Saturday, February 03, 2007

Celadon gets pan-Asian right

I was invited to visit Celadon, the newish Asian small plates restaurant in the Third St. space formerly occupied by Yi, a pan-Asian restaurant with Filipino touches that seemed to scare off diners, and Tahiti, which was pleasant but didn't have much focus.
Design score: The space gets prettier and prettier with each redo, now with a fireplace in the lounge, Chinese antiques on the covered patio, and a room full of beds in back because every cool restaurant these days needs beds, right? Flickering tealights line the walls of the main dining room, and a wall of water gets things off to a splashy start.
Drinkability: I started off with a perfectly tart sake mojito with a welcome hint of cucumber; a green tea cheesecake martini sounded scary but the bartender gave us tastes of Calpico, the Japanese milky soft drink used to make the drink and it was alluringly sour/sweet/milky in a Pinkberryish kind of way, so maybe the cocktail would be good. Lots of sakes to choose from, too.
Now the chow: We had tastes of a dozen or so different dishes; stand-outs were the alfredo crab wontons; the perfectly-cooked roast salmon with tzaziki (pictured); the maple duck with Israeli couscous and the saraudon crispy noodles with scallops. Chef Danny Elmaleh uses influences from lots of cuisine and integrates all the flavors well, which is an improvement over the all-too-common pan-Asian places where everything tastes of sweet soy sauce. The dishes are imaginative, although some of his refined touches like the yuzu truffle viniagrette on the wontons didn't pop for me; either my palate is rather coarse, or the richness of the dishes overwhelmed the tricky garnishes.
What it's good for: Hot dates, girl's night out; drinks and aps; when you're looking for something lively but not too pricey or packed. Not so much: kids, grandma, vegetarians, people who don't like seafood, although there are other options.


Michael said...

(whoops, posted under the wrong blog account earlier)

Just out of curiosity, what was it about the "Filipino touches" that "seemed to scare off diners"? Is there some kind of fear of or general distaste for Filipino food in LA? If there is, they should try the Lechon Kawali at Asian Noodle Cafe in Chinatown, or should pick up an Adobo Sandwich at Tribal Cafe in Historic Filipinotown... those folks are missing out on some great eats.

Pat Saperstein said...

I guess it was just general unfamiliarity, Michael...the concept was Asian fusion food but items like crispy pata and adobo weren't familiar to the type of crowd the stylish space was attracting. It's always risky to juggle challenging or exotic food with upscale restaurants, at least in Los Angeles.