The dictionary defines the word “providence” as divine guidance. One meal here and you will see why it is such a fitting name for the restaurant. Los Angeles has its fair share of the glut of seafood restaurants that promise freshness, great quality, grilled this and that. But it is rare to see one offer a menu that is composed of pairings of flavors and textures that surpass the greatest of expectations.
Executive Chef Michael Cimarusti has shown that his talents are up there with best. Garnering 2 Michelin stars and winning a James Beard award are just mere acknowledgements to the harmony that will play on your palate. The Tasting Menu is a perfect place to start even though dishes may also be ordered individually. Although there is no defined cultural theme to the cuisine at Providence, you will notice a tendency towards an Asian, mostly Japanese, influence.
Their seasonal cocktail menu is interesting enough that it arouses your curiosity and encourages you to be adventurous without straying too far from the familiar. Their Love is a Rose is composed of gin, lillet rose, perfection tangerine, passionfruit, honey, and prosecco. Dominant tangerine and prosecco notes make it taste like a well balanced mimosa.
The Paper Crane is a feat of balance of flavors. Taketsuru 12 yr Japanese single malt, genmaicha tea, caramelized honey, and yuzu bring together a singularity that is unlike anything you would expect when reading the ingredients. Similar to a Bourbon Southern Tea Cocktail, it has mellower and smoother notes as well as a nice prominence of a toasted rice flavor from the genmaicha.
Amuse bouches that prelude the meal are executed at a level which only heightens the anticipation of the main courses. The Dark and Stormy jelly is a highly refined version of the Jell-o shots you may have had during college, but these have a full dark rum flavor laced with ginger.
I have a hard time recalling the next dish as it was so delicious, I inhaled it. Grace and poise do not come easily when food is this good. It is what I would refer to as a Scallop Taco. Minced scallop sashimi with fluffy cooked rice and rice cracker balls wrapped in shiso leaf, make for a meticulously crafted version of the Korean Ssam.
One of my favorite amuse bouches is the crispy salmon skin. Through some kind of leprechaun magic, the kitchen produces a crispy strip of salmon skin that does not taste fishy. It has a nice combination of the flavors of salmon and pork rinds. Dipped in a whipped creme fraiche with salmon roe, it tastes like the ultimate chips and dip snack. You could say that it was so good, it made me creme fraiche in my pants.
The only way to top the previous dish would be to serve something on a stick. For some reason, anything served on a stick tastes more delicious. It doesn’t hurt that one them happens to be abalone from Monterey. The other is a spicy squid “lollipop” with Spanish chorizo.
Up to this point, it is important to note that we had not been served any dish that was listed as part of the tasting menu. Everything had been pre-entree appetizers. Our first dish officially started with the Japanese Saba, which is mackerel. Mistakenly derided due to its “fishiness”, it is this quality that brings it some life. We have grown so accustomed to equating a fishy scent with un-fresh seafood. But with really good mackerel, you will always get a hint of this.
You can expect anything that has eggs in it to be delicious at Providence. They have a particular talent in really coaxing out its rich, creamy texture. In their Uni & Abalone, it is a surf n turf of richness. The creaminess of the uni melts right into the that of the egg. The abalone provides some textural contrast as well as the buckwheat.
The next dish, Santa Barbara Spot Prawn, is prepared in a foam that is made from jurancon white wine. You get a great balance of the sweetness from the prawn and tartness from the wine sauce. Roe from the prawn adds some flavor as well as texture.
The King Crab is presented in a risotini and with preserved black bean. It is a wonderful take on the crab in black bean sauce that you would get at a Chinese seafood restaurant. The black bean taste is much milder and doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavor of the king crab. Making it as a risotini is a clever allusion to the Chinese rice porridge or congee, but with a better texture.
Usually, dishes come in order of richness, so the arrival of the Kagoshima Wagyu, signaled that were in the final stretch of the meal as far as main courses went. Shiitake mushrooms and shallot confit add some flavor without detracting from the showcase quality of the beef. If you thought maybe this wasn’t rich enough, it is served with powdered beef tallow that adds an additional level of umami and richness.
The Artisanal Cheeses begins the official downshifting of the tasting menu. Eating such a rich and satisfying meal does a number on your brain. The first thing to go is your memory. I cannot recall what cheeses we ate, except for the one made with raw milk. Usually cheeses made with raw cow’s milk tend to be a bit pungent, goopy, and nutty – I equate it to Cheez Whiz for fromagers. There were a total of 5 different types and by the photo it appears that it included variations upon brie, pecorino, and blue.
Second, came the Japanese Cheesecake with huckleberry and black sesame soy milk ice cream. If you have never had Japanese cheesecake, it is different from the standard cheesecake you may be accustomed to. It is more of a cake with spongy texture that is light and creamy. I was impressed by the ice cream as it had a really good nutty flavor from the sesame and still retained a light richness which I did not expect from being made with soy milk.
Finally, what is dessert without chocolate? Stated as Dulcey Cremeux on the menu, it is a masterpiece of sight and taste. Dulcey is a blonde chocolate from French chocolatier, Valrhona. It has a light, buttery taste which makes it seem like you are sampling a magical form of caramel. The cremeux lies somewhere between pastry cream and mousse – it is light and airy but yet retains a level of richness. Served atop a spiced genoise (spongecake) with thin slices of sunchoke and sprinkled with cocoa nibs, it has great textural contrast as well as flavors.
Lastly, the mignardises are the equivalent of a parting gift so that you may have a sweet memory of your meal. At your average restaurant, they would be the chalky mints that taste like Rolaids. But here you get a Thai tea macaron, blackberry gelee, and green tea caramel.
To say that our meal at Providence was impressive would be a serious understatement. It is LA’s equivalent of the French Laundry. You will get an epic meal with an epic price, but well worth it.
Bill total = 4 Chef’s Tasting + 1 wine pairing, 5 cocktails, 5 beverages, tax, tip = $1300 ($325 per person)