...not lobster. I thought it must have been a lobster mushroom, but the texture was too crunchy and fibrous for that to have been the case. Or was it? I've never eaten a lobster mushroom before, so if they don't have the usual mushroom texture, maybe that was what it was.
Some bites of the risotto were too buttery, and overall, I thought it was missing a flavor, a spice or herb that would have completed it. Then it dawned on me--2117 seemed to rely primarily on butter, salt, and pepper for seasoning. But what about herbs? And spices?
Well, my carpaccio was topped with a small mound of cilantro, so I guess my analysis isn't completely right. This dish was definitely the best of the three. Thin, perfectly bite-sized slices of red snapper were marinated in a ginger citrus soy sauce and topped with crunchy white fried noodles, raw shredded zuchinni, and cilantro. The dish seemed like a variation of a marinated albacore salad served with a mound of shredded daikon (one of my all-time favorite disihes). But here's where my objections come in. Red snapper has a very subtle flavor, and the sauce was a good match for it--not overwhelming. But eaten in conjunction with the toppings, the fish was largely lost. The noodles didn't taste like much, and I got the idea of the contrast in textures, but I didn't think it worked well--I thought it was distracting, and that the noodles became unpleasantly mushy when mingled with the sauce. Raw zuchinni doesn't taste like anything, and also seemed added just for texture--and interesting idea, since it's crunchy, like the noodles, but soft and moist, like the fish. Lots of cilantro was not really a good idea, since cilantro can be overpowering. I could tell that the dish was thought-out: white fish, white noodles, green zuchinni, green cilantro, orangey sauce. It was presented very well, too. Flavor-wise though, it didn't quite work.
If I hadn't been on a tight schedule, I might have taken advantage of the $35 prix-fixe dinner, which I believe consisted of two appetizers, and entree, and...dessert? I also would have liked to sample their wines, as they seemed to have a solid wine list. This comes from someone who knows very little about wine, but knows enough to know when the offerings are not good (white zinfandel, anyone?).
I liked the atmosphere-elegant but unpretentious. You have a choice of sitting indoors or outdoors. I chose indoors, because, well, where in LA can you actually eat outdoors without it being noisy and/or smelling or car exhaust? I think that 2117 may have done a decent job of creating a nice outdoor dining area, but I was still concerned that the pedestrian traffic to nearby businesses and the nearby parking lot would be unwelcome intruders to my meal. All of the tables have table cloths, and the lighting is on the lower side. With the tablecloths and candles, I found the bare cement floor to be a bit jarring. The restaurant was small enough that I felt like using my flash would have been to obtrusive. The tables are small--three plates barely fit on our table for 2--and might have been uncomfortably close together had there been more customers. I've found that when I eat at 6:00 on a Wednesday, though, even the best restaurants tend to be empty, so I can't use this as a measuring stick. 2117 does take reservations, but we didn't need one to get in.
The food took a bit longer to arrive than I expected, but it may have just seemed slow because I was in a hurry. It did arrive all at the same time and all at the right temperature, though. The service was attentive but subtle, refilling water regularly, taking away empty plates promptly, and asking if everything was okay.
For a simple, elegant, and reasonably priced meal, 2117 is not a bad bet at all. But if you like intense, bold flavors and lots of innovation, 2117 will disappoint you.
By the way, I have photos, but the site has been giving me trouble uploading them for the last week. Hopefully I'll be able to get them up soon.
2117 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025-6200 View Map
Interesting article on Sawtelle restaurants