Category Archives: wine bars

Bacaro LA Wine Bar

Bacaro, dear Bacaro, how do I count the ways I love you? Now people, I’m not usually prone to hyperbole but Bacaro LA Wine Bar is the Ryan Gosling of L.A. restaurants. There, I said it. It’s nice to look at, yes; but visually isn’t as stunning as, let’s say…Johnny Depp.  But beneath the unassuming exterior lies so much more….much, much more. A swirling tornado of creativity? A bubbling caldron of passion for the culinary arts? Mountains of the kind of kitchen confidence that only grandmothers wielding 100-year old cast iron skillets possess?  Although Ryan Gosling may answer “yes” to the first question, Bacaro gives a thumbs up to all three. Continue reading

Drago Centro Small Bites: Best Deal In Town!

Ed note: All photos were taken by J’s iPhone since I forgot my camera. Not bad for a camera phone right?

I rarely use this blog to blatantly promote a restaurant, but I have to take this chance to tell you all: Run, don’t walk, to Drago Centro in downtown. Sit at the bar, order yourself one of four wonderful wines by the glass (all priced $6 or under) and order off the small plates menu. You’ll be eating some of the best, most well-prepared bar food in Los Angeles and feeling like you’re getting away with something when you get the bill.

Half-drunk glass of wine…trust me, they pour a lot!

Our first visit to Drago Centro was shortly after the restaurant opened, and we sat in the restaurant, had the tasting menu and enjoyed every single bite. It’s expensive but worth it- the service is impeccable, the view of downtown from the large, glass wall is gorgeous and the food delicious and beautifully presented. It’s fine dining at its best and the kind of place you think put on your list of where to go on a special occasion. So when we discovered that the bar area of the restaurant offered a small bites menu, we decided to go on a random Wednesday night and have been back four times in as many weeks.

The bar is adjacent to the main dining room, separated by the huge, plexi-glass wine cellar which runs all the way to the ceiling. There are chairs at the bar, a long communal table in the middle of the room, a couple of smaller two-tops, plus outdoor sofas and tables. You get a decent view of the kitchen and can watch one of two flat screen televisions which remain silent as jazz music streams quietly over the speakers. Elegant, yet relaxed. Another major plus in my book: all of the bar seating have backs on the chairs so you aren’t sitting on a stool for hours.

J and I always get two (each) glasses of the Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi Bianco from Campania- a light, refreshing white wine priced at only $5 a glass- and it’s always a generous pour….6 or 7 ounces at least. It’s a perfect accompaniment to the long, peppery cheese straws set in tall, silver vases that are all over the bar area so you can simply help yourself. Perfect to munch on while deciding what else to order…..

Having tried almost everything on the small bites menu, we have our favorites, but all of it is delicious. On this particular visit we went for:

La Bruschetta Mediterranea: a thick slice of peasant toast topped with roasted eggplant, smoked scamorza, roasted grapes and a hint of mint:

Not the prettiest of dishes but muy delicioso!

The Due Kobe Hamburgers: Mini Kobe beef burgers with mushrooms, arugula and fontina cheese on tiny brioche buns:

The La Pizza Ai Gamberi: a thin-crusted pizza topped with a pile of fresh shrimp, corn and mozzarella: (Ed note: We’d eaten 2/3 of it before realizing we needed to take a photo!)

We also always order this salad off of the regular restaurant menu- the Le Verdure e Lattughe Novelle: a gorgeous salad of assorted baby vegetables, young lettuces dressed with white balsamic (Ed note: again, being piggish we basically finished eating this salad by the time we thought to take a photo so this is the tail end of it!)

The quality is unbeatable- the salad is a perfect plate of the loveliest baby vegetables- zucchini, patty pan squash, Japanese turnips, golden carrots and radishes all cooked just a bit so that each element retains a nice, bright crispness. The shrimp on the pizza couldn’t be fresher and the Kobe beef in the sliders is always moist, juicy and brimming with flavor. Nothing is over $9, with most of the items priced at $4 or less.

It’s great to be able to eat at Drago Centro on any weeknight and get out for under $60 for two- with the four glasses of wine, pizza, bruschetta, salad and sliders our total came to just over $52.00. I hope you’ll all get a chance to check it out; we rarely see more than a few people at the bar and, selfishly, I want this to stick around, so go on- get yourself some Drago-quality food at Subway prices!

Drago Centro • 525 South Flower Street, Suite #120, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Tasca Wine Bar

Disclaimer: I suck at taking photos in dark restaurants so please excuse the fuzzy photography!

I rarely eat dinner out west of Los Feliz, which automatically leaves out many of this city’s best restaurants. I wish I felt more motivated to make the drive from my Eastside home, but my love of wine and non-love of a DUI pretty much keep me close to home. Call it lazy, call it lushy, call it whatever- it’s something that, as a food lover, I’m a little embarrassed to admit and I spend way too much time trying to find new restaurants to hit on the Eastside instead of driving the 10 extra miles to go anywhere beyond Silverlake.

Well, a visit to Tasca Wine Bar has changed all that- not only because I must return multiple times to that establishment, but also because it ignited the motivation to get off my butt and explore another area of town.

Tasca………..where do I begin? For frequent readers (all three of you) of this blog, my love of small plates and tapas is a familiar theme throughout Tuna Toast. I almost always prefer to share a few appetizers than to order one main plate of food for myself. I am on the constant lookout for fantastic hors d’œuvre or inventive mini foods on menus and have been constantly disappointed at the lack of anything resembling a tapas bar near my home. Vertical Wine Bistro is one of the few shining examples, but there’s only so many times one can go to the same place each week.

Ok, back to the review. Tasca Wine Bar is located on West 3rd street in the cluster of many beloved restaurants. We walked in and were immediately struck by the cozy atmosphere and friendly staff. There’s a long bar and the instant I laid eyes on it I knew I wanted to sit there instead of at a table. We took two seats at the near end of the bar and looked over the menu. Ah, the menu………..I couldn’t have written a more Tuna Toast Fantasy Menu myself. Lots of small plates dominated the menu and J and I spent quite a bit of time trying to narrow it down to a non-gluttonous number. Our friendly bartender poured us some prosecco, we finally put in our order and waited for the tapas parade to start as we munched on thinly sliced bread dipped in pungent olive tapenade.

We started with the ceviche, which came nestled on a bed of micro arugula and topped with a generous slice of avocado. J took one bite and immediately stated that he loved it. It was perfectly balanced and with just the right amount of acidity and not a hint of fishiness. It was mild, mellow and the perfect way to whet our appetites for the dishes to come.

Next came the Gambas Al Ajillo- sautéed shrimp in garlic sauce. Six large shrimp came swimming in a pink-hued sauce that just demanded bread to sop up all it’s delicious garlicness with. All I can say is that this dish should be on every tapas menu in the city. Savory, perfectly cooked and just mouthwateringly, bowl-lickin’ good.

Our next dish was courtesy of our bartender who, when I ordered the Croquettas de Pollo (chicken and bacon croquettes, romesco sauce), recommended that I get the Arancini (wild mushroom risotto fritters, truffled sauce) instead. She was so confident that we’d be blown away by the arancini that we obliged, and thank goodness we did. Two perfectly round, deep fried balls of risotto came out and they were heavenly. Light and creamy on the inside, they were what I had hoped my dense and unflavorful risotto balls I had made a couple weeks back would taste like. The only downside is that now I dream about them.

The Moules Frites were good, but we didn’t find them to be anything special. J wasn’t keen on the fries which he found to be not of the skinny, shoestring variety which often come with mussels. Being a fan of anything deep fried and salty, I munched on a few but wanted to save my room in my stomach for the next course.

We ordered one thing off of the specials menu- handmade gnocchi with a rabbit ragu as well as a couple glasses of red. The gnocchi were light and airy pillows of soft potato pasta- I just love homemade gnocchi and they are so much better than the store bought variety. The rabbit ragu suffered slightly from too much salt, but we polished off the entire plate anyway.

Wanting to end the meal on a sweet note, we had the chocolate mousse. Dense yet airy at the same time, the dark chocolate concoction caused J and I to once again display our gluttony as we pretty much scraped every last bit of it from the glass. The tawny port J ordered was a nice compliment to the bittersweet dessert.

So here I am, writing about this a few days later and I feel a tinge of heartbreak that such a restaurant doesn’t exist near my house. Don’t get me wrong- Tasca will be visited again and again by yours truly- but I live between two areas (Eagle Rock and Pasadena) that need a place like this. I’ve pretty much given up on Old Town with its chain restaurants and yogurt shops, but maybe Eagle Rock could be the birthplace of a truly good tapas and wine bar? I hear rumblings of something in Echo Park so there’s hope, but I would love nothing more than to see a few more of these kinds of places pop up on the Eastside.

Speaking of tapas- I am leaving for my very first trip to South America in a week. We will be in Bogota, Buenos Aires and Santiago. If anyone has recommendations – tapas bars specifically—I’d love to hear them!

Tasca Wine Bar

8108 W. 3rd St.

Los Angeles, CA

323 951 9890