Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reservoir Restaurant: New (and better) memories

I want it to be perfect tonight.

I want the food to awe and amaze. I want the service to sing. I want the dining experience to be everything it wasn’t during my first meal at Chef Gloria Felix’s Reservoir Restaurant in Silver Lake last October.

The dinner had been one of the most disappointing meals I’d had that year. Aside from the peach and blueberry crumble with condensed milk ice cream, everything else fell flat on my tongue. The bad experience left a bitter taste in my mouth – I was ready to swear off Reservoir and all restaurants for good. As I angrily punched out a post on the subject when I got home that night, I never imagined I’d have any reason to go back to the seasonally inspired restaurant that allows diners to create self-constructed entrees based on a list of sides and proteins.

I was done.

But time is like wine – it dulls all wounds. The hostility I felt in the moment weakened, and like usual, I realized that I’d let my emotions overpower my sanity. Of course, I wouldn’t swear off all restaurants forever. Crazy girl with pink blog cannot survive on oatmeal and turkey sandwiches and quinoa alone.

I got back on the horse and dined out again.

And it was good.

Even so, as I walk up Silver Lake Boulevard with Esi from Dishing Up Delights for our 7:30 pm reservation on Friday night, I can’t quite believe I’m going back to Reservoir. I’m all for forgiveness, Christian love and “hugging it out,” but not necessarily when it comes to matters of my stomach and wallet. Why give a restaurant a second chance when I’m on a limited budget and there are so many other places in Los Angeles I’d rather go or try?

But tonight involves special circumstances. Esi has a Blackboard Eats coupon for 30% off burning a hole in her wallet, and my previous plans for the evening had involved making granola and watching the season premiere of “Glee.” When Esi asked me to join her, HC from LA & OC Foodventures, and Fiona from Gourmet Pigs, for dinner earlier that day, it seemed like an infinitely better option. I’m all for spending quality time with myself, my oven and my remote, but crazy girl with pink blog cannot survive on TV and household chores alone either.

Despite my initial hesitation about accepting Esi’s invitation, I’m optimistic about the evening – and really rooting for the restaurant to dazzle me. I’m with good company, I know what not to order (the miso cod and the pizza), and I know that if all else fails, I’ll at least have wine (again, it dulls all wounds). Tonight, that wine is a Chateau Mas Neuf Compostelle Rouge Costières de Nîmes 2007 ($39) that does dazzle. The waiter describes it as “very French,” but to me, it is simply a beautiful red wine – full and rich and spritely on the palate. It seems to come alive with every sip, and I feel alive just by drinking it.

I feel similarly inspired by the starter I share with Esi, the grilled watermelon salad with arugula, avocado, Persian cucumber, ricotta salata croutons and a jalapeño-citrus vinaigrette ($12). The tart dressing enhances the natural sweetness of the watermelon, and all the components add further depth to the plate. The peppery arugula, salty bite of the fried ricotta salata croutons, the mild avocado, slight kick from the jalapeño – there’s excitement in every bite. This is a dish I want to recreate at home. On a day when I am surviving on TV and laundry alone.
My hopes are high that our entrees will follow suit – that everything about the evening will be that image of perfect I want it to be. “It would make such a great post,” I think when our server finally presents our plates. “Girl has a bad experience, decides to give the restaurant a second chance, and then is rewarded for the generosity in her heart with an impeccable feast of culinary eats!”

I’m excited by the appearance of my seared marinated tofu ($16) with my self-selected side, the farro with grilled asparagus, broccoli rabe, currants, toasted pine nuts, and roasted shallots. My excitement continues when I taste the nutty farro that is simply prepared, yet wonderfully satisfying with the varying textures and savory flavor profiles from the fresh vegetables. It’s very nicely done, and is yet another dish that inspires Esi and me to confer about how we could make it at home.

Unfortunately, the tofu brings my excitement to a halt. Both HC and I find the assertive teriyaki and garlic marinade overpowering on the actually very well-prepared tofu steaks. We love the crispy outside and substantial, yet not too dense interior, but can’t get past the salt shock from the marinade. Esi is also not particularly excited about her skirt steak with chimichurri sauce ($21), and a woman at the table next to ours also finds the miso marinade on her cod as off-putting as I had on my first visit.

At the end of the night, it isn’t the flawless meal I had hoped it would be, but I’m still happy I returned to Reservoir. The bad memory of my first dinner has been replaced by newer, happier memories. When I close my eyes and picture the familial space of the restaurant, I’ll think about our table’s great debate about which wine to order, Esi and me whispering about whether the jalapeño-citrus dressing is made with lemon or lime, and the laughter we all shared as we gossiped about Blogger Prom.

Good memories, like wine, dull bad ones. And this girl is happy she had the opportunity to open her heart up to find them.

1700 Silver Lake Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90026
(323) 662-8655


Andy said...

Blogger Prom Gossip, eh?

Esi said...

Smiles all around. I can't stop thinking about that watermelon salad..and the farro. I think we should join forces and cook them together!

weezermonkey said...

I love when something bad turns into something good!

Gastronomer said...

Good for you for giving Rez another shot. I still have positive feelings about the place even though the service we received was terrible.

stuffycheaks said...

oh!! I have my BBE coupon as well, think I'll go but stay away from the tofu. wait.. that's all you guys ordered?? times must be tough!

nelehelen said...

awww glad this visit was much better that your last (minus the salty marinade)! i still haven't been, but when i go i should be weary of their marinade huh...

Diana said...

Andy - Haha, yes. Apparently there was some gift bag drama! Dun dun dun!

Esi - Agreed! Let's set a date when I'm back from Napa!

Weez - Me too! Like milk made into cheese! :)

Cathy - The service was actually still a bit slow, but the server was rather pleasant. Though I think he secretly hated us when he found out we were bloggers...

Stephanie - I'm trying this new thing where I don't gorge when I go out to eat. Going well so far! Let's see how long it lasts...

Helen - I'd almost suggest requesting it without the marinade! The steaks do fair better though, so maybe try one of those instead? The short ribs are good!