Oh, DineLA – some of our favorite weeks of the year. Every year, the winter dineLA falls around early February, just in time for Martin’s birthday! This year, after much scrutiny of the posted offerings from the MANY participating restaurants, he selected Stefan’s at LA Farm, recently renamed to Stefan’s at Lantana (for its location at the Lantana campus in Santa Monica). His main reasoning? We’ve always wanted to check out this restaurant owned by Top Chef contestant Stefan Richter. His secondary reason? DineLA dinner here is rated $$$ ($45/person) for a 6 course tasting menu (SIX!), definitely one of the better deals available!
When given options, we generally try to order different things so we can effectively sample the entire menu. We were able to do that for all but 2 courses — that crudo and pumpkin soup just called out to both of us and neither was willing to back down! (On the flip side, our friends Helen & Edmund made it easy on our waiter — one of each, all the way through~)
Course 1: Cali Crudo – halibut, salmon, lime yuzu vinaigrette. Neither of us could resist ordering this dish of buttery, thick slices of sashimi drizzled with a bright, citrus-y vinaigrette. A very refreshing and light starter worthy to represent California.
Course 2 (m): Raviolo & Pork Cheek – brown butter, pecorino, parsnips. Martin selected this raviolo that wafted the aroma of bacon from the moment it was set at our table. He polished it off with a quickness, barely sparing one small taste for me!
Course 2 (a): Mushroom Risotto – hen of the woods, blue cheese. I love mushrooms, and hen of the woods fall pretty high on my list of favorites (#1 being chanterelles). The risotto had a great al dente texture and the cheese was not too overpowering. Solid.
Course 3 (both): Pumpkin Soup. We both selected this soup over the other option of a leek soup. I think Martin found it to be a bit too sweet, but I didn’t mind it once I accepted that I was drinking a hot, slightly savory, liquid pumpkin pie (in a good way). It felt reminiscent of Thanksgiving.
Course 4 (m): Crispy White Fish – chipotle butter, black beans, cilantro, corn, haricot verts. Martin’s fish course had a stunning sear. I mean it was BEAUTIFUL. I heard the crunch as his fork sank into the fillet and felt quite jealous. His only complaint was a slight inconsistency in plating between his and another plate at our table with regard to the amount of the chipotle butter garnish (although we suspect the plate with a smaller dollop may have just melted before it got to our table).
Course 4 (a): West Coast Halibut – brik dough, edamame, shimeji mushrooms, fingerlings, pancetta. The halibut was cooked perfectly with a crispy sear and a moist but easily flaked texture. The pancetta flavoring in the sauce added an earthy contrast, and the edamame and shimeji mushrooms hidden underneath were great accompaniments.
Course 5 (m): Duck Breast – braised red cabbage, pretzel dumpling, lingonberry sauce. Martin was a teeny bit hesitant to order duck breast as some places tend to overcook the breast. His concerns were instantly alleviated when we saw the pale pink medium/medium-rare of his thick slices of seared duck. The lingonberry sauce was tart and delicious, although, to be honest, our only other reference point is IKEA’s.
Course 5 (a): Beef Tenderloin, rare – parsnip mash, sauce hollandaise. Helen and I both love cow, so we were especially excited for this course. We requested ours cooked rare and they were wonderful. The jus (was it a red wine reduction?) melded nicely with the hollandaise. The parsnip mash was a great spin on ordinary ol’ steak & potatoes.
Course 6 (m): Apple Beignet. Martin was so excited when his dessert was presented. Fried sweets a la mode? Sign us up! The biggest surprise was what makes it an “apple beignet” — in the middle of the batter coating was a half apple. Yes, they deep fried a fresh apple. Awesome!
Course 6 (a): Coffee & Vanilla Panna Cotta. The panna cotta was a bit more jelly-like than the thick, creamy textures I’m used to, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Plus, the layers looked so lovely and the coffee essence was balanced – not too bitter, not too sweet.
We were very pleased with our meal and we were especially excited to see that Stefan himself was out in the dining room greeting guests and asking about the food and experience. We were also impressed at the quality of their tasting menu during restaurant week and would love to return sometime and check out their regular menu! All in all, it was a fantastic evening. I would definitely recommend checking out Stefan’s any time during the year, but the next dineLA will be in July… hint hint.
Check out Stefan’s at Lantana: stefansrestaurants.com
3000 West Olympic Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
See their Yelp reviews here!