Tuesday, February 2, 2010

dineLA (FAIL) @ La Cachette Bistro

La Cachette has always been that upscale restaurant to me. In my junior year of college, I was a bookkeeper at a real estate development company AKA personal accountant for the big boss. When I used to itemize his "business" expenses, bills from La Cachette would turn up about once every two weeks, usually totalling $300+ each visit for a party of two. Yes, it's not a cheap joint so you would think that dineLA would be the perfect opportunity to try out the menu. So sometime last year, LB and I did dineLA at the original La Cachette Restaurant on Little Santa Monica in Century City. Since it was pre-blog days, I don't recall what we ate, but I do remember that we weren't all too impressed with the food selection on the menu and the service was pretty bad. Our waitress did not know that they were offering a dineLA menu. She was also straggling with the wine pairing and would bring the wine by when we were halfway through each course. As a result of this experience, I wasn't saddened when I heard that the restaurant was closing. When Chef Jean Francois Meteigner decided to reopen La Cachette as a bistro in Santa Monica, I put it back on my list. I love bistro fare- gimme some pate, duck confit and coq au vin. We decided to head back to the more casual La Cachette during dineLA week because the menu looked good.

Driving along Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica, everyone in our party had trouble finding the restaurant. It is located on the ground floor of an office building, definitely not as charming as the little cottage that the original restaurant was located in. They have a bar area and a dining room. Apparently they offer happy hour deals from 5-7pm and after 8.30pm. It was dark and dim inside, and the furniture looked like it belonged in a cheaper hotel or at a Denny's. I'm not trying to be harsh but the upholstery of the booths looked cheap. The ambiance at La Cachette Bistro was definitely not as quaint as I had hoped.

After glancing at the dineLA menu, we noticed that it was different from the one online.

The original online menu had the following:
-Fish and Langoustine Soup
-Organic Roquette with Warm Pear, topped with Melted Gorgonzola
-Organic Grass Fed Beef Tartar

-Housemade Boudin Blanc Sausage
-Fish Quenelles
-Beef Bourguignon

-Assorted Ice Cream
-Cinnamon Dusted Apple Tart
-Hot Chocolate Divine Cake

Unfortunately they replaced the soup and roquette with beet carpaccio and trout salad. Boring. The beef bourguignon was replaced with crepes with chicken. I had my heart set on the soup and beef bourguignon and the new dineLA menu was not appealing to me nor my dining companions so we all decided to order ala carte.

Warm bread and butter
We also ordered champagne and cocktails: La Croisette (ginger Vodka, agave syrup, fresh lime juice and Cremant de Loire) and Ocean Flower (Tequila, Elderflower, fresh basil and white grape juice).

Fish and langoustine soup with rouille and swiss cheese
The soup had a strong seafood essence which was delicious. It was more viscous than creamy or thick so I didn't feel overstuffed from it. The soup was served with rouille on toast and a side of shredded swiss cheese. I liked that they had it on the side so you could determine how much condiments to add to your soup. The rouille added some spice to the soup when I dipped the toast in the bowl. A good, satisfying starter. Too bad they took it off the dineLA menu.

Lightly creamed Lobster bisque with rouille
How odd, this tasted exactly like the previous soup. It wasn't thick like what you would expect of a bisque.

Bottle of pinot noir with our meat entrees.

Beef daube with pearl onions, orange zest, black olives, carrots and buttery pasta
There wasn't beef bourguignon on the ala carte menu so the beef daube was the next closest thing. The first time I had beef daube was at Anisette and the meat was fork tender. La Cachette Bistro's version was not tender even though it's supposed to be a beef stew that has been simmering for hours or days. The dish was overly salty, even for a salt-lover like LB. LB also deliberately ordered this dish because she was drawn to the buttery pasta. Unfortunately, the pasta was not buttery at all. It was just regular circular pasta floating around in the pot of salty sauce. Please don't call it buttery if it's not.

Kurobuta Pork shank braised with honey and vinegar, served with sour cherries and mash potatoes
The pork shank was a large portion. This was perhaps the best dish of the night because the pork was tender and had a nice blend of sweetness and saltiness. This reminded me of something my mom would make. The mash potatoes were smooth and buttery. I enjoyed this dish and would order it again so that I could gnaw on the bone. The only critique I had was that they could have added some green vegetables to brighten up the dish.

Cassoulet with duck leg, home made duck sausage and pork shoulder
I love cassoulets and I love duck even more. Unfortunately, the cassoulet smelt and tasty very gamy. I couldn't even taste the duck but instead was overwhelmed with a lamb taste. Didn't see lamb on the menu but it was definitely in there. I love lamb for the most part but this was unbearable that I couldn't even get through half the dish.

Service wasn't that great either. Our waiter was friendly but we waited over 15 minutes for our drinks, and a good amount of time in between courses. We were also disappointed with the dineLA menu. Yes, I know that menus are subject to change, but come on, how can you substitute a hearty, signature dish of beef bourguignon with a chicken crepe. And why take away the fish and langoustine soup from the menu and replace it with a salad. The cassoulet was inedible IMHO, and the beef daube wasn't very good. La Cachette has burnt me twice during dineLA. I'm taking it off my list for the next go around and heading to Anisette instead.

Hits: pork shank
Misses: cassoulet, beef daube
Rating: **

La Cachette Bistro
1733 Ocean Ave.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 434-9509


SinoSoul said...

o man.. La Cachette was one of the first fine dining restaurants for me in LA. We're talking late 90s. So sad. I still want to give it a twirl tho...

stuffycheaks said...

sinosoul - please report back when you do try it. i wonder if it was just an off day for me. But I still doubt I'd be back.