Good news for Francophiles—Pinot Provence is finally settling down with the arrival of new, but well-seasoned, executive chef Alfonso Ramirez. Recently a stage for tumult and hubris, the Patina Group kitchen now offers the deeply flavored, almost rustic dishes reminiscent of Florent Marneau’s reign, preceding the opening of his inimitable Marché Moderne.
Starters don’t get more basic than house-made charcuterie, but all the precisely assembled elements are top-notch. It’s a far better call than the bland, chewy escargot that Pernod butter and crispy brioche can’t rescue. Tender frog legs (cuisses de grenouille) get more respect, from a flattering honey-parsley emulsion and black garlic puree.
Supple flageolet beans bring out the best in an intense cassoulet of duck confit, rillettes, and fried pork belly. The sweet-smoky scent of vadouvan (France’s take on Indian spice blends) greets the table before a plate of gorgeous pink lamb rib-eye and fall-apart braised lamb shank (agneau violet) is set before us. Roasted sunchokes, date slivers, and flower tarragon complete the seduction—it’s one of the finer entrees of my dining season and handily absolves the unremarkable side of Brussels sprouts.
Desserts are short on passion, likely because a corporate pastry chef handles them by remote. The expedient service could be more gracious and the unchanging room, with its country chateau trappings, feels played out even though the round fireplace table and twin awning-draped patios have timeless charm.
Fans of French cuisine aren’t feeling the love these days, with choices dwindling fast. What a relief to see that everything old is new again at Pinot Provence.
House-made charcuterie, lamb (agneau violet)
No charge for corkage here.
About the chef
Ramirez, son of a chef, is a veteran of L.A. shops Patina, Spago, Drago, and The Foundry on Melrose.
686 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa 714-444-5900, pinotprovence.com
Photo by Priscilla Iezzi
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue.