LA*: what a world of possibility; what a world of great food and places to go!
I was meeting up for dinner with my friend Camille from high school and had to find a place to eat. But where to eat? I looked around the internet and scoured the annals of my own experience to come up with four or five choices, which I proffered to her to choose from. She chose Bacaro, a wine bar in South LA.
Bacaro came recommended from one of my fellow bloggers, Horny for Food. It was supposed to have a good, reasonably-priced wine list, and good, reasonably-priced small plates. Note also the cool atmosphere–blackboard wall, wine bottle ceiling, good mix of yuppies, hipsters, and yupsters.
We arrived pretty late–around 9:15 pm, or 45 minutes before closing–but this wasn’t a problem. We shared a 24-oz bottle of Fischer Amber Ale ($7 or $9, I believe) while waiting for a table. We were seated promptly and we ordered a few of their small plates, or “cichetti.”
You can get one cichetti for $7 or three for $19. We ended up getting five cichetti and one “dessert” item. Santos, our server, recommended about three plates per person to actually get filled up, but you could probably order one or two per person if you were just looking for a light snack.
First up was the grilled hanger steak with fresh thyme, olive oil, and lemon. It was cooked medium rare and was perfectly charred on the bottom.
(If you haven’t tried hanger steak, you should: it’s also known as butcher’s steak because butchers used to save this cut for themselves. It “hangs” from the diaphragm of the cow, thus imparting to the steak a rich flavor and perhaps even a hint of liver or kidney. Yeah, that sounds gross, but it’s really, really good. If you go to a French bistro and they serve onglet (the Gallic name for hanger steak), get it. It’s delicious, especially with some frites.)
Next up was the grilled rosemary honey chicken which came on a bed of mixed greens. The chicken was very tender and very well marinated, overall very good. There was also a plate of small squares of crispy polenta topped with a puree of eggplant–slightly tart, slightly salty, the cold soft eggplant contrasting deliciously with the hot crispy polenta. Very, very good.
My favorite dish was the pan-seared scallops: two large scallops on top of a bed of sauteed spring onions and crostini. The scallops were masterfully done, but the sauce, consisting of butter and lemon, was absolutely superb. This was an incredibly rich dish, jam-packed with flavor. Amazing, and a must-have.
We also ordered one of the day’s specials–the mussels in a tomato-pepper sauce–which was decent. The mussels themselves were cooked very well but were overwhelmed by the sauce. Still decent, but I’ve had better.
Finally, we ended with the “dessert”: a Nutella panino. Two slices of grilled bread held Nutella and either bananas or strawberries. Of course, you could do like we did and request BOTH bananas and strawberries. I’m not a fan of Nutella per se, but this was very, very good and a perfect end to the meal.
Of course, this being a wine blog I have to write a bit about the wines we had. I ordered a glass of the Three petite sirah and Camille had a glass of the Jenke Barossa rosé, made of cabernet franc. The prices were pretty decent–I believe around $7-$9 per glass–but the pours were a tad small. Regardless, the wines were excellent.
Three is a new project by Matt Cline of Cline Cellars, maker of some pretty excellent zinfandel. His petite sirah is bright and juicy with blackberry, with a hint of duskiness and tannin. Very enjoyable. The rosé was one of the darker rosés I’ve tried, almost as dark as just a straight-up cab franc. Very concentrated flavor, a nose redolent of strawberry, fruity but not necessarily sweet–a very substantial rosé and one I’d seek out again.
Bacaro has, from what I can tell, a good and diverse wine list at very affordable prices. For instance, they offer an Irouleguy from Domaine Etxegaraya for $40 which isn’t a huge markup, and the “Cuvee Terroir” Chinon cab franc from Charles Joguet (a Kermit Lynch selection) for $42–again, not a huge markup at around $25 retail. They offer a lot of Italian but back that up with good selections from France, Germany and Austria, and the New World. Most bottles are around $32-$40, with the lowest being $24 and the very highest being the Vina Valora from Rioja, clocking in at $142.
I would definitely recommend Bacaro. Excellent food, great wine, great ambiance, and great service. The price was good, too, at $80 total for two people (six dishes, a 24-oz beer, two glasses of wine, and around 20% tip). Bacaro is sort of in a ghetto area near USC, but that just means it’s a diamond in the rough.
BACARO L.A. WINE BAR
2308 S. Union Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90007
* I just recently listened to the song from the last summer, “American Boy” by Estelle, which is on the whole enjoyable (and to my knowledge still my friend Megan’s ringtone) EXCEPT for something in the chorus:
Take me on a trip, I’d like to go some day
Take me to New York, I’d love to see LA.
I really want to come kick it with you.
You’ll be my American Boy, American Boy.
The way Estelle says “LA” irks me. She enunciates the name so that it’s not Eh-LAY like most people I know say it, but pronouncing each letter distinctly and separately–sort of like EL-AY. If you say it that way it ceases to refer to the city and is just two letters. Does this bother anyone else?