My sister and I are eight years apart and, despite a sizable age gap, we are as close as can be. Thick as thieves, even. Growing up with a cool older sister was a challenge, however, because the activities in which we could both participate were limited. What could a hip, 25-year-old with a penchant for a luxury lifestyle and her 17-year-old baby sister who liked everything she liked do on a Friday night? Sister date nights were born, when we would make a list of the hottest new restaurants in town and check them off one-by-one, weekend after weekend. Ten years later, I'm proud to say we have covered serious ground developing our palates and earning our foodie badges.
When Bestia opened Downtown last November, it soon took residence at the top of our restaurant list. Bestia features a modern Italian menu with Bill Chait's signature experimental dishes (beef heart tartare, anyone?). Considering Sotto, another one of Chait's successful ventures, is one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, I knew Bestia would not disappoint. And it didn't...mostly.
If I see chicken liver on a menu, it's on. There's no holding me back from the combination of flavor and texture that come standard with any chicken liver order. Bestia's was cooked to perfection and spooned atop a piece of perfectly grilled toast, which soaked up the meat's natural oils and saturated the chewy center of the crusty bread. I'm usually turned off by certain preparations of this dish, because of disproportionate quantities of meat and toast. Not this time. Pure perfection.
Next up was the seared calamari and octopus salad, which featured an immaculate char and caramelized finish that was the perfect complement to the bed of crisp, leafy greens. Did I mention that the calamari and octopus were caramelized? Wowza. I couldn't stop eating this dish. Every flavor and texture was on point.
Though I have an adventurous palate, the one dish I wasn't excited to try was the beef heart tartare. Though I eat beef tartare on the regular, there's a difference between meat and organ. Served Italian style, scattered with pine nuts, this dish was a pleasant surprise once I convinced myself to stop thinking about what I was chewing. For what it's worth, the meat was uber fresh and ground up perfectly.
Now, for the bad stuff. You have to order pasta at an Italian restaurant, right? Enter the Tagliolini al'Ortica--hand-cut pasta made of nettle, with a mushroom ragu, poached egg and porcini bread crumbs. My palate was not prepared for the particularly earthy flavor of the nettle, an herb that essentially tastes like a houseplant. The presentation was spectacular and I can never say no to a runny egg, but my taste buds were unimpressed.
Stuffed to the brim, we ordered the Salame Pizza with brussels sprouts, ricotta and chili oil. The dough alone was magical. Exquisitely baked with a chewy density that blew me away. However, the ricotta's mildness did little to accessorize the spicy sausage and crisp greens. Flavor-wise, the dish fell flat, but the crust, baked in a stone oven, was the shining star. I ate this pizza cold, straight out of the fridge the next morning. It was marvelous.
With hardly any room left to breathe, which is usually the case at sister date nights, we insisted on ordering dessert to get the full Bestia experience. We knew we would hate ourselves if we ordered anything more than airy panna cotta served with citrus fruits. My love for panna cotta is no secret, but as cleansing and refreshing as this dessert was at the end of a particularly hearty meal, it was a bit runny and nothing special. Nevertheless, it was a light way to wrap up an adventurous dinner.
2121 7th Place
Los Angeles, CA 90021