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DineLA Restaurant Week - Patina for Lunch

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When I lived in Japan, I often ate a communal stew called nabe in the wintertime. One of the staple ingredients within the myriad of possibilities of a nabe is konnyaku. Konnyaku is a firm translucent gelatin with black spots that is completely flavorless. After a few months, I felt comfortable enough to ask a close friend why Japanese people eat the flavorless konnyaku. The answer surprised me. It's the texture of the konnyaku that makes it important in the mix. It turns out the nabe is something to be savored in every part of your mouth. One should contemplate each ingredient’s distinct flavor, sensation, and texture within each mouthful. Even the simple act of eating of a stew in Japan can have a Zen-like importance.

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Patina, one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, understands the importance of the mingling of textures and flavors. Starting my meal with the appetizer named, "A study of Market Beets with Citrus Fruit, Cloud of Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Watercress", I knew my mouth was in for a treat. The plate greets you with wonderful color and variety. The first bite consisted of a subtle young red beet, half a wedge of grapefruit, a sliver of goat cheese, and a hint of nuts. I chewed slowly and focused on the playful dance within my mouth. The next bite was 12 stems of watercress, an orange beet, a sweet wedge of tangerine, and mixed with a puffy whipped sauce. Chew...chew...chew - I believe a haiku is in order:

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edible laughter
beckons my small smiling fork
heaven on a plate

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The main course was no less impressive. My mates ordered the "Merlot-Braised Lamb Osso Buco, Saffron Risotto and Zucchini Compote"while I veered towards the "Beef Short Rib Filled Ravioli with Petit Vegetable Ragout and Red Wine Glace". Although, I was expecting a more traditional ravioli dish (Traditional? What was I thinking?), I was served three large ravioli that resembled Chinese dumplings. The flavor reminded me of an elegant version of the beef stroganoff of my youth. The succulent beef short rib meat inside the dumplings spilled out and had me from the first bite. Towards the end of the entrée, I felt a melancholy, usually reserved towards the last few pages of a great book.

The dessert was a bit of a let down. It constisted of a marshmallow, a chocolate, an orange slice, and a macaroon. I was expecting the meal to end with a bang, but it ended with a marshmallow.

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Overall, my lunch experience at Patina was fantastic. The service was exceptional. The atmosphere had a spacious intimacy. Rarely do I feel compelled to create poetry after eating a beet salad.

Patina is one of the fine restaurants participating in the DineLA Restaurant week. The concept is simple: Over 140 of the best Los Angeles area restaurants are offering a three-course lunch for either $15 or $22 (per person excluding beverages, tax and gratuity). Three course dinners are either $24 or $35. Get more information at DineLA.com. The website OpenTable.com has a great list of the participating restaurants that can be sorted by neighborhoods or type of cuisine.

You only have until February 8, 2008 to take part in the promotion and search for the Zen-like experience only good food can offer.

Photos by Miguel del Este/LAist