Even though my brother and I haven’t lived in the same city since the summer I spent interning in Manhattan, he always makes sure that I am very well fed. When I lived in Philadelphia post-college, my bro sent me to Buddakan more than once, and while I was visiting Beijing last summer for The Games, he sent me to an amazing dinner at Maison Boulud.
For my birthday this past February, I received a meal at Sona, one of my brother’s favorite restaurants in L.A. He indulged in a multi-coursed dinner here a year ago and proclaimed it superior to The French Laundry’s white truffle tasting menu. With my mom visiting for Mother’s Day, I decided to cash in my Sona dinner voucher—a fancy feast is meant to be shared.
Chef David Myers opened Sona in 2002 after training under culinary luminaries Charlie Trotter, Gérard Boyer, Daniel Boulud, and Joachim Splichal. Housed in an austere, Zen-like space, Sona focuses on delivering fine food and service. With Chef Meyers extending his brand across various other venues around town (comme Ça, Boule, Pizzeria Ortica), it’s Chef de Cuisine Kuniko Yagi who’s in charge of churning out Sona’s seasonal and creative cuisine day to day.
The Astronomer, my mom, and I arrived with the intention of ordering Sona’s 6-course Découverte ($95). However, upon hearing the offerings on the Découverte menu, we opted to order à la carte. Tasting menus can be a special treat, but I have a habit of losing interest following the fish course. Ordering à la carte insured that my taste buds would be captivated from start to finish. A 9-course Sponantée menu is also available for $145.
After placing our order, three appetizers and three entrees, we nibbled on foot-long, Cruella Deville-esque Parmesan bread sticks (left). My mom sipped a martini made from fresh blackberries and vodka (right).
An amuse-bouche of duck confit arrived after the breadsticks. Although it was the ugliest amuse I’d ever laid eyes on, it tasted very good. The plucky duck was softly accented with lemongrass and grapefruit.
Warm black tea (left) and cranberry (right) breads arrived next. A pad of butter sprinkled with coarse sea salt was served alongside. The black tea bread was airy in texture and contained shards of fragrant tea leaves, which boosted its flavor immensely. The cranberry bread had a more substantial crust and contained plenty of tart cranberry orbs. Both breads were terrificly moreish.
The trio of appetizers were each generously portioned and deftly prepared. Duck confit made a second appearance this evening in the form of an agnolotti ($19). The texture of homemade pasta always makes me swoon, and this execution was no exception. The agnolotti’s filling was hearty and well-seasoned, harmonizing with the scallions, baby shiitake mushrooms, poached quail egg, and dashi broth.
Ever since my ravishing foie gras experience at The French Laundry, I’ve been ordering it at every opportunity in hopes of reliving the magic. Sona’s seared foie gras was paired with a Siberian roll (sponge-like cake with red bean paste and honey), strawberry vinaigrette, and burnt milk ice cream ($21). When this dish arrived at our table, my mother couldn’t believe that it was a duck’s liver on the plate. “It’s too big to be a duck’s liver,” she said. Ah, the wonders of gavage.
The slice of foie gras was seared perfectly and sprinkled with a bit of coarse salt. I appreciated the unconventional accouterments, especially the burnt milk ice cream, but they were all too sweet to mellow the foie gras’ richness.
The luxurious Maine lobster risotto with shellfish emulsion and Kaffir lime leaf ($23) was the highlight among the starters. The risotto’s flawless execution yielded amazingly clean, bright, and distinct flavors. Lobster might be my favorite fruit of the sea.
The entrees at Sona are a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach—edible works of art with sauces and garnishes strewn across the plate whimsically and beautifully. My seared Big Eye tuna with chorizo marmalade, sunchoke purée, and confit of spring onion ($42) was so pretty that I didn’t want to disrupt the canvas.
When I finally dug in, I found that every item on the plate was thoughtfully prepared and remarkably fresh. Sona’s commitment to seasonality and their strong relationships with local farms and purveyors means that the food requires very few embellishments. Each ingredient speaks for itself.
My mom really enjoyed her wild Alaskan halibut with blood orange reduction ($38). When it comes to fishes, I prefer them buttery and fatty, so this lean and flaky number didn’t really appeal to me. However, I did adore the roasted fiddlehead, lima bean, artichoke, and rocket garnishes.
The Astronomer’s Elysian field lamb with lamb shank tortellini, bacon, baby zucchini, tomato jam, and patty pan squash and saffron puree ($50) was spectacular to behold and consume. With an additional layer of fat wrapped around the rack, the lamb was unbelievably tender. Everyone at the table loved the lamb shank tortellini garnish—Sona delivers impeccably prepared pasta.
For dessert, we shared the odd-sounding, but ultimately intriguing chocolate beignets with candied black olives and oatmeal stout ice cream ($15). The bold components of this dessert really captured my attention.
The warm beignets contained chocolaty molten innards that embarrassingly gooped onto the tablecloth as it made its way into our mouths. The beignets were pretty darn good, but the best part of the dessert was the candied black olives. Transforming a characteristically savory food into sweet goodness takes mad skills and guts to think beyond the box—hats off to Pastry Chef Ramon Perez.
Lastly, we each received a plate of mignardises (from left to right)—Oreo, cherry raspberry, tofu bread pudding, kumquat cake, and apple jelly. The cherry raspberry was the most interesting of the bunch because of its optical illusion. While it appeared to be a regular cherry, the mignardise was in fact a candied concoction in clever disguise. What a fun note to end a fabulous meal.
Sona * CLOSED *
401 North La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048