Santa Monica, CA 90404
You ever rub a baby’s bottom? That’s how soft Stefan’s opening was on Friday. The restaurant could fit 150 and there was five tables seated when I arrived around 9PM. Still hanging on from his fame following a second place finsh on season 5 of Top Chef, Stefan Richter has taken over the LA Farm hidden two miles inland in the city of Santa Monica.
It was a clean tasting oyster, but the absinthe jello was so small, you really don't taste it as the oyster enveloped my one swallow.
There was some confusion on this dish. I was misled to believe that ‘Like a Big Mac’ meant it would be an upscale double patty version of a slider with Thousand Island dressing. But ‘Like a Big Mac’ alluded it was sitting under a heat lamp for an hour. The slider was dry and unimaginative.
Reading the tater tots on the menu, I had to have it. I wanted to see what play on words Stefan had created. How he would take something as nostalgic and remedial as tater tots with ranch and transform it into a dish worthy of a gourmand. The dish was meant to be taken literally, it with tots with ranch and probably the worst dish to order. It was so simple and he still managed to fuck it up, heavily salted. It’s pathetic that he served it and that Angelenos are expected to order it.
$3 Truffle Arancini with Lemon Aioli (2)
It was such a small bite, it was difficult to get any taste out of it at all. No truffle, no lemon, just a hint of deep fry.
A decent dish that could have used a sauce. The breading was seasoned well, sprinkled with parsley, and had a crisp finish. But, I would prefer to have my potato salad at a picnic table.
This is the second time I've had head cheese, the first at Riva also in Santa Monica. Riva's preparation produced a much better quality meat, much better. It would be like comparing Jamon Iberico de Bellota with Oscar Mayer.
The entrees did a 180, the scallops were well seared as you can see. In the last month, I have had two dishes with pea puree and loved them both. The other was Il Grano's sauteed salmon. This puree with richer with the addition of cream and prosciutto. The inspiration for the dish is similar to a traditional pea soup with bacon, but so much better.
I ordered the celery root ravioli, but the other ravioli dish was brought to the table. This dish is what you would expect it to be, rich and heavy. I have no criticism, I like truffles, foie gras, and mushrooms and they came together well. The truffles were of a decent strength, pretty good for $20.
It reminded me of a couple dishes from The Bazaar, cute on creative, but lacking in taste. Still it's worth the $3 to try his creamy concoction.
I spoke with Stefan for a couple minutes on my way out since there were no diners and he mentioned they stopped taking reservations. He had as much comfort in his voice telling me this as he did when he lost Top Chef. I think the isolated Olympic location could prove to be an issue, but time will tell. If it wasn't obvious already, my advice would be to stay away from the Small Plates menu, it ranges between $3 and $4 and you get what you pay for.