I saved the last stop on my small plates quest to report on last, because it was my favorite. Unfortunately I chickened out on the photos, because I didn't want to stop eating to take pictures and because flavor of the dishes at Orris was more remarkable than the look. Don't go by the menu posted on the website, because the specials and the regular in-house menu is much more interesting.
Orris is a small, narrow restaurant near my old stomping ground Hide on Sawtelle. It has a spare, modern Japonaise design with a small patio in front. They don't take reservations, so we arrived early on a Sunday evening and there were plenty of tables. When I go to A.O.C., I usually want to try everything because it all sounds so good. And yet when I looked at the menu at some of the other places, I couldn't decide what I wanted and asked my friends to pick some dishes. At Orris, though, Matt and I were practically fighting each other to choose dishes. First up was the grilled romaine with parmesan, a sort of updated Caesar salad. Matt said the cheese activated the charred flavor of the lettuce, which was a good way to put it. Some small garlicky croutons would have put this dish in nirvana territory, but it was pretty close anyway.
Next we had fried free range chicken a la Japonaise, which are basically the fanciest chicken nuggets you'll ever have, with a spicy cocktail sauce. Quite tasty, but perhaps not the most interesting dish on the menu. Then we tried the filet mignon with roquefort butter sauce -- extremely tender and flavorful, although why don't any of these places have salt on the table? Did they pass a law against it and I missed it? It's just that as a fairly recent beef eater, I prefer my beef with a sprinkle of salt, although the roquefort butter was certainly a savory topping.
My favorite dish was the mousse of shrimp ravioli in shitake cream sauce, which had an ultra rich, velvety flavor. In fact I could have easily eaten a large plate of the ravioli and the romaine and given up on small plates altogether. We passed on dessert, as the choices didn't seem as tempting as the other dishes. But now I wish I had tried the smoked salmon on potato pancakes, as they looked cute and delicious. There is a nice selection of wines by the glass and several good beers in addition to sake, although the dishes really aren't very Japanese in flavor, despite the Japanese chef and location.
Verdict: Yes, we have a winner. Bill was about $60 with one beer each, but we probably should have ordered five dishes instead of four, which was a touch light.
This restaurant is far better than can be conveyed in the story. Sit at the counter so you can see the action and chat with Shiro. On alternate nights, Sushi Tenn right next store is the best traditional sushi restaurant in L.A.! This street is amazing. Get your hair cut at Taka, then go to dinner.