Bastide is considered one of the top new restaurants in LA. Esquire named it one of the twenty best new restaurants of 2003 in America. And it’s just walking distance from our house, on Melrose Place! We had to try this out.

But wait! It’s supposed to be impossible to get reservations there! Wrong. We were eating there about four hours after our phone call.

There’s no a la carte menu here, just three tasting menus. The “fig” menu looked interesting; that’s right, every course had something to do with figs. We had the “traditional menu” for $90. The Bastide menu has an extra course or two for $100. We were offered another 10-course menu called the “Chef’s menu” for $125. We went with the traditional menu—which had two choices for each of the major courses.

We started off with some champagne, with some guidance from the rather haughty sommelier. But I guess all sommeliers are haughty, right?

Amuse-bouche was a little scallop in a sweet wine sauce with caviar on top.

For the first course, Sakiko had a salad, shrimp on a bed of ratatouille-like vegetables, very finely diced, with a pronounced tarragon flavor, encircled in a cucumber strip, with an herby green on top. The vegetables were good but the shrimp lacked personality. Bob had a melon crab tortelloni, on a very sweet jello made from a Sauterne-like wine, a single chive on top. I have to admit that the juxtaposition of crab and melon was interesting, but I’m still not that much of a melon fan. I found the crab filling to be uninspired.

For the second course, Sakiko had Mediterranean fish soup, poured over cheese and bread. The waiter went to great lengths to explain to us that they could not call it a bouillabaisse, since it was made not out of Mediterrean rockfish, but local rockfish. In any case I think fish stew is one of the most surpassingly good flavors our civilization has invented, and Bastide does this as well as anyone.

Bob had eggplant caviar, eggplant mousse, and trout, in almond sauce. Little caramelized almonds on top of the eggplant mousse tied the dish together a bit. The eggplant dishes were lovely and had great texture. The trout (which I guess was French, since they called it a “truite”), was fine but nothing to write home about.

For the third and main course, Sakiko had ribeye along with a tender ossobucco-like piece of meat, and crunchy tasty salty good stuff in a bone. Sakiko’s dish was quite the artistic layout. The mushroom ragout was possibly the best single preparation of the entire meal. But I found her ribeye both less flavorful and tougher than I would have preferred.

Bob had pieces of squab, and zucchini flower stuffed with chicken pate. I found the chicken pate to be flavorless; actually, I forgot what it was and couldn’t even tell, so I had to ask the waiter!

We were competently paired with a glass of interesting wine for all of the courses. I didn’t study the wine list in depth, but there seems to be a lot there at reasonable prices.

Bastide has a great dessert menu. They have eight or so preparations, each around a particular theme. Sakiko had “Lavendar”, a fabulous thing involving ice cream and meringue. Bob had “Apple”, which meant apple crepes, caramelized apple, and apple ice cream. The lady at the next table had “Chocolate”, which among other things some chocolate soup which I thought I’d like to try next time I go back.

Bottom line: this is a great restaurant, one of the best in LA. It could be nearly perfect if it drilled down and tuned some of its dishes. But even then it’s questionable whether the experience is worth $200 per person.

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