He was the first to make me really care about vegetables. The first chef to slay me with beautifully roasted squash, a Blue Hubbard beauty back in 2010. But still, for this carnivorous, pork loving, meat me anywhere gal… it was a just a goddamn piece of SQUASH, and I absolutely loved it.
Don’t get me wrong, Chef Gary Menes does fabulous pork, beef and seafood too. But over the years, he taught me to embrace the just-picked bounty he moved to the center of the plate and I’m so grateful for that.
Peter and I have been Gary Menes fans since he cooked at Marché Restaurant in Sherman Oaks, just a few minutes away from us in Studio City. We first went in 2009, and it quickly became our go-to for date nights and family gatherings. This was years before the valley had the up-and-coming dining scene we have today. We were sad when the restaurant closed.
Menes soon opened a pop-up called Le Comptoir (“the counter” in French) and we were lucky enough to score several reservations at the Tiara Cafe downtown.
Le Comptoir is now located in the beautiful Hotel Normandie in Koreatown. The pulitzer-prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold named Le Comptoir one of his favorites. With only ten seats at the counter, and open just four night’s a week, reservations are difficult to get but so worth the effort.
Gold wrote (an excerpt):
… Le Comptoir’s $69 tasting menu is exactly what they’ve come to love — a half-dozen courses mostly based around vegetables from a Long Beach organic garden, artfully composed, extensively explained, served with appropriate wines. Many of the dishes can be supplemented with things like foie gras or an ultra-rich Japanese Wagyu rib-eye cap, but Menes’ gift is his ability to draw out the flavors of vegetables through precise low-temperature cooking. More at Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, L.A. Times.
My photos from dinner at La Comptoir with Peter.
Berkshire pork belly, sweet potato fondant, parsley and grape vinaigrette, umami jus.
Chefs selection of cheeses: Mount Tam, 10 year Hook’s Cheddar, Baylee Hazen blue. Dessert: Caramel pots de creme, caramel sauce, salted pecans, creme chatilly.
3606 W. 6th St., Los Angeles
(in the Hotel Normandie)
Seatings: 6 and 8:30 p.m.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
Dining date: 11/19/15
Photo at top: Amuse of dinosaur kale chips and house aioli.
Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants (in 2015 Leo Comptoir came in at 35 out of 101)