Campanile – Eating Lunch With A Celebrity

by Franklin on February 5, 2012

It is that time again. Dine LA is in full effect. Though probably over by now, it gave patrons like me a chance to support Los Angeles restaurants and eat like a king for relatively cheap. After doing much research and investigation, I came across Campanile. What got to me was the history of it all. The interior was a bit dark like the medieval times, mixed with European tones. The fountain near the entrance sets off the whole old school feel of the interior. A trip to the upstairs restrooms give you a birds eye view of the secondary dining area. The building in itself is historical. Built in 1929, it was originally built for Charlie Chaplin. After the building was acquired by Mark Peel in the late 80s. By 1989, La Brea Bakery was formed, and the restaurant followed right after. After all of these years, Mark Peel, the executive chef as well as the restaurant received numerous awards. Naturally, this was a good choice to try for Dine LA.

Upon sitting down, the chairs were uncomfortable. The wicker chairs mixed with the uneven tile flooring was just a bad combination. Surprisingly, Tim Allen walked in the restaurant and sat right next to us. His first reaction after sitting down was “Man, these chairs are uncomfortable.” Right then and there, I knew I wasn’t crazy. It was kind of cool to have a childhood idol agree with me.

The Duck Confit Salad was delicious. The baby arugula and carrots mixed with the meyer lemon vinaigrette was zesty. The duck was cooked perfectly tender, and the crispy skin was amazing. The acidic dressing perfectly cut the richness of the duck — a perfect pairing.

The pasta carbonara was good, but not great. The spaghetti was a bit over cooked and wasn’t al dente. The pancetta was nice and chunky, and the gruyere made for a rich thick sauce. The richness was too much for me.

The grilled hangar steak sandwich was again good, but not spectacular. The provolone melted nicely, and the wild arugula, tomatoes, and aioli played nicely. This sandwich, though was a bit one noted. I would have liked to see some kind of acidic note inside, maybe some picked onions to give it a nice contrast of textures and flavors.

I preferred the southern fried chicken. The warm fingerling potato salad made with bacon lardons was exceptional. The gourmet aioli and mustard made for a nice coating on the potatoes. The bacon and onions all melded together to make a perfect side to the juicy and crispy fried chicken. Though a little under-seasoned, the chicken was tender and wasn’t dry at all.

My chocolate black currant pot au creme was rich, but the chocolate taste was lost. It almost tasted like a very thick chocolate pudding with the texture of cheesecake. The creme fraiche helped to keep it interesting, and the pistachio short bread was a nice touch. The dessert wasn’t sweet, which could be a good thing or bad thing.

The apple brown butter tart was great. The caramel drizzle helped keep it sweet. The whipped creme fraiche played well with the tart apples and dense crust. A scoop of ice cream would have topped this dessert off nicely.

Though some of the food was exceptional, some items were just lacking. The sandwich’s lack of complexity and chicken’s lack of flavor cannot be overlooked. A 3 course meal with only the sides and appetizers tasting good, and both main dishes missing the mark left me unsatisfied. For a restaurant with this caliber to have had this happen is unfortunate. The seating was off, the main course was off, and unfortunately, the meal didn’t seem worth the price point. It’s possible that the dine LA menu was a miss and their normal items are hits. A lot of people were ordering normal brunch items. Definitely next time.

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