We reviewed L’Office only about a year ago, but a return visit was in order, since chef Kevin O’Donnell had been replaced by Yosuke Yamaji, an alumni of the kitchens of Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon. I assembled a crack team of food analysts, my friends Lisa and Liz, both fine cooks themselves, and made it a girls’ night out.
The rustic/chic decor in the little bistro – with its hanging silver light fixtures, a small bar, wooden furniture and unfinished iron columns – has not changed, but I was hoping for an improvement in the food, since not all of O’Donnell’s offerings had impressed me. That wish was rewarded, with a few slight exceptions.
Ordering was a cinch, since the menu offers three choices for each course, and we all wanted to taste everything. One of the two favorites was the white asparagus topped with
a baked egg and shredded-wheat-like kadaif (usually found on Middle Eastern pastries), jazzed up with fish roe and a sharp lemony sauce. The other was a risotto whose
psychedelic color came from the beets it was made with, which gave it an interesting, ever-so-slight sweetness. It was ringed with a parsley sauce and, best of all, topped with a blob of melt-in-the-mouth burrata that made a surprising and extremely pleasing complement to the risotto. A few cherry tomatoes added the needed zing. Lisa and I were less taken with the
gazpacho with avocado cream, chunks of mackerel and bits of ginger. Each of the disparate ingredients stayed in its own world and didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with its companions. Liz defended it as a dish for those who appreciate strong fish flavors.
The main courses, while all very good, were not quite as interesting as those starters. Liz had the tasty fried chicken with a crispy cornflake crust, served with an artichoke heart, carrot
and a few peas in a green sauce, while Lisa tried what was listed simply as “beef” on the blackboard menu. It was, in fact, a kind of sophisticated meatloaf ball that appeared to be
lacquered by the sweet/sour sauce that covered it. It came with an assortment of nicely cooked vegetables and a small pile of fèves (broad beans) wrapped in a thin slice of carrot. I truly
enjoyed my cod with two sauces, one of parsley and the other lemony, and yet another (but different) assortment of al dente vegetables.
We loved all three desserts: a strawberry and mascarpone tart served with basil ice cream; a lovely panna cotta dotted with raspberry sauce, fresh raspberries and verbena-flavored
meringues; and a chocolate/pecan bar smothered in chocolate sauce and served with French vanilla ice cream and pineapple.
The only real fault at L’Office was in the service. The waiter arrived with our main courses before Liz had finished her starter and actually hovered over her while she hurried to eat it all up. Although he did apologize for ordering the mains too soon, he should have managed the problem himself rather than making it our problem. I got the impression that he had a hot after-work date lined up since he came by frequently to ask if we were finished and made us feel pressured to leave. It’s true that we started dinner at 10pm, but that is no excuse, since the restaurant was more than happy to take a reservation for that hour. This annoyance was partly made up for by the other waiter with big glasses, whose frequent warm smiles charmed us all.
While I would happily go back to L’Office, I must admit that I have a preference for Richer, located across the street and owned by the same person.Favorite