Amazing Dining: Le Comptoir…

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I struck foodie gold.

Eureka…finally had a fabulous Los Angeles dining experience.

In fact, Le Comptoir would quality as an amazing culinary event in any city in the world.

Le Comptoir
Le Comptoir

Le Comptoir is a must…it’s that good.

Le Comptoir is french for ‘the counter’ and it is just that…a single slab with 10 stools in a tiny space, overlooking Chef Gary Menes making magic.

He creates with assists from his two interns, Alex and Joshua who is a biochemistry major at UCLA.

There are two seatings, four nights each week.

Menes was raised in Long Beach, where his Filipino grandparents taught him an appreciation for locally grown produce.

Gary Menes photo:latimes.com
Gary Menes photo:latimes.com

For the past two years, Menes, along with Charles Moore, grows all the seasonal ingredients sourced from Gladys Avenue Farm in Long Beach.

After earning a college degree and with no training, Menes walked into the original Patina on Melrose in the early ’90s and landed a job under Michael Otsuka who was leading a posse of future super chefs including Josiah Citrin (Melisse, Charcoal Venice) and Walter Manzke (Republique) as line cooks.

Eventually, Menes decided to apply for a gig at the French Laundry, but backed away when he witnessed the level of professionalism.

Two years later he returned to the French Laundy, working there for a year and a half, honing skills on the line.

There were also stints at Palate Food + Wine in Glendale, Firefly in South Pasadena and Marché in the Valley before he inaugurated Le Comptoir as a pop-up in 2011.

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We arrived a bit early for the 8:30pm seating and Alex was out the door to provide distractions.

We could wait in the lobby of the impressive Normandie Hotel or have a craft cocktail at The Normandie Bar which exudes the ambiance of a speak easy, serving creative drinks in a stylish setting.

Normandie Bar
Normandie Bar

We hopped on stools at the attractive bar. David ordered a custom bourbon cocktail and I ordered Cremant ($13 each).

The music was perfectly suited for the atmosphere.

We sipped for 30 minutes and then were escorted into the restaurant.

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We were the first to arrive so we were assigned stools 1 and 2.

The front door was locked to discourage foot traffic. The exit is through a back area where you land in the Normandie Hotel lobby.

Chef Gary Menes starts off with an informative introduction regarding his vegetable focused meal and then the games begin.

Amazingly, all the cooking is prepared on a hot plate.

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The amuse bouche was sautéed Dinosaur kale (aka Black or Tuscan kale). We watched as he made magic with a bit of olive oil and a dash of butter.

Pick up the leaves, dip into the aioli and crunch away. I have never had such delicious kale.

The official dining kick off was Japanese mountain yam veloute and sheep milk yogurt with bread crumbs.

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The soup was truly the best I have ever had other than the soup at Sociale. I could have licked the bowl and the crunchy buttered croutons were amazing.

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Next was a fruit and vegetable course that was lovingly and meticulously plated with no less than 28 items. Each piece was beyond fresh and flavorful, a beautiful, artful presentation of the day’s bounty.

David had the wine paring which is an additional $43. Even the white wines were perfection.

I ordered a single glass of Pinot Noir that was full bodied with a lovely finish.

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On to course #3 consisting of a poached organic hen egg, fine herbs, reggiano, brown butter, lemon and lettuce from the garden.

Homemade Sourdough Bread
Homemade Sourdough Bread

The dish was embellished with homemade sourdough bread.

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The fourth course was “peas and carrots” with pommel puree and jus de  truffe…fresh, crisp, delicious.

Normandie Hotel
Normandie Hotel

There are options. Pasta alla chitarra with Perigord black winter truffles is a luscious alternative ($55). Word was that is was fabulous.

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The final savory course was butternut squash, scallion, wheat berries and dried fruit relish. Unbelievable.

Once again, you could order a supplement of Berkshire pork belly with lava beans and roasted grapes ($15).

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#6 was a dessert of fried sourdough bread, orange glaze, chocolate, strawberry and creme chantilly.

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We shared the dessert and ordered the chefs choice of cheese from San Francisco’s Cowgirl Creamery, Hooks cheddar and raw Jersey cows milk from Vermont ($15 supplement).

The total for the six courses was a reasonable $69.

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Coffee was $8. It is worth watching the coffee ceremony which took 15 minutes. The coffee is a hand crafted single origin coffee.

Chef Menes is welcoming, informative and accessible. We chatted before and after the meal.

This was such a deliciously appealing and satisfying occasion.

I can’t wait to return during the summer to sample the seasonal fruits and veggies.

Le Comptoir is a brilliant and tantalizing dining experience.

Le Comptoir
Le Comptoir

Le Comptoir 3606 6th Street in Koreatown, Los Angeles, California. Open Tuesday 6-8:30pm, Thursday-Saturday 6-8:30pm. Closed on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday. Reservations on Resy. Valet, street and public parking. Corkage fee $43. Any cancellations made with less than 24 hours notice will be charged $111 per reservation. 

The Normandie Club 3612 6th Street Koreatown Los Angeles, California. Open Monday-Friday 5pm-2am, Saturday and Sunday 7pm-2am.

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