Mark took me to Company last Tuesday night, and it was a wonderful experience.
Since it’s perched at the corner of 22nd and Guerrero, a block off the bustle of the Valencia corridor, it’s already more relaxed as you stroll up to the front door, and the moment i stepped inside i knew i was in the kind of restaurant i love most, a casual neighborhood place with a friendly staff that operates at a comfortable pace, never rushing you and letting you calm down from the cares of the day as you settle in, study the menu, look around, and enjoy the art – mostly California coastal theme posters, including a huge, stunning one of the Getty that is subtly augmented by stripes painted on the wall beside it.
But no, don’t worry. I’m here for the food.
The first good news is that among the wide variety of aperitifs, there was my favorite, Lillet blanc, which is not found just everyplace anymore and which i took as the second good omen, the third being the relaxed and friendly bartender. And then Mark came in and we started negotiating over the menu, not that he’s a difficult negotiator since he likes almost everything and is eager to try the things he hasn’t tasted yet. My kind of eater.
We started with an off-the-menu appetizer of the chef’s own Levain bread, an artichoke tapenade, and a breathtakingly creamy warm house ricotta. I coulda made a meal off a large bowl of that ricotta accompanied by nothing but a spoon. A large spoon. And then, his Crisp Kale Chips, which were listed as dressed with cashew and garlic but which it seemed to me also had an exciting smoked paprika taste. By far the best roasted kale i ever ate.
Next, the Winter Chopped Salad with romaine, radicchio, pickled beet, sunchoke, red quinoa, pomegranate and croutons, dressed with a golden balsamic vinaigrette. I’m not a big salad eater, but for this one, i made an exception and left no scrap.
After all that rabbit food, we were ready for some animal flesh, the Vietnamese-style Roasted Pork Belly which, when i saw it on the menu, made visions of Babi Pangang dance in my head. No, it was not quite New King’s incomparable version, but that’s a continent and an ocean away in Amsterdam, and this one is plenty good. Besides which, it’s accompanied with some exquisite juliennes of pickled daikon that set it off beautifully and were so exciting that i may have to order a side of them next time.
And finally, the Harissa-Braised Lamb Shank with semolina puree, roasted sunchokes, carrots, and pomegranate reduction. How many times have you had a lamb shank that would have been so much better if it had only been cooked a while longer so that every last bit was fork-tender? Not here. This one was so perfectly cooked that it disintegrated at the touch of my fork and i wondered how the chef managed to get it out of the pot onto my plate intact. And marvelously flavored, the harissa used with such a light touch that it merely accented the other flavors and the semolina being a pleasant change from the usual polenta even though i do dearly love polenta. The sunchokes were an inspired accompaniment to the carrots.
We were stuffed and were going to just split a bittersweet chocolate pot de creme until Mark fortunately wanted to try the quince tarte with ginger ice cream, thus leaving me the lion’s share of the chocolate. I might have hogged it all except that i needed to take a taste of the tarte, and it was so good that i needed a second taste to make sure, which gave Mark an opportunity to get his spoon into the pot early and even get a second bite before i could finish it.
That was Tuesday the 28th.
The next afternoon Jeff called saying he was going to be in town and did i want to be taken to dinner. Well of course. And where else but back to Company? I managed to beat him there by a couple of minutes and tried one of their specialty cocktails. I’m not nearly as adventuresome in cocktails as i am with food since specialty cocktails tend to either have combinations of really weird stuff or a week’s quota of sugar in one glass, but several of the ones listed here seemed tryable, and i settled on the Gin Refresher, a house-infused gin soju with bitter lemon tonic. Yow! tart and delicious.
And then Jeff swarmed in and was in one of his everything-on-the-menu moods, so the gorging began immediately, starting with the Warm House Ricotta Cheese with poached pear, sauvignon blanc reduction, and toasted Levain. That ricotta is too good to be believed. And since i’d also raved to him about the Crispy Kale Chips, we had those, too.
What i hadn’t had yet was the Winter White Bisque of cauliflower, parsnip, and celery root with an attractive swirl of a port reduction across the top, which made for a beautiful presentation but also was such a delicious complement to the creamy mouthfeel of the soup that you had to steer your spoon carefully so as to get a dab of the reduction in every spoonful….well at least for the first half of the soup, pig that i am.
Next, the Confit Chicken Wings. These are not your damn Buffalo Wings, folks. Not those gooey stewed wings swimming in a slimy Tobasco sauce reduction dished out in sports bars. These were crispy to the point of crunchy with a subtle crust flavored with pomegranate, rosemary, and cracked black pepper.
And finally, the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with farro, capers, and breadcrumbs. The sprouts were good, and if i failed to be excited by them it may have been because that pig Jeff had stuffed me so full of appetizers that i no longer had an appetite.
The real problem, though, was that the waiter then delivered our two full orders of the Steak Frites. It’s a tribute to the chef that the steak was delicious since i was already stuffed when i first tasted it. Slices of hanger steak medium rare as ordered and drizzled with a flavorful wild mushroom and Madeira reduction. The Parmesan frites were perhaps not quite as good as the truffle fries with parmesan at Mission Beach Cafe, but then coming at the end of a monstrous pig out like that, it’s hardly fair to compare them.
We abstained from dessert tonight. Hell, Jeff had to take a bunch of food home.
Three stars, folks. The chef is Jason Poindexter, and i beat you to him. I’m gonna eat up Becky’s inheritance in here.
I went digging thru my files looking for a recent food photo, but all i could find was this gingerbread cake up in Santa Rosa last December.