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Sona


lizziee
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I am not an unenthusiastic diner. When I find food exciting, I get excited and find myself beaming all evening. Our dinner at Sona last night had me beaming.

David and Michelle Meyers are creating exciting and flavorful food for those hard-core "foodies" who still exist in Los Angeles. I can only say that if you haven't been to Sona and live within a 30 mile radius, this is a must restaurant.

Last night at Sona, they were packed. The staff had been working since early morning since they had prepared a private lunch for major wine collectors. This did not deter David or his staff. This is an energized room with people who truly care about what they are doing and creating. Each dish was artfully presented with unexpected flavor combinations that were perfect marriages.

First course - Ankemo (monkfish liver) with Skate wing and Sour Grass (sorrel) with uni emulsion - The sorrel provided just the right amount of acidity and sourness while the uni and ankemo gave it a fatty ocean lusciousness. The skate was perfectly cooked with outside crunch.

Second course - In a two compartment glass plate, one side held Barely Warm Albacore Tuna with tiny Chino Farms Radishes and Warm Cucumber and Cilantro Shoots and on the other side edamame with horseradish. At first, I thought it was wasabe, but David confirmed it was fresh horseradish - a must try for any homecook.

Third course - 3 small Santa Barbara Prawns with Veal Tongue, Eggplant puree, pungent spicy lime pickle on top of a Nasturtium Leaf. The lime pickle added a spicy kick to this dish and elevated it from blah to a "wake up call" for the taste buds.

Fourth course - Baby Monkfish Tail with Oysters and Mussels with an emulsion of Watercress with Pearl Tapioca. There is no way to convey just how wonderful this dish was by this rather mundane description, but it was a totally satisfying, perfectly seasoned fish course.

Fifth course - Moroccan Squash Soup with Foie Gras, Cardamon Creme Fraiche and Herbed Spaetzle - The marriage of the foie gras with the Moroccan squash soup was another marriage made in heaven.

Sixth course - Sonoma duck breast with Fingerling Potato Gnocchi and Chicken Liver Bolognese - Again, this description in no way does this dish justice. The chicken liver bolognese was extraordinary - I could have eaten 4 huge servings of just this, but with the addition of the perfect rare slices of duck and the potato gnocchi - this dish was a tour de force.

This was so good that we ended up putting a halt to the next meat course. David had planned on serving Roasted Beef, Mushrooms and Marrow with Potato Puree, Salad with Crispy Pig's Feet...sounds wonderful this morning, but last night we were getting full, yet not overstuffed and we wanted to leave room for Michelle's wonderful desserts. Also we were 6 for 6--great anywhere, truly wonderful in LA where fine dining seems to have died--Sona is becoming a landmark!

Seventh course - unpasteurized Bouchon, served room temperature and runny from our favorite cheese shop in Los Angeles - The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills

Eighth course - Grapefruit sorbet, campari granite with lime gelee

Ninth course - Chino farms strawberries and streusel with marscapone sorbet - The flavors were clean and sparkling, the streusel warm and crunchy and the marscapone added richness.

Tenth course - Caramel pudding with caramelized banana and cheri moya sorbet which added a hint of the tropics. Wonderful - my husband who never eats more than a bite of dessert finished both this dish and the strawberries and streusel with raves for both.

We are thrilled to be served wonderful, specially designed menus like this one.

Our wines from our cellar were:

N/V Krug Champagne

'96 Chablis, Butteau, Raveneau

'96 Bonne Mares, Arlaud

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sona was reviewed very positively in the Times. A cerebral, and delightful place whose complexity occasionally trips it up.

Registration is required for the LA Times, click on restaurants in the link.

SONA

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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  • 1 month later...

SO NOT!

I have to be a dissenting voice about Sona - went there on Friday and had the 6-course tasting menu - an amouse bouche, foie gras in some kind of sweetish sauce, poached salmon, steak, a piece of cheese (I had asked for a cheese course and I got one slice, with one date!) and some fruit tart for dessert.

My main complaint was that everything (other than dessert) was too salty - my dinner companions had a reduction soup instead of foie gras and that was incredibly salty.

We got sat at an awkward table (we were three) in a triangular room off the main room, even though I made a reservation two weeks ago, when next to us was a table for four at which they sat a couple!

Service was good, but other than the saltiness there is nothing to distinguish this restaurant from any other 4-star wannabe.

I wish we had gone to Bastide instead! And even if you can't get a reservation at Bastide, I would suggest Melisse or even Alex before Sona.

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SO NOT!

I have to be a dissenting voice about Sona - went there on Friday and had the 6-course tasting menu - an amouse bouche, foie gras in some kind of sweetish sauce, poached salmon, steak, a piece of cheese (I had asked for a cheese course and I got one slice, with one date!) and some fruit tart for dessert.

My main complaint was that everything (other than dessert) was too salty - my dinner companions had a reduction soup instead of foie gras and that was incredibly salty.

We got sat at an awkward table (we were three) in a triangular room off the main room, even though I made a reservation two weeks ago, when next to us was a table for four at which they sat a couple!

Service was good, but other than the saltiness there is nothing to distinguish this restaurant from any other 4-star wannabe.

I wish we had gone to Bastide instead!  And even if you can't get a reservation at Bastide, I would suggest Melisse or even Alex before Sona.

i was at sona back in march, and found my potato based soup to be almost inedibly salty. there were some definite high points to the meal other than that quibble.. but i would not second your recomendation for melisse. i found it pretty terrible. food wasn't good, service was a disaster.

mike

Edited by mikeczyz (log)
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Hello,

This is my first post. After reading Lizziee's review of Sona, I made a reservation, and had a wonderful dinner there earlier this week. My husband and I tried the 6 course degustation menu...so delicious and beautifully presented. The BEST service in town. I think I may have had the same soup that vidia had (artichoke soup) but it definitely wasn't too salty. Two dessert courses and the petit fours were a very nice way to end dinner. Made another reservation for this weekend. Sorry about the short post, I will hopefully have more time to write about my second visit to Sona.

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After reading all of the reports and reviews, one question on my mind concerns the desserts at Sona... David's cooking being what it is- inventive, cutting edge, dare I say 'avant garde'- what I'm hearing of the desserts, perhaps with the exception of the green apple and foie gras dish, seem a bit more downscale. It's just an impression that I'm getting. For those who have been, do the desserts, however tasty and well prepared, match the intensity and creativity of the courses that preceeded? If not, is that a positive or a negative? Do diners want their desserts to be slightly more familiar, and less 'played with'?

While I offer all of my long distance support to the restaurant and their goals, I'm curious if there is that rare continuity through the end of the meal...

Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York

www.michael-laiskonis.com

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  • 1 month later...

I finally had a chance to go check out Sona myself, and we had a fabulous experience all around--my best fine dining experience in LA to date, in fact.

We sat at a nice table in the main dining room--I would suggest requesting seating in the main room when you reserve, as the small back room seemed less appealing.

We did the 9 course menu with paired wines and everything, from the amuse to the dessert, was wonderful, unusual, and delicious. The service was very, very good.

Here's a quick run through of the dinner:

Cauliflower gelee (really a puree) with anise oil and lemon grass

Cod served with smoked bacon, jalapeno slices, and ponzu

Halibut (perfectly crisp) with 2 sauces and braised spring onions

Seared shrimp with crispy sweetbreads and various veggies, including a seaweed, I think.

A perfect slice of chicken breast. This was chicken worthy of being included--very moist and flavorful.

My favorite of the evening, a lovely slice of duck breast served with a sweet, deeply flavored sauce and braised baby turnips.

The first dessert course, and my favorite: a scoop of bayleaf ice cream and a scoop of white nectarine ice cream, served over diced melon, including watermelon. The server poured a cold cantaloupe soup over all. This was so fresh--just perfect.

A crème fraiche soufflé served over a berry compote.

Banana bread pudding with bananas and chocolate, served very artistically on a big plate.

Mignardises included meringues with pink peppercorns, tiny French macaroons flavored with saffron and sandwiched around a fruit filling, a coconut macaroon with chocolate, and a fabulous caramel with an edge of sea salt.

To answer Michael's question: In my mind, the desserts complemented the food perfectly. While they were perhaps slightly less creative, or played with, I found them to be unusual and sophisticated. The fruit desserts, especially, were memorable.

For me, this restaurant works because a very personal vision is presented. I am a fan of Sushi Mori for the same reason: the foods that are served are unlike foods I have had elsewhere. Many of the dishes at Sona contained flavors and techniques that I could not identify, but the whole effect was still one of balance, and, most importantly, everything tasted good.

The choice to offer no meat other than poultry was unusual and quite successful. Also, no luxury ingredients were used, and that worked, too. The portions were tiny, which was appropriate—I left a tasting menu at Spago feeling thoroughly, grossly, stuffed, and after Sona I felt satisfied and good.

I always enjoy wine pairings, because I don’t know much about wine and find that I can try new things. I enjoyed all the pours, especially a Long Island Cab Franc. I believe they are shifting the focus to more European/French in the future, which should complement the food well.

I think LA is lucky to have this spot, and I hope we, as a city, are capable of supporting this place. Kudos to Food and Wine for the selection of this unusual young chef!

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SONA- Looks like mixed reviews it will be for SONA. I would like to add that the tasting menus although many courses they were all very small, more like bites. The man at the table next to us who is a restaurant owner on the westside actually ordered a steak after the degustion menu. For my money I will stick to Bistro 21 with chef Ko' doing real French cooking with that wonderful Japanese style. MUST ORDER TASTING MENU A DAY OR MORE IN ADVANCE. Bastide? Really? Having eaten at both Alains previous venues ( Lavande, Citrus) I find no reason to put up with all the nonsense associated with Bastide. Just one mans opinion.

D

PS Melisse is now doing $65 prix fix and $20 3 course lunch.

Edited by dfunghi (log)

David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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I haven't had the pleasure of trying Bistro 21 (though I have heard only wonderful things), Bastide, or Melisse--

But I am really glad to see some new "fine dining" options in LA. Now I just need to get back to my pre-recession food buget, so I can check them all out!!!

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If not, is that a positive or a negative? Do diners want their desserts to be slightly more familiar, and less 'played with'?

While I offer all of my long distance support to the restaurant and their goals, I'm curious if there is that rare continuity through the end of the meal...

I am very curious to the answers of these questions as well Chef.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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I have dined at Sona on several occasions and my experiences have been consistent with the comments in this thread. The food has been consistently good and at times "adventurous". On more than one occasion I have thought to myself with regard to certain dishes: "this is great, but not everyone is going to like it". For example, as an amouse bouche one evening, the chef served a thin, narrow piece of hamachi marinated in strong citrus and heavily dusted in coarse sea salt. Definitely a bold choice for such a delicate and fresh piece of fish. It worked. The sharp bite of the sea salt and the acid of the citrus set off the mild and buttery character of the fish that might be lost in a more conventional soy and/or wasabi preparation. Would it work as a main course? No. Definitely not. Did some of the people at the table immediately dismiss the dish as too salty? Yes. Was it worth trying for everyone at the table? I think so.

The ingredients have been of high quality and thoughtfully prepared. The price-fixe menu items have evolved over time to slightly less "adventurous" faire possibly as a result of negative feedback. That could possibly be remedied by a call to the restaurant a day or two before informing them specifically that you would like something more exotic.

The staff is courteous and knowledgeable. When not stretched beyond their means, the staff is nearly faultless. When they are busy, short on staff or there is some other hiccup, things noticeably suffer. I have never eaten at Sona on a weekend and I am not sure that I would want to.

I have had several wine dinners by this chef at this establishment as well as others. Little effort beyond matching white wine with fish and red wine with meat is made (if he even does that). He is focused primarily on his food and not apparently interested in deviating from his ingredient choices to accomodate particular wine choices. As an example, several years ago I attended a wine dinner at an establishment where he was cooking. The wines of the evening were first growth wines from the Bordeaux region from the 1970's. All big, tannic wines; mostly Cabernet or Merlot. He served some amazing dishes, but other than one beef tenderloin course, the courses of fish, fois gras, duck, pork belly, sweetbreads etc. were totally inappropriate for the wines.

As such, to best enjoy your wine choice, you may wish to educate yourself on specifically what you will be eating beforehand and selecting an appropriate wine for yourself as opposed to hoping the chef will make adjustments in his cooking choices to accomodate your wine choice. The wine service is generally professional and the glassware of good quality.

The pastry chef is as good as there is in Los Angeles. She too can and will be "adventurous". Everything may not be to everyone's liking, but she definitely puts a lot of thought into her work. If you order fois gras for dessert, the watchword should be buyer beware. If you order liver for dessert, it is most likely not going to taste like strawberry shortcake. She's a chef, not an alchemist.

In short, these guys are walking on a high wire. This is a "foodies" restaurant and not necessarily a place to take someone who would not tolerate well an occasional strange ingredient choice or slow service.

Edited by bvus (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree with bvus!

I have also dined at sona several times. The food is inspiring and David is able and willing to adapt the tasting menu to various dietary preferences(such as vegetarian). My experiences there have always been very positive, however, you need to bring an assortment of wines to choose from if you wish to match them to his food.

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  • 3 months later...
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