02 March, 2009
Rosecrans Avenue is soon going to have to become a new property name in the Monopoly board game. Well, perhaps just in Paul Fleming's world. The restauranteur who made P.F. Chang's a national namesake has taken another bite out of the busy south bay thoroughfare with a third addition to his previous two Rosecrans hits. Paul Martin's officially opened on February 21st, and in just two weeks of service, they have smoothly opened an immediate hit, sister to the original Roseville, CA Paul Martin's. Both the food and the service feel "like home" backed by the restauranteur's and executive chef Paul Muller's philosophy to "eat organic, believe in sustainable, buy local, love fresh" which is stamped on every menu. A lunchtime visit to this new kid on the block was quite the pleasant surprise that surpassed expectations and kept me wanting for more.
Upon first entering the large dining room, my first thought was, "Oh no, it looks like a cleaned up and new Houstons." My second thought, after being seated, handed a menu and offered a drink by our very attentive server Ian, was "Wow, this place seems NOTHING like Houstons." The special of the day was a Seared Ahi Tuna steak that according to Ian, was a higher quality than sushi quality. That sounded amazing and almost impossible. We were off to a great start.
We dipped our toes with the Butcher's Board, a platter of artisan cured meats and cheeses, including an Italian Country Ham and a Prosciutto that took every ounce of energy in my body to hold back from devouring. The paired blue cheese was very fresh and perfectly salty, but the shining star on the little cutting board was the small unassuming wheel of 100% goat cheese in olive oil. Sidebar: I am not a fan of goat cheese, normally... but Ian had mentioned that the goat cheese was pure and creamy, and did not include any impostor cow's milk, which is often included in other deemed "goat" cheeses. And so I had to at least try it. It was amazingly delicious. Creamy and full of flavor, I would have been happy finishing up the crustinis and goat cheese for lunch and walking out of the restaurant as happy as ever. You will be hooked with this locally farmed and organic appetizer.
For the artichoke fans, the fresh young artichoke and dip will more than satisfy, as will the extremely cheesy spinach dip. It was nearly impossible to hold back from engorging on the appetizers prior to seeing the main entrees.
Speaking of, the lunch menu offers some enticing plates such as some lighter sandwiches and salads, but we went for the full swan dive into the daily special (Seared Ahi Tuna), "Brick" Chicken and Cedar Plank Salmon, all of which our server Ian could tell us exactly where the foods originated, all within the Southern California region and all extremely fresh. The tuna was a delight to look at, and even tastier to eat. The Brick Chicken, a half chicken paired with the butteriest mashed potatoes I have seen in a long time, was lightly seasoned and juicy. Interestingly, our party waited a little longer than the typical wait time because Muller felt the first chicken plate was not up to par and withheld it from being served. It was this kind of attention to detail and service that left the best taste in our mouths.
The Cedar Plank Salmon was atop a bed of fresh sauteed spinach, the kind that has been cooked so well that the it still tastes like spinach and hasn't wilted into some indescribable green sludge on your plate. But the star was the salmon. It was cooked perfectly and definitely enhanced with the bacon and shallot topping (bacon makes everything better!). The porcini mushrooms added just enough earthiness to the light fish to remind you of the local freshness philosophy that you have eagerly conceded to upon entry to Paul Martin's. If you are like me, you will eat half of the large portion on your plate and immediately ask to take the rest of it home for a repeat visit later in the evening.
Having been filled with deliciously fresh cheese, local produce and organic meats, we didn't leave room for desserts. Now we have another reason to go back, besides the five or six reasons we were just given. If Paul Fleming continues to create awesome restaurants with delicious food like Paul Martin's, he can monopolize my block and a few others in Los Angeles any day he likes. We'll even throw in Park Avenue too.