Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Foodventure #61: Easter Brunchin' at Taste (on Melrose) (West Hollywood)

A brunch I've been planning for about two weeks, I chose Taste (on Melrose) because it seemed to be slightly bubbling on the down-low; not entirely obscure, but definitely not the talk of the town. It was only when they put out their interesting-looking Easter brunch menu that I decided it was time to check out the place, seeing that it had a good variety of breakfast and lunch options for indecisive me to mull over (Ok, it was the dessert buffet that sealed the deal.)

On Melrose near La Cienega, it's nestled in a neighborhood of high-end boutiques and design stores and a hop away from Comme Ca. Despite its higher profile competition, the place was pretty full and happening upon our 12:30p arrival. We were quickly seated in their quaint patio, and our knowledgable and enthusiastic waiter explained how the brunch menu worked (as the menu suggested, it is basically 3 shared apps, choice of entree and a help-yourself dessert buffet).

While we were deciding on the entrees, we were brought the pastry basket . . .
consisting of scones, muffins, cornbreads and assorted breakfast goodies and definitely way more than enough for two people! Most of everything we tried were pretty good, the exception being the cornbread which was a bit on the dry & mealy side.

The waiter came back to take our entree order, and we were serve the two other starters:
smoked salmon mousse with red bell pepper and dill on belgian endive and
mac 'n chese with mushrooms and white truffle oil. Both were OK to decent, but definitely lacking the extra edge to make it especially good. I couldn't detect much of the salmon in the mousse, the prominent flavors came from the dill with a backdrop of pepper and sour cream. The white truffle oil overwhelmed the mac and cheese, making the dish as a whole pretty one-dimensional. Still, neither was bad.

After the apps, we nibbled off the pastry basket a little more until the arrival of our entrees. My friend got the
blackened wild salmon salad with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and capers in a white balsamic vinaigrette which was fairly well executed, with the dressing being pretty pleasant and the fish well cooked. He noted he could've done with less goat cheese (or a less intense version of it) but I had a taste thought it was OK, though not particularly exciting salad-wise.

I got the taste cobb frittata, which was baked with chicken, applewood bacon, green onions, tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese inside and topped with avocado. It was served with gorgonzola sauce, ketchup and a side of their rosemary garlic potatoes.

I guess good news first -- the potatoes were awesome: crisp and aromatic and great with either dip. Of course, me praising the side dish probably gives you an idea of the bad news as well--the frittata was definitely overcooked and was kind of dry and dense rather than soft and fluffy. The ingredients also could've been finer chopped and/or more evenly distributed. Some bites I'd get just bacon and eggs and others I'd be blasted with a giant glob of gorgonzola. It was pretty mediocre overall, I didn't finish it and was kicking myself for not choosing one of the other items I was considering (especially the breakfast burrito that looked so good two tables down). And no fault to Taste, but if I'd known I'd gotten my own whole frittata instead of being served a slice of a giant premade one (as some places do), I would've asked for egg whites only.

But hey, maybe the best part is at the end, so I helped myself to their dessert buffet

and gotten some of their warm chocolate bread pudding, fruit salad, a macaroon and mini yogurt-granola-fruit parfait. All the sweets were solidly good, the winner of the set being the custardy, not-too-sweet pudding.

My friend also checked out the one dessert I didn't try, the chocolate pudding -- which he didn't care primarily because it's room temperature and not cold.

In conclusion, I'm not quite sure what to make of my experience here. Neither so good that I'd recommend it as a destination restaurant (and even iffy as an option in the neighborhood), but not so bad I'd rant much about it either -- especially since I only have one dining experience to go off on and it could've just been an off meal, which isn't uncommon during busier-than-usual special events. Nonetheless, with that frittata, I'm not eager to give this a second go and re-evaluate anytime soon, especially with other restaurants in the neighborhood (the aforementioned Comme Ca, as well as Lucques and Bastide) that I've yet to try. And if my experience is any indicator, I totally get why this place is below the radar.

What do others say?
- Yelpers give it
four out of five stars
- Chowhounders offer a
mixed bag of opinions

Other notes:
- Recurring special events here include 1/2 Wine on Mondays, and special prix-fixes on full moon nights featuring aphrodisiac foods
- Valet & street parking available
- Overall dining area is pretty small, so do make a rezzie with larger parties (or parties of any size on busier times.)

The bill:
2 Easter brunches (includes soft drink) @ $34/person - $68
Glass of sparkling wine - $7.75
Pre-tax/tip total - $75.75

The ratings:
Ambience: 3.5/5 (a pretty nice space given the small area they have to work with, could be romantic at night but nothing particularly remarkable)
Value: 3/5 (on the higher end for a brunch, but we definitely got to try a lot of different dishes)
Service: 9/10 (the highlight of the meal, all the staff were attentive w/o being fussy and no major delays)
Food: 13/20 (there were some good items, but nothing great; and there were some mediocre stuff, but not super bad. But given how most items were around the OK range, I'm basically unimpressed.)
Bonus/Demerit: N/A
Total: 28.5/40 (a barely passable C- if you do the numbers, wouldn't go out of my way to dissuade others from going, but no recs either)

Taste (on Melrose)
8454 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood


Anonymous said...

Aw, I'm sorry you had a less than stellar experience there. Taste is one of my favorite restaurants. And I've never been disappointed by the food or the service for that matter. But, yeah, your brunch dish didn't look all that great. I'd have to give kudos to the restaurant though for having a dessert bar. Yum.

Chubbypanda said...

Great to finally meet you today! Hope to see you at another one of our gatherings soon.


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