Thursday, December 08, 2005

Il Grano brings Bollito Misto to L.A.

bollito misto plate with various meats and sauces

West L.A.'s Il Grano is known for its crudo (raw fish dishes) and a devotion to seafood and unusual pastas such as chestnut pappardelle with pheasant ragu. After a summertime tomato tasting menu, Il Grano chef Salvatore Marino decided to try something completely different, with bollito misto, a comforting wintertime meal. I was invited to try out the tasting menu at a press preview. Bollito misto (literally, mixed boil) is similar to a French pot au feu, or like a New England boiled dinner that went to Italy and came back all gussied up.
We started with a wonderful plate of contadino (cold cuts or charcuterie) -- a tiny, intense salami, speck, duck proscuitto, regular proscuitto and bresaola. The meats were all excellent, but even better were the two crostini -- one with sauteed truffles and one with a slice of fresh lard. I never thought I'd say that about a slice of fresh lard, but it was pure rich goodness on the tongue.
The next course was a bowl of the rich broth the bollito misto meats were cooked in, with capon tortellini floating in the soup.
Then the bollito misto cart arrived, a large serving cart full of various meats -- the server carved off portions of capon, brisket, sausage and tongue and arrayed them on the plate with carrots and onions cooked in the broth. We had a choice of six sauces with which to adorn the meats, ranging from pesto-ish to aioli-ish to horseradishy to a rich mushroom sauce, which went nicely with the brisket.
We had some lovely wines with the dinner -- the favorite was probably the Rodeo Barbera from Colli Tortonesi. There were chestnut beignets for dessert, and even better, the chef roasted some chestnuts sent directly from Italy and helped us peel them. They were much tastier than the Korean ones we get in L.A. supermarkets.
"We wanted to try things that are eaten in Italy that have not come across to America," said Salvatore. Bollito misto is a real switch from most Angeleno's typical meals of raw tuna, salad, steak, pasta or chicken, but it's an Italian tradition perfect for cool wintry days.
Il Grano's Bollito Misto will be served Wednesday nights for $49 per person. Since Bollito Misto is ideal for a large group of diners, magnums of wine are 20% off during the dinners.
Il Grano
11359 Santa Monica Blvd.
West L.A.

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