Dished – An Adventure in Small Plates

“I’m kind of confused,” my cousin said as we drove home. I, too, was confused. Or at least my stomach was. We had eaten an expensive enough meal, full of delicacies like oysters and wine, and yet I was far from being satiated.

On a whim, I decided it was time to explore new options, become one of those people I like to imagine I am and try a restaurant I had read about in the L.A. Times. Although I am always willing to try a new restaurant, I don’t often explore those lauded (or reviled) in print. This is either due to laziness or sheer forgetfulness (when was the last time I actually remembered some restaurant in a strip mall in Van Nuys when I was contemplating a restaurant?), but either way, I was somehow motivated tonight to try the new Dish Bistro and Bar in Pasadena.

My cousin, my accomplice, also seemed eager to delve into menu, which frankly seemed to be the map to some secret treasure. How could I not be excited when there was just about everything I loved? The traditional (foie gras and oysters) and the avant garde (octopus carpaccio, the french fried truffles). “Of course you should try everything,” the waiter made us promise we would not order the same dishes the next time we came back. This was before we had ordered wine and his confidence either belied someone truly in the know or was a little too reminiscent of the very flamboyant “yet fun” waiter at a certain hamburger establishment in West Hollywood (he pretty much refused to put in our order until we had ordered doubles of each drink – my guess was he knew how to strategize). Dish, being a much classier establishment, had the chorus of hellos and goodnights from the entire staff as we entered and exited and the sleight hand of the busboy in removing our dishes definitely won my approval.

“Are you overwhelmed?” I asked my cousin, after we had gone throughout the menu and had tried to wrangle out a proper idea of each item. “Because I certainly am.” How was I to ever choose between a terrine and foie gras? Or the morsel of lamb? “All our items are organic and made on the premises. Well, everything that can be,” the waiter had told us. Hmm, organic foie gras? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

But for the gloss that the organic magic word might add, it was merely a facade. The food was excellent – the Oysters Deanna were right on the mark and the Octopus Carpaccio was everything and more than I could imagine. The perfect blend of old world and new in its liberal dressing of a lemon vinaigrette, petite slices of oro blanco grapefruit and the scattering of pea shoots and scallions. However for all the delicate vision could master, the blend of flavors was completely overshadowing by the shock and borderline outrage that accompanied each dish. Dish specializes in small plates and while I fully endorse the idea of tasting as much as possible (boy, did I love the literal smorgasbords at the German hotels I stayed at – it was as if they had gotten the local butcher and baker to give a sampling of their entire selection), this was a case of false advertising.

The small plates that we ordered consisted of 3 oysters (Oysters Deanna, around $11), 3 pieces of focaccia bread, 10 asparagus spears “french fried,” and maybe 10 very very meagre slices of octopus (remember, in carpaccio the whole point is to make the meat paper thin). Add two glasses of wine at $7 and $8 each and the tab was $44. “Is it bad I keep thinking about In-n-Out?” I asked my cousin.

For an elementary school teacher and a wannabe writer, this was some hefty tab. “My stomach is confused,” and “I’m feeling quite lightheaded, almost drunk, although we only had one glass of wine. Did they drug the food?” were our comments as we walked back to the car. So much for listening to hype. If I had been able to be wined and dined, not caring about the price, I would have no complaint about the food. But to go throwing my hard earned money to the wind, I think it would have been better spent on clothes. Clothes that would fit better because I hadn’t ate.

I’m thinking a peanut butter sandwich is sounding awfully good about now.

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