DTLA: Cafe Pinot

Recently I was invited to check out Cafe Pinot for dinner. I had been there once many years ago but didn’t care for my lunch. I am happy to report things have changed dramatically and due in part to Executive Chef Kevin Meehan. Chef Kevin said we could order off the menu or better yet, he would send some dishes out. What transpired was a 5-course tasting menu along with wine pairings. I had not expected to eat so much and silently cursed the happy hour nibbles I just had.

octopus carpaccio with ruby red grapefruit & salmon with roe, creme fraiche, dill

Chef Kevin hails from Long Island, NY where he worked at Mirabelle, a restaurant he described as the French Laundry of Long Island. He then thought about moving to Manhattan but took a vacation to L.A. That’s when he decided the good weather was the only excuse he needed to move. He packed his bags and worked at L’Orangerie where he met our favorite King of Pop-ups, Ludo. He also was at Bastide, Citrine, Paperfish and Patina before landing at Cafe Pinot in 2009.

Chef Kevin mentioned the Duo of the Sea, our appetizers were among the kitchen’s favorite dishes. You never know what fresh seafood they have on hand and it was a joy to discover the octopus was quite tender. The slightly bitter ruby red grapefruit went well with this dish. On the other hand, the salmon was more traditional with dill and creme fraiche. The addition of the roe was whimsical and a nod to the Cal side of this Cal-French restaurant.


wild mushroom risotto with shaved truffles

A few blogs have called this dish the “panty dropper.” It originated with a blogger who attended a Plate by Plate event where Chef Kevin served it. He would prefer you refer to this dish by its proper name but hey, panty dropper is memorable. To be honest, it wasn’t my favorite risotto but I can see where he was going with it. My dining companion described truffles as not just earthy but sexy. It’s sex on a plate. And sex sells plates.

crispy skin Loch Duart Scottish salmon with lentils, smoked bacon, pinot noir glaze

This dish was my favorite plating. It was like a Miro painting come to life. The salmon was perfectly done and I loved the unctuous green onion. You’ve never heard of an unctuous green onion? It was amazing with the salmon. I also enjoyed the parsnip puree and the little bit of bacon (hidden under the carrot and green onion).

Duo of Beef

The Duo of Beef  dish consisted of a slice of filet mignon on top of short ribs. It has to be one of Cafe Pinot’s best selling dishes. The short ribs were amazing and went well with the mashed potatoes. Filet mignon is not my favorite cut but it was very tender. A swipe through the pepper, chive oil or Bordelaise sauce enhanced the flavor.


This muscato was a nice pairing with our desserts. All the wine pairings were lighter wines, innocuous and let the food shine on its own.


chocolate mousse gateau with bitter chocolate paint

Chef Kevin is still working on his beignet recipes. These were lightly crispy on the outside and quite doughy.  I actually wouldn’t mind these but I’d call them doughnuts just to be on the safe side.

Chocolate fiends, take note. The other dessert was a chocolate mousse gateau with chocolate ice cream, a swipe of bitter chocolate and chocolate sprinkles to boot. Four times the chocolate! I liked the hazelnut nougatine for a bit of textural contrast.

Cafe Pinot may be best known for business lunches in Downtown Los Angeles, the reception spot after a wedding at the Central Library  and a spot to have dinner before a show at the Music Center but take a closer look. They have an interesting cocktail menu (where all the cocktails are amusingly named in French). Prices are normally $11 a cocktail but $8 on Thursdays. You may see me there again with a Happy Hour gal or two in town.

Can’t commit? Cafe Pinot will be participating in the next round of dineLA. The menu appears to be the same for both lunch and dinner so I’d go with lunch. Get the chocolate mousse gateau!

Cafe Pinot

700 West 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 239-6500