Conflicted About Camphor…Los Angeles Restaurant Review

A restaurant that earned a Michelin star within the first year of debuting.

My curiosity made dining at Camphor a must.

On a recent Sunday when the drive to the downtown Los Angeles Arts District was not as challenging, I committed to experiencing Camphor, a French bistro with contemporary accents and Asian influences.

Frankly, after eating there I am conflicted.

We sat at the chef’s counter which lent itself to nothing  as the view was obscured and the staff interaction nil…the bread which by the way is on the menu as an appetizer priced at $12 (you choose between 2 types, can’t have both), provided a more interesting view.

Our server was focused on how long it took to order, that we ordered everything together and we were urged to pack up and leave at least three times even though the counter was half empty (the final request to vacate was made by the host who offered to seat us in the waiting area at the entrance).

Honestly, the food was creative and most was quite tasty, but it was similar to a fix up date with a good looking person lacking personality, bringing nothing to the experience.

I must say the maitre d’ made an effort to be welcoming, but the hospitality began and ended with him.

My dining partner selected Le Marais, a signature cocktail which was very good due to its commingling of Cognac, bourbon and port with fruity notes ($18).

The Amuse Bouche was a savory tidbit presented in a chick pea cup.

We started with the very tasty Barajean snack of snails folded into an adorable pocket ($10).

The Otoro was glorious in a delicious Burgundy mustard sauce, but $30 for a modest portion?!

The Clam with garlic and parsley offered bite size tastes of delectability ($19).

I loved the Scallop Demi Lune, moon shaped pasta stuffed with scallops. It was a uniquely appetizing dish  ($33).

The mushroom Rice Madeira had a gritty taste and I passed ($32).

Dessert which we were pushed to order quickly was a Bread Pudding that was actually lovely, but looked like a platter of spam in the dim lighting and was  overpriced ($20).

We met a fabulous couple who helped to make the evening very enjoyable. We chatted nonstop and I had meat envy over some of the dishes they selected.

For a pescatarian who did not want to order the $110 Dover Sole or the bougie $85 Lobster the choices were limited. An Onion Tartine with comte and gruyère sounded very appealing, but it was made with beef broth ($20).

I also met a charming New Yorker who had just flown  in on a business trip and had made a same day reservation at Camphor. He is definitely into fine dining and we played the Name That  New  York   Restaurant  Game.

He graciously allowed me to photograph his Le Burger with unimpressive pommes frites which are also a side dish for $10. The burger was comprised of duck and beef blend ($32). No rave noted.

The lingering shadow of Nightshade was present, although brighter and sleeker. They wisely removed the unattractive hanging plants.

Two former classically trained Alain Ducasse chefs, Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George, joined forces to open Camphor.

For the price and complete lack of personality I would recommend a hard pass unless you invite Melissa, David and Brian to join you at the stagnant chef’s counter.

Camphor 923 East 3rd Street Los Angeles, California. Open for dinner Sunday, Monday, Thursday 5-10pm, Friday and Saturday 5-10:30pm. Reservations on Resy. Street and Valet parking ($17).

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