Italian at its BESTIA

The sumptuous Agnolotti all Vaccinara, braised oxtails with cacao pasta, is one of Bestia’s most popular dishes. The rich dark brown sauce makes this dish perfect for fall. (photo by Jill Weinlein)
(photo by Jill Weinlein)

The braised oxtail with cacao pasta, or Agnolotti all Vaccinara, is my number one dish served at Bestia. Chef Ori Menashe braises the oxtail for hours, rendering the meat off the bone resulting in a rich, succulent stock. Italian Grana Padano cheese, similar in taste and texture to Parmesan, pine nuts and currants add potent flavors without overpowering this superlative dish.

Open almost three years, reservations at Bestia (The Beast in Italian) are still high in demand. I had to reserve two months in advance for a Tuesday night. Dining at Bestia is worth the wait, and the packed house that night proved it.

The decor offers exposed brick walls, meat-hook chandeliers and a long copper top bar. The kitchen is open for all to watch the culinary team perform their craft.

Husband and wife team Ori Menashe and pastry chef Genevieve Gergis create a new menu nightly. “Sometimes they keep the favorites on, while other times they like to introduce a new seasonal dish to see what kind of response they will receive,” our server, Stephen, said.

Chef Menashe makes a country sourdough bread from a biga starter. Biga is pre-fermentation starter agent in Italian baking. The starter is about three years old and adds complexity to the bread, creating a lighter texture with small holes. The dough ferments for at least 12 hours to develop a slight nutty taste. We ordered a plate of three grilled slices, brushed with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and garlic. It’s worth every carbohydrate and calorie.

Some of the cocktails by Bestia’s mixologist Julian Cox are named All She Wrote, The Company Man and Slot Machine. Some have smoked cherries, flavored bitters or flamed grapefruit oils.

We wanted to try a few glasses of wine with some appealing appetizers. Bestia’s affable sommelier, Ryan Ibsen, recommended two sparkling wines. The first was a bubbly Riesling Odinstal Brut from Pfalz, Germany to pair nicely with the hearty chicken liver crostino. “Many wine critics believe this is the finest sweet white-wine grape variety,” Ibsen said. “It’s light-skinned, aromatic grape balances the fattiness of the liver.”

The second suggestion was a little drier, yet still bubbly – a Cabernet Franc Rose from Broc Cellars in Santa Barbara. The beautifully delicate, pink wine offered notes of soft cherry fruit, spice and a hint of pepper. I thought both were ideal pairings with the liver crostino that had chives, marjoram and aged balsamic vinegar.

The wines also went well with the square shaped Quadretti alla Carota pasta topped with a mushroom ragu and carrot puree. There were steamed carrot tops, chopped summer squash and a squash blossom on top.

The seasonal tomato and yellow plum salad was fresh, yet not too exciting. A paper thin layer of whipped burrata was not enough to give the dish oomph and left you craving for more. The salami and pickled cucumber provided a zip of flavor and the Purslane herb leaves offered additional color to the tomatoes and plums.

(photo by Jill Weinlein)
(photo by Jill Weinlein)

For entrées, meat lovers will swoon over the grilled Aspen Ridge skirt steak served with sweet and sour cipollini onions basted with vinegar and sugar. Ibsen recommended we pair this dish with an old school style 2012 Monte Bernardi Retromarcia, Chianti. It offered a blend of red fruits, dried herbs and bitter cherries. The plate was also adorned with root vegetables of thin carrots and fingerling potatoes, before being topped with fried sage.

We had to try at least two of Gergis’ desserts. We ordered the Valrhona Fair Trade bittersweet chocolate budino sprinkled with sea salt inside a cacao tart crust. It’s served on a plate with a swirl of olive oil and a salted caramel wafer cookie.

FullSizeRender-53The bite-size maple ricotta fritters were served with a scoop of sour cream and blackberry jam ice cream. It also had a little dish of maple butter ganache that we spread on the fritters. Both went nicely with cups of Stumptown coffee.

Don’t be surprised to see a $1 per person charge for the bottles of filtered water brought to the table. On the bottom of the menu it states that proceeds from the filtered water go to the non-profit Gettlove, dedicated to ending homelessness.
Bestia has helped the reviatlization of downtown Los Angeles.

They serve outstanding Italian cuisine Sunday – Thursday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday Bestia until midnight. $$$ 2121 E. 7th Place (213)514-5724.

This article was featured in the October 22 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

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