Thursday, August 03, 2006

4-Course Lunching in Culver City: Wilson Restaurant

I finally had lunch at Wilson, the highly anticipated Culver City cafe/bar by Chef Mikey Wilson (Pinot Bistro, 5 Dudley) and partners Stefano DeLorenzo & Antonio Mure (Valentino and their own Westside Italian gems Piccolo and La Botte). The fresh and modern decor--lime, orange and white color scheme, white pillar lighting hanging from lofty ceilings, wraparound, floor-to-ceiling windows--matched both the mod vibe of the Museum of Design and Archetecture building which the eatery is housed and the colorful menu of farm-to-table fresh, organic-leaning ingredients.

Serving casual 'global cuisine comfort food', creative dishes included rabbit sloppy joes, chicken enchilada lasagne with pico del gallo and pulled pork with african spices. We ordered the intriguing-sounding B.L.E.T (Applewood-smoked bacon, butter lettuce, avocado, tomato and bbq eel) sandwich and had the chef surprise us with the rest.

The B.L.E.T. was a complementary mix of differing textures and strong flavors, but with so many other interesting-sounding items on the menu, I didn't love it enough to automatically want to order it over trying other new dishes on my next visit.

The escargot special was my favorite dish--drizzled with pesto and walnut-asiago type dressing instead of the standard buttersauce, the sauces were flavorful without overpowering the meaty taste of the plump snails.

We were also served the 'market vegetable lunch plate' (which changes dependent on the Farmer's Market's current freshest offerings). It was tasty pea puree topped with a delicious sweet corn polenta and wilted arugula. The dish was extra pleasurable because the dish probably wouldn't be normally something I'd order on a menu, and it translated way better via tastebuds than verbal description.

Just when we couldn't eat any more, out came the chocolate-cherry truffle cake--dense layers of fresh-sliced cherries, fudgy chocolate truffle and chocolate cake.

To appease longtime fans, Wilson also showcases several faves from his previous 5 Dudley restaurant (baby field greens with proscuitto, goat cheese and eggplant, cilantro-pesto crusted jidori chicken with wasabi mashed potatoes) as well as several of Chef Mure's pasta dishes from his Piccolo restaurant (I was secretly hoping we'd also get the potato and fig tortellini in parmesan fondue which I first tried at Piccolo. Pillowy packages of homemade pasta filled with starchy potato and sweet fig--so good that Jess and I are planning a dinner at Piccolo next week to get our fix).

With super-fresh ingredients and homegrown herbs and spices picked from their back patio garden (where diners can also sit outside), the vibrant dishes are as richly flavorful as they are visually appetizing. I never got the pleasure of dining at 5 Dudley but did enjoy the sophisticated menu at Manhattan Beach's Avenue (who's menu was created by Wilson) and am a huge fan of both Piccolo and La Botte so Wilson definitely has the pedigree. Between Beacon, Ford's Filling Station, Tender Greens gourmet takeout and now Wilson, Culver City is finally coming into its own as a dining destination.

8631 E. Washington Blvd, Culver City
Lunch & Dinner: Most dishes are under $20

5 Dudley Ave, Venice
Favorite Dishes:Seared scallops in truffle fondue, homemade black ink pasta with lobster, calamari, clams and scallops in a roasted tomato sauce, red beet stuffed ravioli with poppy seeds, brown butter and Parmigiano cheese.

La Botte
620 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
Favorite Dishes: sea urchin & sea bass carpaccio, duck proscuitto with gorgonzola dressing, yellow corn zuppa with organic chicken, red beet tagliolini with homemade quail sausage and the creamiest, airiest panna cotta coated with a thick caramel topping


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