Drago Centro

I dunno who started the tradition of the “First Paycheck Dinner” in my family.  Somehow it went from, “Oh, gee whiz a nice dinner on your tab?  How nice!” to “Dude, where’s my ‘first pay check dinner’? I’m waiting…I’m waiting!!”  I can’t even remember what dinners I was treated to by Smooth Obturator and Triple F.  I remember Triple T treated us to brunch at the St. Regis in Monarch Beach.  Anyways, my time has come and our family has expanded to include Dumpling Man and his parents.  It seems like we’ve done many of the nice restaurants in LA, Providence, Osteria Mozza, Bazaar, etc, so it was sort of a struggle to find a real gem of a restaurant that was gonna be worth the money and really impressive.  I settled on Drago Centro, but my Smooth Obturator didn’t have many great things to say about it.

L’insalata Di Barbabietole All’agrodolce baby beets, warm goat cheese, pine nuts, chile vinaigrette

I’ve only had 1 really bad beet dish, otherwise they’re always pretty tasty.  This was no exception.  Sweet beets, tart dressing, spicy bitter greens.  It’s always nice when nuts are added for texture and some sort of cheese for creamy richness.

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La Burrata burrata, endive, basil pesto, crostini

Good, but I’ve had better burrata.  Somehow this didn’t achieve that luscious milky creaminess I’ve experienced in the past.  It tasted too much like a wet lump of soft cheese.

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Il Fegato Grasso foie gras panna cotta, pistachio, currants, pears

A savory take on what is normally a dessert dish.  The foie gras tste was quite subtle and overall it was quite a light airy bite.  There was some strange sponge cake textured green thing which must have been the pistachio.  I approve of the creativity here.

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So I’m not usually one that makes complaints and demands food to be re-made if over salted or under seasoned.  I just eat and bitch about it later here, but somehow we all made a big deal about how the pasta dishes were all lukewarm if not border on cold.  Mama H.o.P. cannot stand food that is not piping hot, so of course all the pasta was sent back.  Fortunately, they were speedy in providing round 2.

La Fettuccine fettucine, jumbo lump crab, zucchini flowers, spicy tomato

I think we got cheated here because I only saw zucchini and not zucchini flowers.  But I guess the real star was the jumbo lump crab which was fresh and sweet and actually worked well with the light but spicy tomato sauce.  The pasta was a little too delicate for my taste but still good.

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Le Pappardelle al Fagiano pappardelle, roasted pheasant, morel mushrooms

This pasta was more substantial and held up well against the earthy umami combination of pheasant and mushrooms.

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La Bisteca Per Due bone-in rib eye for two, cipollini onions, cauliflower, brown butter fonduta

Who was the genius who order 2 orders for the bone in rib eye for 2?  Even though there were 8 of us, it was a whole ton of meat we weren’t prepared for.

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The meat was a perfect medium rare.  It had that delicious salty caramelized exterior and of course the eye was the tastiest part.  The accoutrements were just OK, but kept with the earthy comforting theme of the dish.  I don’t think I was able to enjoy the meat because I was just so damn full and overwhelmed.

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Il Branzino branzino, spinach timbale, almonds, soppressata vinaigrette

Italians sure know how to do branzino.  Everyone really liked the fish.  It was moist, flakey, with a delicious crispy skin.

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So the food was good, but it was no Osteria Mozza.  I had just eaten at DOC not too long ago, and there was just a striking contrast in the food preparation and ambience.  DOC is a tiny restaurant with an intimate homey feeling.  Each dish feels like its made to order.  While there was nothing technically flawed with the food here at Drago Centro, I just couldn’t get past the large restaurant a la Cheesecake style feel of the restaurant and food.  The food just didn’t have that special hand made taste.  I imagined a large factory of chefs in the back churning out the food without heart or feeling.  I’m sure this is totally an exaggeration, but I think I’ve just gotten used to the intimacy of Portland restaurants.  And the terrible acoustics of the restaurant was so distracting.  It’s definitely no place to have an intimate date or important conversations.  Overall, I would recommend the restaurant because it’s not bad, but it’s not very special.

Drago Centro

525 South Flower Street  

Los Angeles, California 90071

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