Thursday, May 24, 2007

VIOLET, Santa Monica, CA

This was one of those places that I kept hearing about and finally decided we just had to check out. New to the LA restaurant scene, Violet’s menu focuses on small plates featuring American and Californian favorites, along with some excellent wine pairings. Chef/owner Jared Simons, named one of the country’s hottest new chefs, changes his menu daily and personally helped us select our food and wine for the evening. But the real reason we went to Violet was to personally experience their version of Macaroni and Cheese. Raved about in every review, how could we not be lured by what Wine & Spirits said was “the best mac ’n’ cheese this side of Milwaukee?”

Baked Macaroni
serrano ham, leeks, gruyere cheese

This upscale take on the classic dish was one of the best and most interesting we’ve ever had. The Serrano ham made this dish nice and hearty, and added some lovely saltiness to contrast the creamy cheese and silky leaks. Topped with a perfect breadcrumb mixture, we scooped up every last bite of this memorable dish. The Violet website even has the recipe online for this favorite, though we haven’t had a chance to make it yet.

Mushroom Ravioli
brown butter, parmesan, sage

As big mushroom ravioli fans, we had to try their version, which was drenched (in a good way) in a rich and amazing brown butter sauce and topped with a hefty sprinkling of parmesan cheese . The wild mushroom filling was fantastically intense, and the sauce was so good that we used some leftover bread to soak up every last drop. My only complaint about this dish is that I couldn’t order a whole bowl full!

Braised Short Ribs
vanilla risotto, matsutake mushrooms

On a total short rib kick, I had to try these - especially with the intriguing “vanilla risotto” component of the dish. Although an unusual combination, the vanilla flavor was very interesting and complimented the meat well. This was another dish that we polished off with ease.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
vanilla bean ice cream, candied walnuts, orange marmalade
Rich, dense, warm and gooey – the ultimate flourless chocolate cake. Period.

Milk and Cookies
As a restaurant featuring American favorites, what could be more fitting then complimentary milk and cookies to finish off our meal? Of course, it was bittersweet since our check was placed right between the two glasses of milk…but it did help soften the blow.

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