Drago Centro: The Vault Room

People say write about what you  know. Since I eat out almost every day, I’ve been thinking about writing a book  (TV show or maybe a “based on a true story” film script?) besides this blog. I record the meals but I have always been more interested in the people and stories from the restaurants. That said, which restaurant? Which group of people? Perhaps Drago Centro where I’ve been teased I can have my mail sent there (’cause you know, I’m there very often). Nah, that wouldn’t work. I couldn’t write a script about a restaurant where I love everyone.

But let me introduce you to the cast of characters-

Chef Celestino Drago

Chef Celestino Drago

Chef Ian Gresik

Chef de Cuisine Ian Gresik

General Manager Matteo Ferdinandi

Sommelier Michael Shearin

And also the rest of the front and back of the house; hosts, the line chefs, servers, runners, bartenders.

So Fresh & So Clean

I was invited last week to a special 5-course dinner preceded with a sneak peak at one of the upcoming Spring cocktails, So Fresh & So Clean. It was gin based with a hint of cucumber, violets and elderflower.

The Vault Room

We headed into one of the two private rooms at Drago Centro. The Vault Room features an in-room stove and two flat screen TVs. These screens were trained on the kitchen where you can watch the chefs cook your food but I rather watch it “live.” It’s pretty funny to see Chef Celestino take pics of the cooking food. And there’s sous chef Michael Neflas probably also tweeting the pics.

uni panna cotta, seafood salad, basil cake

I think there’s only one way to describe this dish and it’s really more of a moan of joy. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

The uni panna cotta was topped with a marvelous seafood salad and the most interesting “garnish” I’ve ever seen- the basil cake. Yep, that green bit on the upper right. I ate it all. I used some bread to mop up everything when my fork tines wouldn’t do.

Wine: Vermentino, Feudi Della Medusa, Albithia, Sardegna, 2007

scallop, agnolotti, chile, lemon

I always enjoy well prepared scallops. This one was perfectly seared and served with Chef Ian’s amazing agnolotti. I liked the unexpected hint of both chile and lemon in the dish.

Wine: Kerner, Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige, 2009

garganelli, pork sausage, parmesa, fennel seeds

The pork sausage garganelli is one of my favorite dishes at Drago Centro. It was quite exciting to realize what initially looked like a pan of French fries on the stove were actually pasta tubes. Ha, and yes, there was butter in this dish. I saw it being cooked! The result? Rich, flavorful, can’t get enough of it.

Wine: Montepulciano, Garofoli, Grosso Agontano, Rosso Conero, 2006

Rib eye, summer truffle and mushroom risotto

Rib eye is my favorite cut of steak and up until last week, I had never tried the steak at Drago Centro. I’m usually eying the lamb or pork. I was glad this was served with my favorite mushroom risotto — and topped with summer truffle shavings! How decadent! The wine pairing with this dish was spot on.

Wine: Barolo, Rocche Costamagna, Annuziata, Piemonte, 2006

pine nut bread pudding, wild berries, grappa

Chef Ian started off in pastry and has a strong pastry background. I was in love with this pine nut bread pudding. Somewhere along the way, my sweet tooth has mellowed and so I appreciate simple desserts that aren’t cloying or overly saccharine. This was also the most amazing plating after the first course, the uni panna cotta with seafood salad. Love all those pink dots!

Wine: Moscato, Maculan, Dindarello, Veneto, 2009

Brendan pouring a Jack Rose

While the new Spring cocktails aren’t on the menu yet, the special $5 bar cocktails have been updated. I tried one of the four last week- the Jack Rose, a very classic cocktail of apple jack, grenadine and lemon.

I believe meals should not just be about the food. It’s about the good times shared with friends and family, the companionship and brilliant conversations. There’s something about Drago Centro that brings all that and more for me. I also have the friendship of the restaurant. So as much as I am privy to their lives there, sometimes it’s more important to keep their secrets. I suppose there won’t be a “made for TV” movie but I would really like a show that really shows what it’s like at a restaurant. Not a cooking competition but perhaps more of a documentary. I’ve been to Drago Centro often to know when they’re running crazy because they had hundreds of covers in a day and then there are times where I can sit at the bar and talk to everyone there because it’s just…home.

But if we do film it, someone else is gonna have to be the camera op. I want to eat! I mean, host. My kitchen tour vids are here-

Tour of the kitchen, part I

Tour of the kitchen, part II

Drago Centro

525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 228-8998