Friday was Tracie’s birthday, so we celebrated with dinner near her home. We drove along the incredibly chic Abbot Kinney area, which was dotted with all types of fabulous restaurants, and equally as many hipsters on their Linus Classic Roadsters. As we cruised the strip, Tracie was reminiscing about all of the delicious meals she’d had in years past. We finally decided to go to Lillie’s, which she said was a sweet little French bistro. As we pulled into the valet lot, the attendant let us know that Lillie had left the building, and now the four walls were occupied by Willie May’s, a Southern Cuisine establishment. As great as that sounded, we decided to just walk through the restaurants in the area, to see what we could find. As we headed between Willie Mays and Joe’s, we came across a small garden, with a restaurant’s patio lining it. A man was leaning against a post, taking a break. He looked up and smiled.
“Excuse me, is Lillie’s gone?” Tracie asked.
“Yeah, they moved out a while ago, I’m sorry.”
So, I asked him, “since it appears you work around here, if you were to get a meal right now, where would you go, and what would you eat?”
He pointed to our right, “Oh, Primitivo, for sure. It has the best seafood….”
He started to describe what probably was a delicious meal, but I politely stopped him, and let him know that neither of us ate anything from the ocean. (We don’t have allergies, we just aren’t fans of seafood… which is odd, since we both grew up in Santa Barbara)
I assured him we loved meat, and he began to talk about the flat iron steak, served with both sweet and purple potatoes. “Oh my YES!” I caught myself saying out loud. “THAT is exactly what I’d want for dinner!”
Then the man told us about the tenderness of the lamb, served with mint and cilantro potatoes. WOW, did that sound perfect! His southern charm was showing through. And southerners do know a good meal….
He strongly suggested that we order the cheesecake, and that we ought to sit on the outdoor patio since it was such a nice evening.
When the hostess arrived, she asked if we had reservations. *yikes*… hadn’t thought of that! But, as Tracie was wavering on an answer, I pointed to the man, as he was walking away, and said, “Oh! He said we’d be sitting on the patio tonight”…. hoping that would fly. “Absolutely,” she replied with a large smile, and walked us to the candlelit patio.
After we had a little time to settle in, our waitress took our wine order (*note: this is a Wine Bistro, and their selections are fantastic!). We began to take a look at the menu.
You know those restaurants that, as you read the offerings, you realize you want pretty much everything on the menu? Yep, this is one of those places. Each plate sounded so well thought-out! When it came time to order, I told the waitress that “the young guy over there” had recommended the flat iron steak, so I’d like that. She said, “oh, Chef Thomas?” (Did she say “chef”?) No wonder he knew the menu… duh! 😉 He was so unpretentious… he didn’t really seem like the typical LA chef.
The meal began with a beautifully prepared arugala salad with citrus, baby beets, a goat cheese crouton and a champagne-shallot vinaigrette. As I cut into the crispy crouton, the cheese slowly spilled out, and when it was paired with one of the beets, it became the perfect bite. It also went wonderfully with the fresh bread and seriously garlicky aioli we were served.
The entrees arrived, with each one receiving many ooohs and aaaahs.
I got the flat iron steak, which was as delicious as promised. Incredibly juicy, and perfectly seasoned. The sweet potatoes and purple potatoes were equally well prepared, and the large grilled asparagus were charred to perfection. I only wished there were more!
As we were considering if licking our plates was offensive, the waitress stopped by again (she was so attentive the entire evening! 4 stars to that gal!) I asked if the chef would mind coming out for just a moment, so we could give our compliments. Not only did he stop by, he had ditched the chef coat, and sat with us for quite some time. He chatted with us about all sorts of flavor profiles, and about his early start in Atlanta, Georgia. When I asked what his favorites were on the menu, he mentioned the pork loin, the cheesecake (again, the cheesecake….), and the crab tower. (Crab Tower? Wow… I bet that’s gorgeous!)
He excused himself to get back to the kitchen, and the next thing we knew, a gorgeous slice of heaven (aka cheesecake) with fresh berries was being brought to our table, with a candle. As Tracie made her birthday wish and blew it out, I knew this place was by far, the best meal we could have chosen for her special evening. All in all, the meal was incredibly memorable.
Chef came back to say Happy Birthday to Tracie, and see how we liked the cheesecake. No wonder he suggested it so strongly. I think I’d drive to Venice just for that! Before he left, Emily grabbed my phone to take a photo of us with Chef Thomas. As she counted to three for the picture, he quickly leaned over and gave Tracie a birthday kiss on the cheek. What a sweet guy!
Chef Thomas, I am SO going to come back, and hopefully we’ll make it a regular event. I urge all of you in the Southern California area to try this place out. You will not be disappointed! Here’s a map.
And, of course, Happy Birthday to my very dear friend! (I wonder what she wished for!)