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Food

Day One of DineLA: Ford's Filling Station

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It was an inauspicious start for L.A.'s first Restaurant Week: when first we arrived at Ford's Filling Station for lunch (the first stop on our two-week tour of the event's featured restaurants), the rain was falling, the wind was blowing, and tables were not being filled. But thanks to a brief respite from the storm, and to a hearty, delicious prix-fixe menu, the day redeemed itself.

Ford's Filling Station is offering a $22 lunch menu and a $34 dinner menu to Restaurant Week participants; you can check out both menus here and get info on reservations through the DineLA website. Going with three or more people is your best bet, since you can sample each option on the menu (most restaurants are offering diners a choice between three dishes for each course).

The highlight of the Ford's lunch menu was definitely the Manila clam chowder, a rustic preparation with whole clams floating in the creamiest, most fragrant leek broth you've ever tasted. It was a lucky break that the soup was so darn good, because the first course took ages to arrive -- we were sitting with our drinks for well over a half-hour after ordering, watching diners around us arrive and begin to eat before we got our plates.

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No wonder I chowed down so quick-like on the butter leaf lettuce salad I ordered: it came with a bacon-egg-sherry vinagrette and the beautiful little slices of rich, impossibly sweet roasted tomato. We toyed with the idea of ordering a cheese or charcuterie platter in addition to the prix-fixe courses, but once the appetizers arrived, we figured (correctly) that there would be more than enough food to sate us all. Next time, though, it's definitely meats and cheese for me -- although with names like "Humboldt Fog" and "Mad River Roll," you might stop to think twice if it's actually cheese you're ordering and not some other, uh, Nor Cal specialty. (But if those names intrigue you, you can check out the supplier, Cypress Grove Chevre, here.)

There was also a beet salad with grapefruit and goat cheese that didn't get to try, but it and some of the other prix-fixe options are vegetarian friendly: so even if you don't worship pork, you can still participate in Ford's Restaurant Week offerings without having to request any special menu changes. Nice!!!

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The main courses were tasty and filling, although none quite lived up to the promise of that clam chowder. My porchetta sandwich with fontina and caramelized onions was a fantastic take on a ham n' cheese sammie, although the flatbreads that Ford's uses makes the sandwich feel more like a snack than a meal. Luckily the accompanying salad had more of those delicious tomatoes -- I've gotta find out who supplies them, because they're honestly the best tomatoes I've ever tasted.

More of them showed up in the polenta cake (veggie-friendly, I believe), which came with truffle mascarpone and assorted wild mushrooms. The roasted corn succotash that arrived with the fried chicken and mashed potatoes (not listed as an option on the website menu) continued the streak of exuberantly flavorful vegetable side dishes -- so exuberant, in fact, that it overshadowed the potatoes (too smooth and buttery for my taste, but I like lumpy, garlicky potatoes).

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Dessert brought more surprises: my creme brulee was smooth and almost runny in texture, while my boyfriend's was much more congealed. Our desserts had arrived at the same time, so they must have been cooked alongside each other -- closer inspection revealed that portion sizes were to blame (my custard cup was almost overflowing, while his only had a shallow layer of the creme -- his must have cooked through much faster).

The trio of ice creams were excellent: my mom swore up and down that it was the best ice cream she had ever tasted. They make it themselves at Ford's, which might account for the unique flavor (the chocolate was rich, dark, and not too sweet) and incredibly soft texture. The apple crumble had more ice cream on top -- we all got so full of the good stuff that cappuccinos became a necessity.

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Ben Ford himself walked through the dining room several times, and jumped behind the bar for at least an hour, pouring drinks and expediting orders. He's pretty dreamy, in that goofy-cool chef kind of way. Sigh. Anyway. I didn't take any pictures of him because I'm cool like that. But the restaurant itself was swinging by this time, with lots of people in their Sunday casual duds pulling up to the bar for a beer and an order of fish n' chips. Luckily our appetizer delay was the only one of the day, and overall service was great, if occasionally a little distracted.

Was the prix-fixe meal worth the price? Absolutely. By my calculations, my meal of salad, porchetta sandwich, and creme brulee would have cost about $35 if I had ordered from the regular menu -- $22 for a delicious three-course meal at a hot new restaurant is definitely a good deal in my book. I'm looking forward to my next Restaurant Week experience, which will be dinner at SimonLA later this week.

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We were there for the kick-off event with Mayor Villaraigosa, and many more of the LAist staffers will be checking out different restaurants over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more updates from Restaurant Week!

If you still can't get enough of Ford's, check out blogger Gastrologica for his report here.

FORD’S FILLING STATION
9531 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-2618
fordsfillingstation.net
310.202.1470