09 February, 2009
Participating in DineLA's Restaurant Week this year is one of L.A.'s dining landmarks, Campanile. Opened originally in 1989, this institution sits next to another culinary and cultural birthmark, La Brea Bakery. The food has become as institutional and reliable as church bells every hour on Sundays.
It was obvious by the crowd on a Wednesday night that DineLA was doing its job: attracting a crowd that perhaps would not normally eat here. There were young groups of friends, or a couple of roommates who thought they'd try their local haunt on a school night. The new crowd proved refreshing and profitable to Campanile, who also extended their DineLA experience until 2/13, like many other DineLA participating restaurants.
The prix-fixe menu offered a number of items. To start, my dinner partner and I had the potato leek soup and the onion tart. The soup was fresh and creamy but lite without being too starchy, the perfect way to whet the appetite. The onion tart, accompanied with a garden salad, was tasty with caramelized onions between flaky layers of tart crust. A bit heavier than the soup, it too was a great beginning to the 3-course dinner. Perhaps a great starter to share on a normal night, but lucky for us, we were quite hungry.
The second course included Atlantic Cod (or Swordfish, whichever is the fresh fish of the day) in a sauce of currant, pine nuts and rosemary. The currants offer a sweet balance to the white fish, and the pine nuts and rosemary finish it off with an aromatic flavor. A very complete dish from a flavor perspective.
My dinner partner ordered the Leg of Lamb which was served medium rare. I personally am not a fan of lamb, and yet this dish was so well cooked and flavored, even I enjoyed it. Served atop a chestnut puree, the combination of the full flavored lamb and the earthy chestnut puree creates a hint of sweetness on the palate. And not to forget, we paired both entrees with a tasty Burgundy wine. Campanile offers an extensive selection of wines chosen by executive chef Mark Peel, and in fact, Friday Night Flights is a not surprisingly a popular draw.
The dinner was completed with Boca Negra, a rich chocolate brownie-like cake that should only be paired with a cold glass of milk. Stat... It is sure to satisfy any chocolaholic's fix. The evening was made most pleasant with excellent service and a "Thank you" upon our exit.
After having lived in LA for so many years and not experienced it for myself, I now see why Campanile continues to withstand these tough times. You can never go wrong with the traditional formula: good food, great prices, and excellent service.