I remember having Evan Funke's food at a pop up at Square One called "This Is not a Pop Up" by two forward looking harbingers of chefs, Helen Springgut & Helena Brown around 2012-2014. These chefs would go on to having their own noted restauarants such as Bruce Kalman of Union, CJ Jacobson of Girasol, Phillip Frankland Lee of Scratch Bar, etc.
Even Mark Peel of Campanile, which was already an LA landmark restaurant, was in on the act. Only thing I remember about Chef Funke was that he was the only visiting chef who brought his own entourage of waiters and looked very serious & business-like. I suppose this was like a dress rehearsal to the opening of Bucato in Culver City.
Bucato is now closed, and Felix from the word happiness in Latin has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the former restaurant. Felix has a glassed in room that features Chef Funke handmaking paste. Although on our night, he was out of the restaurant due to a charity event w/ other noted LA chefs.
The place was packed on a Wednesday w/ hyped up press from LA Weekly & for me, a personal recommendation from Chef Austin Cobb of Strand House where I did a vertical wine tasting featuring Opus One wines 2011-2013. The Felix menu emphasizes the paste making abilities of the chef & so there are only 4 secondi/main dishes.
1) Cavolfiori Fritti: big flowerettes of steamed cauliflower that seem dipped in yogurt, covered with salty, herbed finely powdered flour then fried. The flour gets mildly crispy while the cauliflower is soft & creamy. Taste of the frying oil is fresh & sweet.
2) Rigatoni all'Amatriciana: big, hollow, chewy, al dente pasta w/ longitudinal micro-ridges to soak up more of the fatty, porky, bacony Guanciale (goo ahn chee ah leh) with a light glazing of acidic Pomodoro/tomato and milky, gamy Pecorino Romano cheese.
3) Pappardelle: extra wide ribbons of thick pasta which is chewy yet pillowy. Ragu Bolognese "Vecchia Scuola/old school" which has rough ground beef which really tastes meaty in a mostly brown meat sauce. Scattering of Parmigiano Reggiano from Parma aged 48 months added that slight funky, creamy, fermented cheesiness. Such an appropriate combination considering Parma & Bologna are both in Emilia-Romagna (roh mahn yah) region of central Italy.
Sampled a soupcon of table mate's:
4) Orecchiette which means small ears due to their shape. They were soft, velvety, not so al dente in a porky sausage, tomato-meat sauce w/ touch of Broccoli di Cicco/standard supermarket broccoli, Pepperoncino/chile peppers, translucent thin slices of Canestrato/hard sheep & goat Southern Italian Pecorino cheese.
5) Busiati: thick spiral pasta in Sicilian Pesto Trapanese (trah pah neh zeh) which is made of tomato, basil, capers, almonds, garlic, chile, olive oil. The spiral pasta holds on to the pesto for a bracing fresh green herbal basil predominating. Shreds of Pecorino Siciliano (see chee lee ah noh) adds the dairy aromatics.
1-5a) Burlotto Pelaverga, 2016 Piedmonte is from a Pelaverga, a varietal I have never heard of in the land of mostly Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto.
Light garnet red.
Scents of Black pepper, black fruit, green bell pepper.
Tastes of light cherry, acidic, touch peppery, woody, green stick.
Finish is refreshingly tart, tongue tingly, black fruit
6) Budino di Nocino (noh chee noh) which "Nocino is a sticky dark brown liqueur from the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy. It is made from unripe green walnuts. After steeping in spirit, the walnuts are removed and the now-black alcohol is mixed with simple syrup. Nocino has an aromatic, but bittersweet, flavor."
Nocino is used in the Pot de Crème/pudding, some salt is added as a contrast to the creamy sweetness. Big dollop of Crème Chantilly. Candied, roasted crunchy walnuts is a good textural contrast.
6a) Espresso was a good bitter foil to the creamy sweetness of the Budino.
I find that I may like the sophisticated, more refined paste at Factory Kitchen in DTLA by Chef Auriano a bit better... such as Mandilli di Seta, Casonsei, Croxetti Stampati, but imo, the paste at Felix is a close second in Los Angeles.
Despite the SRO crowd, service was efficient & sensible. Kate was cheerful, helpful, informative.
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