Firepit @ Tracht's
Remember back a few months ago, when Erin had a fun and food-filled trip to LA ? Yeah, well I was jealous. REAL jealous. But, as luck would happen, I was able to swing a work trip to the LA area last week. Notice I say "LA area" and not actually "Los Angeles." Work was technically in Long Beach, which is about half an hour away from downtown LA (without traffic-- I'll get to that later). But I figure 30 mins is about a million times closer to LA than I am on a regular basis, and therefore it counts as LA-proper, at least when it comes to dining destinations and visiting friends/family in the area.
For my first meal, however, I ended up at a LA-style place that was actually in downtown Long Beach. Tracht's is a new-ish restaurant opened by Chef Suzanne Tracht of Jar fame. It was highly recommended to me by my good friend and LA transplant, Jenny. In fact, the plan was to meet Jenny at Tracht's for a lovely "Welcome to the Left Coast" dinner. But, as often happens, things did not go exactly as planned. You might have heard a little something about some wild fires in Southern California last week... yeah. Apparently working in emergency management means I bring the emergency with me? Anyway, while Jenny's house was (thankfully) a safe distance from the fires (as was our hotel), she told me the resultant traffic was going to make it almost impossible for her to get to Long Beach in less than, oh, four hours. Now, I have to say, at this point, I thought she was exaggerating (come on Jenny, it's not like its never happened before!) How could it take four hours to travel 20 miles?! Well, a week in LA taught me that this type of INSANE traffic is not even that out of the ordinary for LA. Crawling along the freeway at 5 miles an hour, for mind-numbing stretches of time, might be considered "light" traffic to seasoned Los Angelinos. Complete gridlock in the middle of the day is standard there. Rabid Elephants stampeding down the freeway would be referred to as "a bit of a traffic jam." You see where I am going with this.... but when I first touched down I was blissfully unaware of any of that. However Jenny informed me that the added pressure on the traffic system caused by the fires was bound to make it absolutely unmanageable. But you don't read this blog to hear about the unbelievelable traffic in LA, do you?? No, we're here to talk about food. Our first evening in California, co-worker Mike and I headed to Tracht's in our rented Ford Mustang convertible, and were lullled into a false sense of security by the relatively traffic-free journey.
We arrived at Tracht's and were immediately seated on the lovely outdoor patio (note: everyplace in LA has outdoor seating, which is awesome, and which I took advantage of many times). Tables are set with white tablecloths and candles, and there is a firepit with couches on the patio as well. Very nice setting, and in the distance we could see lights from the top of a Ferris wheel.
Onto the food-- after a nibble of crusty bread and butter topped with sea salt (we wish the waiter had told us to stir the butter before applying to bread-- that first bite was SALTY!), out came the appetizers. I had the fried oysters which had been recommended in a recent review (which I totally meant to link to, but now cannot find ANYWHERE), and Mike got the lobster cocktail with green mango, currant tomato, and spicy lime vinaigrette. Both were very tasty, although the edge goes to Mike's dish; my oysters were fairly ordinary. The signature appetizer at Tracht's is deviled eggs, which is somewhat appealing but just seems SO weird to serve at an upscale restaurant (as opposed to, say, a picnic). If I went back to Trachts (or Jar) I think I would give them a shot... just to see what deviled eggs are like when they are all fancied-up.
Main courses presented a challenge: it was a warm week in southern California (hence all the fires) and Tracht's "comfort food" theme just didn't feel right with the balmy weather. But, we persevered, Mike ordered the braised lamb shank and I got the skirt steak with tamarind sauce (recommended by our waiter) and we got an order of mashed potatoes to share.
Braised Lamb Shank
So, first off I want to say everything was REALLY good. If it had been 10-15 degrees cooler, and the little space heaters on the patio had been running, and it had been COZY out, the food would have been awesome. My steak was perfectly medium-rare, tender and flavorful. The tamarind sauce had just the right amount of tanginess to set it off. Mike's lamb shank was enormous, rich, and sitting in a pool of intensely flavored sauce. Serious comfort food! The potatoes we got on the side were unbelievable... I won't even make a "crack" comment here-- it's too easy. They were so smooth and... luxurious? I don't even know the word to describe them! They tasted like they were made of half potato, half butter, and half magic. If loving these potatoes is wrong, I don't want to be right... you see where I'm going here.
We were full of rich, heavy food so what to do next... order dessert, of course! The weather WAS perfect for a big bowl of Pink Champagne sorbet. WOW! Another dish that defies description. Just sweet enough, a tiny bit tart, and bursting with champagne flavor... and look at that color! It looked like a big bowl of cotton candy!!!
So, overall, a GREAT meal at Tracht's, even if it was without Jenny and even if we could have used some cooler weather to enhance the "coziness" of the food. I was so full and sleepy after the meal I dozed a little on the ride back to the hotel, music playing and California breeze blowing in my hair. A very enjoyable first meal in SoCal, and lots more to come!!!