This month, Patric Kuh turns his attention to Gary Menes' tiny ten-seater nestled in the Hotel Normandie, Le Comptoir. The restaurant, nothing more than a countertop and open kitchen, sources much of its produce from Menes' own garden, and when paired with his extensive fine dining experience at places like the French Laundry, allows for rather extraordinary connections to be made between the particularly fresh ingredients:
Even with something as generic sounding as the fruit and vegetable plate, he choreographs an exciting interplay between the crunch of the Fuyu persimmon and the pliancy of celtuce, the char of the roasted Romanesco cauliflower tip and the tang of the quartered calamansi (a citrus from the Philippines). In late spring he augmented the preparation with marrow zucchini. By early summer he'd woven in the natural sweetness of corn. [LAM]
That isn't to say the restaurant is solely vegetarian, but the meat dishes don't rely on animal stocks and concentrated demi-glace:
He underlines the beef's quality with his spin on an Argentinean chimichurri: house-made red vinegar carrying whole parsley leaves, minced garlic, and chile flakes. For another course—a fricassée of mushrooms, snap peas, and charred romaine—he spoons on a pungent brown onion broth. In his cassoulet, the cooking liquid from lima beans supports a mix of favas, almonds, and apple slices that are cut and sautéed at the last moment to retain their freshness. [LAM]
The LA Mag critic awards Le Comptoir three stars.