Sunday, November 07, 2010

Do The Popup! Gary Robins At Georgio's Cucina

My weekly fencing club has become a sanctuary for me. For the last 4 semesters, not even the most snazziest of dinners, the most crackin of parties or free boozing of gigs would pull me away from the electric epee strip at Pasadena City College Its kinda the only form of exercise I get first of all but moreover, its just simply awesome.

But this last Friday for the first time ever...I cut it short.

Georgio's Cucina Signage
North Hollywood On A Friday Night: Busting The Trafficky Mission

I had succumbed to the homie Eddie Hah and his invitation to go eat at this pop up in Studio City of this "3 Star, James Beard Nominee {chef] man!". The eager Eddie said he was "willing to drop four bills tonight".

I should say that this "guy" Eddie was talking about was actually the 3 star rated-- James Beard Award nominated--Chef Gary Robin's, formerly of the Russian Tea Room and the Biltmore Room, some pretty prestigious east coast joints back in their heyday.

Some Olives And Some Wine

We were greeted with a small platter of assorted house-brined olives, cakey wedges of 12 month Parmigiano-Reggiano. and a skinny glass ofLambrusco, a sweet sparkling wine. Our tables were almost ready.

I liked the feel of the place, felt cozy and romantic with mahogany tables and this bookshelf divider that gave it a real home-y feeling...too bad I was here with two other dudes.

Ambiance Shot
The Scene At Georgio's

Apparently Eddie was not messing around, he ordered 85% of the menu immediately upon sitting (excluding all [filling!] flat breads).

Bacala Croquettes With Aioli
Baccala Croquettes ($9): Starting Off With The Fried Stuff First Of Course!

The first thing that landed on our table were the Baccala Croquettes with this gushy Paprika Aioli and house pickled veggies. The little salt cod fritters were bomb, moist and creamy on the inside with a crispy sheen of rough cut golden brown bread crumbs that were all the better for dipping into the dangerously thick smoky Aioli. The veggies did their counteracting texture and tangy flavor thang.

Then came my favorite part of the meal.

Scallop Crudo
Capesante: sea scallops with basil, pomegranate, toasted hazelnuts ($13)

Hamachi Crudo (Real)
Hamachi, serrano chili with Oro blanco grapefruit, ginger, crisp shallots $13

Hamachi Crudo
Thai Snapper Japanese horseradish, yuzu, green apple ($13)

My affinity for raw fish has really evolved from my opaque red Ahi tuna days. Crudo being a sort of Italian take on prepared sashimi, I chewed with careful attention to detail. And what can I say for his preparations other than dayum! The scallops being my personal favorite with its sweet and creamy flesh, simply lucid with the crunch of toasted hazelnuts and tartness of crimson red pomegranate seeds. The soft Hamachi was a fine balancing act with the fried goodness of crispy shallots and bitter grapefruit. And that sinewy red snapper gave into submission under the acids of yuzu and crisp green apple.

Now for the small dishes.

Foie Gras Meatballs!
Duck Polpette (meatballs): soft polenta, rosemary marsala, sweet and sour cherries ($12)

Starting off with my favorite, the duck meatballs! They were suggested for us by three people that night at multiple times. And at first bite, I knew why. They were incredibly juicy and moist with a peppery, "cured salami" like flavor. I wonder if it is because they are made with foie gras as well?

Tender As Hell Grilled Octopus
Grilled Mediterranean Octopus: braised in white wine with cranberry bean, potato
salad and black olive vinaigrette ($15)

Yet another item that was recommended multiple times through out the night. Every one swore they were simply amazing and the most tender octopus they had ever eaten. And it was, not rubbery in the least. A winner with its light char marks and smoky finish.

Japanese Eggplant
Eggplant Agri dolce: roasted Japanese eggplant, green olive walnut
tapenade, aged balsamic vinegar $11

I wanted to like this one so bad but it ultimately proved to be just ok in flavor. The ends of the eggplant were still a tad undercooked, meaning tough and stringy. Not to say I didn't devour it still. My favorite part was the tapeanade, the dish's saving grace with its chunky texture and nutty, briny counterpoint to the mealy eggplant.

Fungi Flatbread
Funghi e Spinaci: sheeps milk ricotta, toasted pinenuts, sweet onions seared porcini ($15)

An unlikely favorite for the the dudes and I ended up being the thin and crispy rectangular flatbreads. All of of us giggled to realize that the crust was if not better than just as good as Mozza's. As if the flavor combination of toasted pinenuts and meaty mushrooms wasn't enough, I was really into the sweet and salty synergy flavor from the salty sheeps milk ricotta and sweet onions.

Pumpkin Gnocci
Pumpkin Gnocchi: black trumpet mushrooms, pancetta, tuscan kale, brown butter ($19)

By the primi section of the feast, I was still feeling good. Albeit all the dishes were pasta, I still dove in like if it was my first dish. My favorite of the ones we got were the pillowy soft pumpkin gnocchi. Rich as all hell but pretty much would break down on their own as they just dissolved in your mouth.

Tableside Fish
Mediterranean Orata: ligurian olive oil, garden beans, and lentil tomato salad ($33)

When it came to the secondi course of the meal, I was still a trooper and ate the set dishes with gusto. My favorite was the roasted Mediterranean sea bream aka Orata. Quite the presentation with the tableside carving and everything although I personally would had liked to pick and gnaw at the fish, there was still so much more meat! ha ha. The delicate white flesh was small flaked and moist, the best part being the salty, crispy skin of course!

Fennel Dusted Ahi
Fennel Pollen Dusted Seared Big Eye Tuna : ricotta gnocchi, baby artichoke, red wine jus ($30)

At savory last (and I think the least!) was this plate of seared tuna. This was my first experience with that elusive food pixie dust known as fennel pollen and enjoyed its effect on the pristine quality fish. Although the texture wasn't as dreamy as I thought it would be, the lean fish was tasty. It was evident that the chef "woke up at 5 AM everyday" to go the fish market. I don't know about the dainty sides though.

Dessert Onslaught
Ahh, What The Hell...Let's Just Get All The Desserts Too!

By this point, we had eaten our way to a hedonist imposed delirium, a time in space when calories and satiation didn't matter. We were the last ones in the dining room and were surprised with a little dish of all the desserts they had to offer. The Olive Oil Polenta Cake and Pumpkin Crostata were the ones that I could still pleasurably eat. The olive oil cake with its substantial, cornbread-like texture burst with olive oil at every bite while the custard part of pumpkin was smooth, spicy and just stellar.

I really dug chef Gary Robins approach to California Cuisine, I liked his light adaptations of the seafood slanted menu, I liked how he stayed true to the renowned Italian concept of tasty simplicity, his style through out every dish. By the end of the night, this was just as good as having a conversation with him the guy.

Georgio's Cucina

(818) 985-1072

11992 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604

Tuesday–Thursday, 5:30–10:30 PM; Friday–Saturday, 5:30–11:30 PM

*Gary Robins Will Be At Georgio's Until The End Of The Year


Anonymous said...

Tas Cabron of the best pieces I have read from you

Anonymous said...

looks Awesome