Bar Garcia - Downtown Los Angeles

Bar Garcia is one of those rare restaurant finds you can’t wait to tell your friends about.

Yes, it’s that good.  



Don’t be fooled by the name, Bar Garcia is much, much more than what the name implies, it’s one of Downtown LA’s best restaurants. Located in the lobby of the Tuck Hotel, Bar Garcia offers a highly original and eclectic menu of globally inspired dishes brilliantly executed with great passion. When meeting Chef Juan Pablo Torre you sense immediately that this is a man who lives to share his love of food, and who works hard to earn the rewards that come from seeing his guests thrill in the joys his dishes deliver. Bar Garcia is named as a loving homage to the owner’s grandfather from Spain. And having learned to cook from his Sicilian grandmother, Chef Torre leans heavily on Italian inspirations, but Spanish, Argentine, French, Middle Eastern, and Asian influences also color the menu. Chef Torre prides himself on using only the best locally sourced organic ingredients. 


Our first selection from the starters menu was a wonderful Vitello Tonnato.

For those of you unfamiliar with this dish, its origins come from the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. What a happy coincidence since I just recently returned from Piemonte where I had experienced this incredible dish for the very first time at one of Turin’s finest restaurants. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my Vitello Tonnato at Bar Garcia not only to be authentic, but just as flavorful and unforgettable as the one I enjoyed in Italy. Vitello Tonnato is tender slices of fresh veal served rare atop a creamy tuna sauce with capers. The dish is typically served chilled or at room temperature. Upon presentation, one stirs the ingredients to create a mixture best eaten atop warm buttered crostini.  The tuna sauce can best be described as much like a béarnaise with just a hint of tuna flavor; this is the stuff foodies dream of. Bar Garcia’s Vitello Tonnato is amazing, as is their crostini. It was difficult to stop eating these warm slices of light crispy baguette, similar to garlic bread but much more exotic and flavorful.

Next came Brisket Spring Rolls.

Two large rolls filled with brisket, shitake mushrooms, and a demi-glace. Sounds simple. Right? This is when you learn just how passionate a chef can be about his food. Chef Torre revealed that both the brisket and demi-glace require twenty-four hours of preparation.  The results are clearly worth the effort, the flavors being very reminiscent of a perfectly executed and very delicious Beef Wellington.  The Brisket Spring Rolls are served with a spicy citrus dip possessing an Asian flair, but I preferred mine without the dip; I wanted no distractions from enjoying the deep rich beef flavor. 

The most intriguing dish of the evening was Bar Garcia’s Black Truffle Brandada.

Try finding this dish anywhere else in Los Angeles. You won’t. The brandada features a generous offering of black truffles perched atop the creamiest of mashed potatoes and featuring an egg yolk center stage. One is supposed to break the egg yolk and stir its goodness into the potatoes and black truffles whipping up what becomes a marvel of delight. The mouthfeel and multidimensional depth of intense flavors are unforgettable. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it; it’s a must try. Chef Torre shared that the secret to the creaminess of the dish is that he uses two-year old Washington State potatoes. Some things just get better with age; apparently this includes certain types of potatoes. I found the brandada itself also improved with age. As the dish cooled the flavors seemed to become even more pronounced. The Black Truffle Brandada is intended to be spooned upon the aforementioned sublime buttered crostini. I added a bit of my Vitello Tonnato to create a wonderfully unique meat and potatoes canapé. Yum! Yum!

Entrées were just as appetizing.

I ordered a fried Whole Spanish Branzino with ramen pesto and citrus papaya. My husband ordered the Tataki de Chuleton, an entire pound of aged New York steak presented on a bed of au jus, potato ratatouille, Argentine chimichurri, and Dijon mustard. Somehow it escaped us both that each dish was intended for two, and sure enough there were leftovers. Lucky us. Both entrees were as original and as well executed as our three amazing starters. You can’t go wrong with either dish. The problems is there are just so many entrees that sound so wonderful and unique that making a choice is a challenge.


No trip to Bar Garcia should go without a tasting of the drink menu of artisan cocktails.

My “Spring St. Cartel,” yes that is the name of my cocktail, was a refreshing mix of double rye, mescal, Carpano Antica, Leopold Apertivo, and orange bitters with a twist of lemon. Talent resides not only in the kitchen but also behind the bar of Bar Garcia.


Bar Garcia resides on the first floor of the Tuck Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. What? You never heard of the Tuck Hotel?  Me either. The Tuck reminds me of one of those spectacular LA nightclubs that you find hiding in plain sight behind an easily overlooked banal façade. Inside, the Tuck is modern and sophisticated yet warm and friendly; the works of local artist grace the walls. The Tuck staff impressed me as quite genuine in their dedication to properly satisfying the individual needs of each guest. And one can’t help but notice that everything is spotless and evident of meticulous care. With only fourteen rooms, the Tuck Hotel offers guests an intimate and exclusive experience seldom encountered in hyper Los Angeles. Typical LA pretentiousness is nowhere to be found, but charm and a sincere bonhomie are in abundance. 


Classyverse highly recommends Bar Garcia.  It delivers on its reputation as one of Downtown LA’s highest rated restaurants. Prices are reasonable. The food and drinks are excellent. And the Tuck hotel is the perfect place for a romantic getaway in Downtown LA. 


What are you waiting for? Make a reservation. 


Q Restaurant - Downtown LA - Upscale Japanese Omakase.

With Chef Hiroyuki Naruke

q restaurant, chef hiro, food critic, restaurant critic

Since my omakase experience last week at Q Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, I’ve been craving more of it almost everyday. Yes, it’s that good. Chef Hiroyuki Naruke brings with him from Tokyo, where he had a very exclusive six-seat restaurant, a style of sushi known as Edomae, where simplicity is the objective, no rainbow rolls here.

chef Hiroyuki naruke

Chef Hiro, as he likes to be called, performs his art with the dedication, focus, and elegance of a virtuoso. I loved watching him meticulously prepare each of the fourteen courses he served us for lunch.  Each was to be marveled at with great anticipation, as it was clear from first bite that this was going to be a very special meal; the kind that foodies like me live for.


Shigoku Oyster

Shikoku oyster

It astonished me how food that appears as uncomplicated as Edomae style sushi can deliver such intense, complex and multi-dimensional flavors, textures, and exquisite sensations with each bite.  Sushi at the level found at Q requires not only enormous talent, but also real genius. Obviously, Q is one of LA’s great omakase experiences and, in my opinion, has significantly raised the bar in a city of phenomenal high-end Japanese sushi restaurants. 


Toro

toro

Piece-by-piece the beautifully presented Edomae sushi had me doing Rachel Ray food orgasms. Each course offered a wonder of surprise but the real stars of the meal for me were the Shigoku oyster, the toro, the salmon egg, and the sea urchin. Each was the best I’ve ever tasted and each fresher and more satisfying than one can imagine. And yes, I have eaten at some of the best omakase restaurants in Tokyo.

Fluke Ponzu

fluke ponzu

Sitting at the sushi bar with Chef Hiro is an intimate experience; he explains each of his creations as he presents them and answers any questions. Like all great performers, he works passionately to make his audience love what he does. The intensity of the manner is which Chef Hiro creates each of his little masterpieces very much reminded me of Daniel Day Lewis’ Oscar nominated performance as a dressmaker to the royals in Phantom Thread.

Geoduck

geoduck

Q is a simple space; it’s comfortable, classy, and exceptionally clean. Service is excellent in that your every need is anticipated and catered to without being intrusive. But the star here is Chef Hiro and his wonderful sushi and sashimi creations. Expect excellence, you will not be disappointed.


I highly recommend Q. Like all of the elite omakase restaurants in LA, prepare for a pricey experience. The best things in life are never inexpensive. 


The Rotunda - San Francisco

The Rotunda is a San Francisco Gem. Spectacular is an adjective that applies to few restaurants, but The Rotunda truly embodies the word.

The restaurant is located on the fourth floor of Neiman Marcus within the rotunda at the store's entrance and presents a stunning view overlooking Union Square.

Architecturally, few restaurants achieve this level of beauty, sophistication and elegance. Service compliments the rich atmosphere with a high degree of competence and is  genuinely friendly. But the food is the foremost reason to visit The Rotunda.

Guests are welcomed with a small cup of consomme to cleanse the palette, then the most incredible warm popover rolls are presented with strawberry butter. The popovers are the stuff of dreams... never have I encountered so much goodness in something so simple. This delight alone will keep you endlessly thinking of your visit to The Rotunda and thinking about how soon you might return.

On this visit, I ordered Lobster Bisque and a Crab and Shrimp Louis salad & Ciopino. The seafood was outstandingly fresh and portions were exceptionally large.  Presentation is what you expect from the very best restaurants. Entrees were followed by a wonderful banana bread pudding and sauce. 

 I'm not easily impressed, but The Rotunda earns FIVE STARS! No visit to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Union Square and a stop at The Rotunda.