Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Taste for Relaxation (and really good mac 'n cheese)

As a food snob, one of my favorite past-times (aside from eating and talking about eating) is tearing down a mediocre restaurant with a smorgasbord of well-chosen adjectives. Eateries like Toast, Versailles and Luna Park shake in trepidation when I come to call -- none are safe from the tartness of my sassy tongue. Not even Versailles' divinely sweet plantains can redeem them for the greasy slop they proffer to their clearly inparticular patrons.

Given my visceral opposition to dining at any establishment that defiles my taste buds with mediocrity, I should be loathe to enjoy an evening or afternoon spent at the slightly underwhelming Taste on Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood. Of course because I also enjoy the past-time of defying expectations, it shouldn't be particularly surprising that I am in complete agreement with the domain name on Taste's website: "I Love Taste."

Despite discovering a few "taste" violations over the course of the four occasions I have dined at Taste, including the artichoke starter aberration, I can't help but feel drawn back to the quaint, dimly lit restaurant again and again. Occupying a house-like space on the quieter, upscale end of Melrose Ave., Taste is craveable for its charming unpretentious ambiance and unassuming clientele. It's the type of place I want to bring my mom for brunch when she is up visiting from the OC. It's the type of place I want to go to sip a reasonably priced glass of Sauvignon Blanc while catching up with dear friends after a long work week. And it's the type of place I want to call an extension of my home.

This past Friday night, the two ladies who introduced me to Taste and I enjoyed a delightful hour and a half dinner in what has become a regular spot in our dining rotation. We dug into a standard, but properly executed calamari appetizer, smeared globs of the delectable pesto hummus on slices of warm bread, and devoured the chicken paillard, chicken curry and pork chop entrees with gusto. Though the only thing that really riddled my tongue with desire was the truffle oil mac 'n cheese served alongside my somewhat overcooked pork chop, I don't feel particularly inclined to complain. It was fine as it was, and in a way, the imperfections made the whole experience more authentically like a meal I would have at home. Or it would if my mom stocked truffle oil or fried her own calamari.

I could spend the rest of this entry writing pretentious paragraphs about the food I have encountered over the course of my four visits to Taste -- describing the various textures and layers of flavers (or lack thereof) -- but somehow that seems completely unnecessary. I don't go to Taste to be blown away with epicurean genius. I go to Taste to be comforted. I go to Taste to get a solid, reliable meal. And I go to Taste because it offers a "taste" of home.

Photographic evidence is to follow, but be forewarned, the best thing on the menu (aside from the righteous mac 'n cheese) is not pictured below. The best thing on the menu is the ability to relax with good company -- I highly recommend a Joanne with some Rory on the side.

Fried squid with a mayo-based dipping sauce? Hello, Lover!

The cumin-rubbed pork chop hates being in the limelight...
...but the cheese really does stand alone.

Chicken curry with quinoa: Take with a glass (or five) of water

Chicken paillard: Comfort food does a belly good (the butt? not so much...)

No comments: