When I think about the food at Cafe Livre, my mouth waters. I’ve been spreading the word to anyone that will listen, and now I’m turning to you!
The one thing missing was art on the walls at Cafe Livre, it has everything else you could possibly want from a Pan-Euro Brasserie, artisinal breads, cheeses, charcuterie, sweets, and more. Cafe Livre is located in Downtown Culver City on Venice Blvd,the executive chef is Chef Farid Zadi who was born in Lyons, France and is of Algerian descent and has traveled the world and which allows him to cook with an amazingly eclectic palette, but more about the chef himself will be learned in my follow-up article to this review, in a new section I’m putting together!
Though today we’re here to focus on the food of Cafe Livre! The menu includes breakfasts, sandwiches, dinners, charcuterie plates, and even some customer inspired dishes that represent a variety of European, North African, and some American cuisine. I had the chance to not only speak with Chef Zadi, but get a tour of the entire restaurant, and he gave me a demonstration of the cooking of his Red Wine Onglet. The restaurant has the atmosphere of a small fresh market bistro, it has a very sparse design aesthetic, which may be due to the new opening, but I found it relaxing. There are a few high top tables, a few coolers filled with fresh local gourmet vendor’s items, a chocolate display, a bread display, and a cashier station. After the cooking demonstration Blake(photographer) and I were seated at one of the high tops and served the Red Wine Onglet, Fresh French Bread with Butter, The Quack Charcuterie Plate, and Heirloom Sweet Baby Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs. The simplicity and care that Chef Zadi take with his food glow from the plates, and each bite displays the clean flavors he wishes to achieve. Let me try to explain how amazing it all was, but seriously you’ll have to go and try it for yourself!
RED WINE ONGLET (Hanger Steak)
Chef Zadi took Blake and I on a tour of the restaurant, and we made a stop in the kitchen where he presented us with a cooking demonstration of the Red Wine Onglet. It involves a Hanger Steak that’s marinated over-night in red wine(he was using a Shiraz, but said a Burgundy would work too, anything full bodied). He put it in a hot pan and seared the steak while setting up another pan with two types of mushroom, fingerling potatoes, asparagus, carrots, and zucchini to sauté. Chef explained to us the importance of simplicity in his dishes, and showed us this with the steak; he finished searing the steak and added veal stock and red wine before throwing it in the oven. More or less that’s the last of the ingredients to go with the steak. He pulled it out of the oven at rare and sliced it on the bias without letting it rest. I was confused at first but later retracted my suspicions when he tossed it in the reduced sauce before placing the steak on the bed of sauteed vegetables(he added spinach and heirloom tomatoes at the very end) and drizzling it with the remaining sauce.
I will gladly say that this was one of the most texturally pleasing dishes I’ve ever experienced; the steak had the slight meatiness where it had been seared, but the inner flesh was medium-rare and melted, releasing multiple dimensions of veal, red wine, and steak flavors into my mouth. The reduction of wine and veal stock create a savory silky flavor with just the right amount of butter and bitterness to create a compelling contrast. The vegetables were all cooked perfectly, the oyster mushrooms were meaty, the spinach was just barely wilted, the potatoes were fork tender and the zucchini still had some crunch to it. I’m a big carnivore and have eaten exceptionally good meat before, but Chef Zadi knows how to turn, what was once considered, a lower quality cut of meat into a tender and flavorful dish that rivals some of the best T-bones and filets I’ve eaten.
I LOVE DUCK. The fact that Cafe Livre has a dish offerings four different preparations of duck was what got me so interested in the first place. BUT one of those items happens to be a duck bacon. The duck bacon is one of those foods you eat and it transcends your memory, immediately going to where your dreams hide, showing up every time you try to close your eyes. Its cured duck breast with the skin still on, and when the fat of the skin touches your tongue it melts. It has more than a hint of the flavors of regular bacon, while retaining the duck flavor I crave. There’s also a duck prosciutto that’s firmer and saltier meat with more intense duck flavor, and amazing fat that melts faster than it should. I’m not saying it’s bad, do not get me wrong, I’m saying it’s too good. Way too good. I don’t want to be writing this I want to be eating duck prosciutto until i can’t breath. But since I have to, I’ll continue on to the pate. I haven’t had pate in years and I was expecting something a bit more mousey, but I was pleasantly surprised to have something of a duck meat loaf. It’s the perfect mixture of confited ground duck and duck fat to create a loaf with an incredible sense of balance as far as the texture and flavor go. It was great on its own, but when put on top of a slice of the buttered French bread it reached an upper echelon of flavor. The last piece of this charcuterie masterpiece is the duck rillettes, which I could most easily compare to a duck salad without any mayo. It’s duck confit that’s shredded and chilled with a layer of duck fat, then mustard is added creating a tangy salty flavor. The rillette is then formed and drizzled with a little more confit liquid at the end of its preparation. I loved it because I confited duck less than a month ago, and the rillettes brought back delicious memories while creating new ones. The mustard caught me off guard at first, but that spicy vinegar flavor made my mouth water more and more with each bite. I’ve actually since gone on to do a similar preparation with chicken using some left over confit liquid to make a chicken rillette!
Aside from duck there’s a sauerkraut provided by an outside vendor. It’s lighter and tarter than what you’d find in a grocery store or sausage stand. The flavor is bright and the brining solution wasn’t overly salted leading to a flavorful crunch that cleanses the palette and complementing the palette cleansing gherkins.
HEIRLOOM SWEET BABY PEPPERS STUFFED WITH HERBS AND GOAT CHEESE
These little itty bitty peppers pack more flavor than the last rack of ribs you ate. The heirloom peppers are amazingly sweet after being roasted, and the goat cheese(I believe a chevre) is mellowed by a creme fraiche and then blasted with bright flavorful herbs. Finally it’s drizzle with aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. The creamy texture that’s inside goes perfectly with the tender roasted pepper flesh. I won’t explain much further because you have to try these. If you live outside of Los Angeles, I feel sorry for your tongue.
Cafe Livre was an incredible gastronomical experience that’s left my taste buds reeling! Please comment and let me know what you think if you’ve eaten at Cafe Livre or just have a great food story to share!