Bucato – Fine Dining, Tiny Portions, and No Photos

18 Aug

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Bucato just opened in the old Beacon space in Helm’s Bakery, serving up fresh pasta and (surprise) farm-to-table, local, etc. cuisine. Bucato is the brainchild of Evan (“I just blue myself”) Funke, née Rustic Canyon, fresh off his stint delivering pork sandwiches on the Porchetta Truck.

You’ll notice there are no pictures in this review. Yes, Tobias has instituted a no cell-phones policy. I didn’t test their enforcement policy, but I mention it because I think this is going to become the new no substitutions — a policy by which self-important chefs define themselves.

Bucato takes over the corner office at the Helm’s Bakery complex that used to be Beacon; the old Beacon laundry sign still rises above the space (bucato means “laundry” in Italian). It’s a nice space. The restaurant inside is tiny (a theme I’ll elaborate on infra), so the real substance of the dining area are back and front patios. The view is on one side of Washington Blvd., unfortunately, and of Lukshon and Father’s Office on the other. The design is minimalist to the extreme, with the only real decoration being an installation high on one wall of the outline of the state of California made with antique knives (Los Angeles is a cleaver) and a number of absurdly long rolling pins hanging from the ceiling (think Dali’s Persistence of Time). Outside, there are herb planters and herb walls and that’s pretty much it for decor.

The focus here is the pasta. Tobias worked in Italy with Kosaku Kawamura and brought him in to work the pasta lab that you can see up on the second floor. The pasta is pretty good. I’m not going to go effusive about it, since this was very good pasta but pasta by itself is not going to reach the heights until you judge the sauce and stuff.

But we had a few home runs:

First up was the creamy burrata with sweet figs and mosto cotto (syrup made from wine grapes). Figs are in season now, so this was an auto-buy for me. It was incredible, too, perfectly highlighting the beautifully creaminess of the cheese with the sweetness of the fruit and syrup.

We ordered three pastas. two of them were just fine, including the tortellini with brown butter and sage (i forgot the other one, and Bucato is very unhelpful in not listing their menu online). But the third pasta was just awesome: uni gnochetti. Just a perfect dish, from the chewy gnocchi to the crisp breadcrumbs, to the deft touch of citrus. And of course perfectly highlighting the marine taste of the uni. It’s interesting that at Marugame Monzo they were much more generous with the uni, but they clumsily covered up the taste with too much garlic and cream. Here, the uni was not generous at all, but it was just the right amount to balance out the flavors and still be the star of the show.

Except that everything was so darn tiny! All three of the pasta dishes added up to what I would think would be a normal primi size. And it was over $40 for those three dishes. Yikes!

We finished with the one dish that wasn’t laughably tiny, the porchetta, served with wild arugula and lemon on a toasted slice of bread with a smear of modenese pesto (which apparently is lardo (Italian for lard like fatso is Italian for fat guy) with garlic and rosemary. I regrettably failed to hit up the Porchetta Truck when Funke was rolling around in it the past year. But this was at least a taste of what I missed. The thinly sliced porchetta was seasoned well with a peppery bite to it. I would have that on a sandwich any day. But it was really great with the crunch of the toast and the freshness of the arugula and lemon. While it wasn’t big by any means, this was the one dish that I almost thought was a good deal (it was $12).

We finished up with the zeppoli, the made to order doughnuts. They come in a paper bag and a liberal dusting of fennel pollen sugar. The zeppoli were filled with a nectarine compote. These were really good.

I should note also that the service was really good. It made me realize that Culver City, for all the hype about its dining scene, has very few fine dining options. The level of service reminded me of Hinoki and the Bird (probably one of the few fine dining things we’ve done in a while), although the setting wasn’t half as beautiful.

Overall, I’ll remember the three awesome dishes that we had, but the expensiveness when taking the tiny portions into account will give me pause about coming back. Or maybe I’ll just get over it and order x2 and just think of it as a place with small $30 pasta dishes (or right size $45 pasta dishes).

UPDATE:

I went back and snuck a photo of the creamy burrata dish, this time with nectarines. Spectacular.



One thing to note is the plating. See how they crowd everything to one side — almost as if it wasn’t the case that you paid for the whole dish but only got 1/3 of it.

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