Crispbreads and tulips
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Ah, Valentine's Day. That special time of year when you feel advertising agency-induced mushiness for your honey, scathing bitterness towards your ex, or feigned indifference. That special night when it takes 45 minutes to drive a mere 4 miles home from work because everyone is trying to get home in time to change for dinner. Luckily, I have a Portuguese tape in the car to quell my road rage.
"Si, eu sou americana. Sou de Los Angeles."
"Eu nao falo o portugues."
I purposely tried to arrange the evening to be as stress-free as possible. We cancelled our original reservations at another restaurant, fearing that the place would be too popular a destination and therefore too crowded and too noisy. We picked Literati II instead, under the assumptions that 1. the food would be good, because the food at Literati is good; 2. it would not be exorbitantly expensive; and 3. it would be quieter than most places while still being romantic. We were right about the first two, and partially right about the second.
At our prime 7:30 reservation time, the restaurant was packed, and we could barely hear each other while waiting in front of the hostess stand. Fortunately, we got seated outside, where the noise of Wilshire was nothing compared to the noise inside. In fact, the fence and clear plastic wall surrounding the patio area kept the noise out fairly well. The chairs were made comfortable with small chenile pillows, and plenty of heaters kept me warm. We even got our choice of tables. I picked the big round one, knowing that if we picked a table for two, we would probably eventually have other diners sitting 12 inches away from us. I really don't understand the popularity of this phenomenon. I know that restaurants want to have the opportunity to turn as many tables as possible, but christ. If I wanted to eat dinner with strangers, I'd hold an open house at my apartment.
Aside from the close tables, the patio was lovely -- much better than the Los Angeles average. "Hi, I'd like to make a reservation for two, and can we please get a table in that lovely plastic tent of yours?" Usually, outdoor dining in this city seems designed not to create a European cafe style experience, like it pretends to do, but simply to add more tables, so poorly is the design executed.
The hostess was warm and friendly, and not in a fake way. I liked that. The waiter was professional and competent, though not extra impressive. He did an okay job of picking a wine to go with our food, but he might have done better asking someone else for input. Busboys, some of whom I recognized from Literati, came by regularly to refill water and take away plates.
The wine menu contained mostly bottles, but they did offer about ten wines by the glass at prices in the $9-14 range. They also had a menu of frou frou cocktail drinks, many of which sounded enticing. I had to go with the caipirinha, since I don't often have the opportunity to order one. It was quite strong, and pretty good, though it didn't taste like the ones I enjoyed so much in Spain. I realize that Spain is not Brazil, but it is right next to Portugal, so I like to think that they had some idea what they were doing, convoluted though my logic may be.
I was quite enamored of the crispbread that came as a starter. Regular bread can be too filling, but the cracker-like bread didn't create that problem. Make sure to try the parmesan crisps. The red pepper dip that accompanied the breads was tasty as well.
The menu was just one page long, possibly because of Valentine's Day. By the time I eliminated all the shellfish and hunk of meat entrees, I was left with just two choices, which my friend and I ordered.
Bucatini is sort of like spaghetti, but wider and with a small hole in the middle. The lemon zest-infused butter sauce was excellent, and the leaves you see tasted like sugar snap peas. Do sugar snap peas have leaves? (I'm planning to grow some soon, so maybe I'll find out.) The peas themselves were cooked, which meant they had that mushy pea consistency that I'm not so fond of (I like to eat them raw). The wild mushrooms were tasty, but a little too buttery for me. Literati II apparently prides itself on using fresh farmer's market produce and changing the menu by as much as 30% daily to reflect what was fresh and available that day.
Ocean trout is pink like salmon, but doesn't have as strong a flavor. This dish impressed me from the moment it hit my tongue. In this case, it was really the herb and salt rub on the skin that did the trick. Here again lemon zest and peas were part of the dish, but there were also artichoke hearts and rapini. Rapini is essentially a weed, but it can be used in cooking as a dark green vegetable that seems like a kale/seaweed hybrid. It tastes better than it sounds.
For dessert I ordered the Pavlova, which was tangelo sorbet, raspberry sorbet (I think), meringue and a rectangle of almond candy. The tangelo sorbet failed to impress me. Its flavor was too mild and didn't proclaim, "I am tangelo!" I have every right to criticize it because I've spent hours scraping the zest from tangelos to make my own sorbet. Literati II's sorbet seemed to rely on tangelo juice, but no zest, for flavor. I didn't love my dessert. I was much more fond of the 10 year old port that I ordered alongside it (I know, I know, it doesn't go). It wasn't as good as Warre's Otima, though.
Overall, I enjoyed my visit. I'd like to go back on a regular night and take in the normal menu and the indoor seating.
Total for 2, including 3 alcoholic beverages, tax, and tip: about $100
12081 Wilshire Blvd (at Bundy)
Los Angeles, CA
Website (not really put together yet)