Dinner at Providence -- Los Angeles

Last Sunday, Ashley and I took her mother out to Providence to celebrate her birthday. We did the tasting menu (detailed below), and had a bottle of both the 2004 Domaine Valette Pouilly-Vinzelles and the 2006 Arcadian Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard throughout the meal. The Pouilly-Vinzelles was pretty good, but not amazing; it was starting to show some aged character, and had a very expressive nose. I would have preferred more acidity out of it, but it’s hard to complain much considering its overall solid performance. The Arcadian Pisoni Pinot was excellent, but suffered from being a pop-n-pour; we did put it in a large decanter and gave it some vigorous agitation, but it didn’t really start opening-up 'till about 3 hours into the meal.

As for the meal, well, it was good, but not $125 per person good — I’d go more in the $70 - $75 range for what we got, so I’m not sure I’ll go back for the tasting menu. As alluded-to, above, our meal took a long time – longer than I would have preferred, and I’m a slow eater, so if I think the meal is progressing slowly, then it’s likely progressing sa-ah-lo-ow-ly — there must have been at least 3 times that we waited 15 minutes between courses. About half-way through our meal we opted to move tables, as a couple who smelled like they bathed in their cologne/perfume were seated at the table next to us, making it nearly impossible for me to smell or taste anything besides their toilet water. Perhaps the choice to move tables makes me snobbish, but, if that’s the case, I quite frankly don’t give rat’s ass. Seriously, who the hell goes to a restaurant like this smothered in cologne!?! Simply rude, and ignorant. That said, I certainly don’t blame the restaurant for the rudeness of its patrons, and Providence did field my request to change tables gracefully, and without complaint ---- huge kudos to Providence for that.

Enough bitching … on with the food:

japanese kanpachi (kagoshima)
crispy rice crackers, australian finger lime crème fraîche

This was pretty good. The crispy (nori) rice crackers were the most flavorful thing on the plate, and provided a nice textural contrast to the raw fish. I thought the finger lime crème fraîche was a bit strong for the dish, so I used only a very little bit on the mild-flavored fish.

santa barbara sea urchin
champagne beurre blanc, fines herbs

This was, by far, my favorite dish of the evening. I’d never had sea urchin, so I don’t know how typical of a preparation we received. The sea urchin meat was crispy, and was served in an egg-shell, atop the poached egg in the bottom of the shell, with a champagne beurre blanc foam topping it off. Good pairing with the white burg., but an (surprising) astounding pairing with the pinot noir. So delicious!

nancy’s scallops (maine)
buckwheat, dashi, napa cabbage

Scallops were cooked perfectly, and I really enjoyed the buckwheat accompaniment. The chardonnay paired decently with this, but needed more acid to be a good pairing.

wild striped bass (north carolina)
cannellini beans, lemon, nori, brown butter

I was initially a little underwhelmed with this dish, but when I tried the fish in the same bite with the cannellini beans it all made sense to me — for me, the fish-and-beans pairing was unusual, and deliciously successful. Great pairing with the chardonnay.

wild tasman sea trout
fennel, beets, orange

So-so. Fish seemed to lack flavor.

— table change —

marcho farms veal tenderloin (franconia, pa)
braised daikon radish, chanterelle mushrooms, black truffle fondue, jus de veau

This dish paired beautifully with the pinot noir, and was a very close second to the sea urchin as my favorite course of the evening.

market cheeses

lemon sorbet
tarragon, yogurt

banana bread pudding
barley ice cream

These high-priced tasting menus are starting to get to me. Granted, you are getting 9 creative courses (10 with the amuse bouche) with some of the best ingredients around, but I would much prefer a well-thought out, perfectly-executed 4-5 course menu for $40-60. The economy is still tough for many people, and restaurants like Providence – which admittedly is one of faves in LA – need to adjust and accommodate.

9 courses for $125 isn’t bad. Basically $14 a dish. Portions aren’t tiny at Providence either. But I do agree, service is a bit slow there.

My wife and I had the 9-course tasting menu three years ago and I too felt that the food did not live up to the high tariff.

The food has to be spot-on and in our case, there were a few misses.

Mer was pregnant at the time so I chose the wine pairing menu and the sommelier was gracious enough to make substitutions for wines with more character.

Funny you mention the veal tenderloin; that was my favorite course of the night followed by an arctic char that was sous-vide in a warming tray of all things! Also, loved the stellar cheese cart.

WHen I went a few months back we had a salt crusted fish that was disgusting. It was dry and just tasted like a salt lick. All 5 of us returned the dish and asked for a sub. The manager came by to apologize and said “we’ve had a few complaints about the dish being too salty”.


When they are on, Providence does an excellent job, but I have found the food/service inconsistent in four or five times eating there

I’ve had nothing but amazing meals the 5 times I’ve been there and considered it the best restaurant in LA now that Sona closed (although the consistent reports of inconsistency has given me pause).

I had dinner here about a year ago and wasn’t impressed. Me and my date had the tasting menu and a few dishes were good but the rest was just ok. The service was no bueno considering the $200 per person we paid for dinner…

Other foodies tell me maybe I went on an off night and to give it another try but I doubt that will happen… Too many other restaurants that cost less with good food in LA…

A buddy and I went on a Monday night (free corkage), and did the 16 course chef’s tasting. It was killer, but the multiple desserts were overkill. If I were to do it again, I’d request all seafood dishes and skip the fluff.

I really am not a fan of their meat dishes. I agree, stick to seafood.

Also the spot prawns baked in salt are completely overrated.

I’ve had that sea urchin dish also. It’s one of the top 5 things I’ve ever eaten.

I recall turning to my wife and telling her I could skip the rest of the meal if they would just bring me a huge bowl of the sea urchin!

I have to disagree with both points, and a lot of what’s been said so far.
I really like Providence. My first meal there, within three weeks of their opening, was disappointing. Since I’ve had a bunch of excellent meals their, and a few spectaculars. I can’t think of a better restaurant in LA. I have not been to Urasawa, but even so, it is in yet another price category at $350 ++. I think the carte blanche menu at Melisse is better (largely because it has a wider variety and often features truffles) though it too is more at $230?++. Spago too can turn out some excellent tasting menues, but really not better, and slightly more at $150++ for a ten-course.

Providence features top-notch, slightly unusual ingredients in creative preps. The chef is renowned and even beat Morimoto on Iron chef. The room is fairly nice, the service attentive, and they have the two Michelin stars. It seems pretty unreasonable to want a 10-course meal for under $100, or even a 4-course for $60. I’m with Paul and Leah and tend more toward simpler, less extensive meals (ala Gjelina, Animal), but that is a product of my own economic value judgements. My income is down, and there is clearly a diminishing return as one gets above the triple-digit cost for menus. However, I don’t think Providence shines ala carte, or with 3-4 courses. Their strength is the creativity and variety of ingredients, so a tasting menu makes more sense there. I’d feel more optimistic ordering 3-4 courses at Spago or Melisse.

I also like the fact that the tasting menu has more meat than it did when they first opened. I would agreee that the biggest hits are more likely to be seafood, but I find the meat dishes solid. They also fit my style of wanting to progress through numerous wines, from white to lighter reds, but definitley including heavy reds. As for the spot prawns, I thonk they’re delicious. The salt-roasting really doesn’t add a ton to what starts as a great ingredient, but it allows the flavor to shine through. They aren’t a “value” dish, but they sure taste good.

To be clear, I had no problem with the price; rather, I had a problem with the quality of some of the dishes.

I, too, struggle to think of a better L.A. restaurant that I’ve been to, but then again I haven’t been to many of L.A.’s créme de la crème, so to speak. Of the other “nice” L.A. restaurants I’ve been to, I might call Grace a better restaurant (currently closed), and I might say the same about the Dining Room at the Langham Hotel (back when M. Voltaggio was manning the kitchen). I thought our meal at Providence was a good notch or two better than the one meal I’ve had at Spago.

Hey John,

I’m not sure who/where someone said they expect 10 courses for under $100. That’s clearly unreasonable at a restaurant like Providence.

My criticism is, if I’m paying a premium for a multi-course menu, then I expect each course to be spot on.

However, a few of the courses were mediocre/average and that just can’t happen at $200+/pp.

Granted, this is based on one dining experience and we all know restaurants can have “off” nights, but it left me disappointed.



they do a horrible job of brushing the salt off the prawns Half the time I’ve had them they’ve been over-cooked.

I’ve had inconsistent results with the multi-course tasting menu at Providence. We had a large group there for my 50th birthday party, and on that night they knocked it out of the park, both in terms of food and service. But I’ve had other multi-course meals there were perhaps 20-30% of the courses fell a bit flat.

For me, part of the issue is how MANY individual courses do I want. I think 6-8 small courses are fine; more than that and it gets to be a bit of a blur even under the best of circumstances.