Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Foodventure #45: Traxx (Downtown)

Yes, it's the Union Station restaurant; but no, it doesn't feel grossly overpriced nor does it taste unremarkably bland like any other airport, train depot eatery that everyone has encountered (pun intended). And yes, I have to explain that to every potential dining companion that contemplated dining there.
Opened ten years ago, Traxx's decor and menu is a delightful fusion of the classic and the modern, indicated by both its design and menu. The ambience, with patios that spills into the Union Station interior and also in the lush courtyard, has an updated art deco look, juxtaposing soft white lights against the sharp corners of dark geometric designs.

The menu struck a similar balance traditional and modern with updated classics such as beef tenderloin with a tarragon-merlot sauce and mussels in a tomato-saffron broth with couscous; having fairly light appetites that day, my dining companion and I shared an appetizer, entree and dessert.

To start off, we got their famous Louisiana Jumbo Crab Cake with Chipotle Chili Remoulade, easily a top contender as one of the best in L.A. Lots of sweet, succulent and lightly-seasoned crabmeat with minimal binder, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried for a light and satisfying crunch. The mildly-spicy and rich remoulade was a wonderful complement to cake as well as a flavorful dressing to go with the mixed greens on top.
Next up is their Wild Alaskan King Salmon with Asparagus & Violet Mustard Beurre Blanc - a solid dish with a perfectly-cooked piece of fish: flavorful, buttery meat with its crispy skin on alongside tender and mild baby asparagus spears. But both my DC and I were lost on the sauce, which barely had any mustard flavor and none of the (would have been delightful) violet aroma. A mild downer but a disappointment nonetheless since it's promoted as such on the menu.

Another shortcoming here is the service, which is somewhat friendly but excruciatingly slow, especially considering that less than half the tables are occupied. It took almost half an hour for actual food to arrive, which wouldn't have been a big deal except for being ignored by the front-of-house with no reassurances or apologies of any sort for the unusually long wait. It was only a slight peeve for us, but I can only imagine the irritation of actual train passengers who have only so much time before they have to board.

But our gripes were assuaged with the comparatively quick arrival of the Chocolate Pot de Creme, a smooth, silky, cocoa-intense custard that's so sinfully delicious that I even forgot to take a picture upon arrival. But we did finish the pot and were **this** close to licking the ramekin clean.

Overall, I still am rather fond of Traxx (as long as I don't have a tight schedule) dining on modernized classic dishes in the classic atmosphere of the Union Station evokes a sense a nostalgia for the early 20th century--and the relaxed pace and quiet station definitely offers a calm respite from the hustle and bustle of Downtown L.A.

The Bill:
Crabcake - $14
Salmon - $25
Pot de Creme - $7
Pre-tax/tip total - $46

The Rating:
Ambience: 5/5 (Surely one of the strong points of this restaurant is its location and decor that throws diners back to the 1920s era)
Value: 3/5 (Slightly overpriced for portions, but definitely a better deal and much better tasting foods than restaurants at other transportation stops)
Service: 6.5/10 (Friendly and knowledgable staff -heard them go into extensive details about the wine list- but extremely slow and somewhat lax)
Food: 16.5/20 (Everything we had was good, but not as creative as we'd hoped)
Bonus/Demerit: none
Total: 31/40 (Worth at least one trip, esp. for those arriving in LA by way of train, but not so much for those departing for obvious reasons . . .)

Other notes
- Free valet when you dine here: two hours for lunch, three for dinner (believe me, you may just take that long); nonetheless a good incentive to eat here when picking up a friend, given that even self-parking costs a significant chunk of change at Union Station.

800 N. Alameda Street
Los Angeles



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