Is Eating Local Possible In LA??
Figaro Organic Bistrot Boulangerie Lounge, 1802 North Vermont Avenue, Hollywood, (yeah, yeah - Loz Feliz would be a more apt description) CA 90027 323 662 1587
Possibly - for a Premium Price
I decided to leave the Locavores Eating Challenge behind when I popped down to LA at the weekend for the Birthday of my ex-roomate who moved South a few months ago for work. I was, afterall, quite sure that during my quick visit, I would find nothing relevant to the challenge to write about. Dinner for 10 people had aready been booked for Saturday evening at a French Bistrot called Figaro.
Outside Figaro there was a row of sidewalk cafe tables that looked very inviting given the evening heat. But our reservation was for the inside which, to my delight, was more magical than a Moulin Rouge film set. Romantic lighting and gorgeous French antiques transformed Figaro's interior into something more Parisian than Paris. We settled down at our table, I ordered a Kir Royal and then strained my eyes to peruse the menu by the flicker of candlelight. I was taken happily aback when the first thing I noticed was the following declaration...
This seemed like encouraging news, given that I have been trying to find more about where my food comes from. I read on, then swiftly balked when I saw the prices. Figaro is a little neighbourhood Bistrot, but the prices were far more grand the restaurant's style suggested, maxing out at a whopping $42 for the filet mignon. Coming from San Francisco, where not even the fanciest places charge these kinds of prices, to say I was surprised was an understatement. According to a review on Citysearch, Figaro recently raised their prices as much as 30-40%!
I pondered the menu further and noticed asparagus featured on both the menu and the specials board. Since this month I seem to have become a right pain in the arse when dining out, I snagged our waiter and asked him if he would mind answering a question about the menu. "Given your statement about using BioDynmaic pruduce", I said, "how do you account for the asparagus since it is no longer in season?" He was lost for words, but he assured me he would find out and rushed off to ask someone else. When he returned, he had the news that they do support local farmers and seasonal produce before darting off to avoid the details I had asked for specifically.
Food sources aside, the meal was a lot of fun, not least because of the genial company and the friendly service. I couldn't resist trying the Cuisses de Grenouilles - in a lemon garlic sauce, it had been 25 years since I'd last eaten frogs legs. It's true what they say - they are just like chicken, with a slight hint of fishiness. They were a little bit chewy but the sauce improved their appeal and I managed to persuade a few brave people around the table to take their first bite of this French delicacy. Meanwhile, Fred and our LA-based French friend were tucking in to Foie Gras aux Torchon appetizers at $22 each. They let me try a morsel and to my less well trained English palate I thought it was a very good version. Les Francaises were a little less enthusiastic, mildly grumbling that, although enjoyable, it wasn't as good as what you can get in France. Well, nothing ever is, is it..?!
When my Entrecote Frites ($38) arrived, I was having trouble cutting into it. It was so dark in the restaurant, I couldn't see if my medium-rare request had been correctly adhered to. It didn't feel or taste like it. At other end of the table, an order of 'well-done' was having the opposite problem so we swapped dishes. In fact, they were both cooked exactly the same, somewhere around medium. The waiter rushed to sort out the mistake and delivered us properly-cooked replacements as soon as he could.
Maybe the waiter was the kind of guy who liked being challenged. Ever since I asked him the tough asparagus question, he was super-nice to me, causing a Figaro regular in our party to remark, "What's up with the waiter tonight? Usually he is miserable as anything, but tonight he is being kind of cool". His 'cool-waiter' status was further endorsed when he bought me a free glass of wine as an apology for the steak mishap. (Please don't tell Mr 'well-done' - I don't think he received the same special treatment).
The meal was leisurely, slow and enjoyable. The food was solid and quite good, but there was nothing spectacular, as you would expect at those inflated prices. The waiter is going to get just one more positive mention since he bought me a complimentary almond tuille from the in-house organic bakery, to nibble on whilst everyone else finished up with coffee. I don't know what it was with him. Maybe he erroneously mistook me for S. Irene Virbila or Delicious Life's Sarah?
PS Hollywood may be a good ten minute drive away, but that isn't to say Figaro doesn't attract the stars. As fans of his movies, we enjoyed eyeing David Lynch enjoying his dinner at Figaro. The young lady accompanying him had hands that seemed busier under the table than they were with the knife and fork.