West LA: Sotto
Although I went to Test Kitchen more than 10 times, I never managed to make it over there for when Chefs Steve and Zach. I had heard of them, of course. How they did amazing pizza at Ortica in Orange County and I should, that I must. But there is only one Minty and unless I find a way to clone myself, I can’t make it to every single food event in LA (I wish, I really do!).
Then they took over the Test Kitchen space and transformed it into a modern Italian restaurant. And the initial reports from friends were favorable. But it wasn’t until I heard about an outstanding pork chop that made me run (crawl?) down Pico again. I started obsessing when can I get this fennel-encrusted pork.
We started with a simple burrata and bread dish then moved onto the chickpea panelle. Oh wow, it hasn’t been since Frances for their panisse frites (chickpea fries) since I’ve been moved by the simple chickpea. These lighter than air pillows were amazing.
I am currently in love with mushroom pizzas. We picked out the Hen of the Woods (it’s a mushroom like a maitake), ramps and capretto sardo (type of cheese) pizza. I would love to get Tony’s (from Tony’s Pizza Napoletana) opinion on the “leoparding” on this pizza. I thought the crust seemed to be the focus as opposed to the toppings. Since I’m the sort that likes crust, this was great.
My friend was sticking to beer but I loved that bartender Kate mixed a little biscotti liqueur into it, creating a shandy.
I have too many weaknesses in life. One being octopus. We of course had to order the tomato-braised octopus with chickpeas, chard, bottarga and preserved lemon. I’m pretty sure I warded off my friends as I greedily ate this by myself. Okay, they were allowed a few bites.
But Minty, where is that pork chop you were talking about? Here it is! The night melted away and the buzz from the bar died. The spotlight was on the pork. The fennel wafted through the air. It is time.
“That’s pretty good.”
“No, that’s F’N GOOD.”
I think I was talking out loud. I started handed out bites to people around me to confirm how good the pork was. Even our pescatarian friend had an eensy bite and loved it. Then she asked for another bite.
Slo-mo again. A nip of Maraska Pelinkova. A little dessert. A tour of the kitchen.
And the beast awakens. Although I had eaten probably too much, I was instantly hungry again when I saw that hunk of meat in the kitchen. Rawr!
Our night was made especially perfect by bartender Kate Grutman. I first met Kate when she was working at Tar Pit. She’s now at Sotto three nights a week. I loved all three cocktails she made me. How did she know I was not just a bourbon girl but initially an Irish Whiskey chick? Her Powers and Peach (John Powers Irish Whiskey, Cocchi Americano, St. Germain, homemade peach syrup, Cocchi sweet vermouth, old fashioned bitters) was a very strong opening cocktail for me. The peach was subtle and complimented the cocktail very well.
Next was the Cookies & Beer (Peroni, Italian biscotti liqueur, orange twist). I can now officially endorse beer cocktails.
And lastly, the Il Cattivo (Bols Genever, Branca Menta, Carpano Antica, orange bitters) was excitement in a glass. I always love anything with Bols Genever. And combined with Branca Menta is perfect.
So who’s coming with me next time?