Madeline's Bistro is the fanciest 100% vegan restaurant in LA, the "Millennium" of So-Cal if you will. We had gone here a bunch of times before, even though it is quite a trek to the dusty LA Valley for us from Orange County. But when Deanna saw Quarry Girl's post about the Madeline's New years Eve menu we missed, we wanted to make up for it by going there on Valentine's day. (And she was hoping to see the newly vegan Ellen Degenerous there too! We did not.) So before they even posted a menu, she made a reservation. She booked it for the earliest possible time because two years ago we booked a V-day table there for 8PM and were not seated until 9:30, a total bummer. We didn't want to make that mistake again, so we went geriatric by eating dinner at 5pm! Anyway, on to the food. They offered a set-menu, no choices allowed, but that was no problem. Each course consisted of two variations on a three ingredient theme.
First Course: (stolen from their menu)
“Beef”-Style Seitan + Rice + Vietnamese Flavors ="
The dish handed to Deanna was a Vietnamese dip (“beef” bao), Bahn chung, and pickled green papaya. We were not so sure what part was the "dip" but we thoroughly enjoyed it. The Vietnamese flavored seitan was very tasty and placed upon rice that had been compressed into tight little patties that no longer resembled rice. We never eat Vietnamese, so this was a new experience for us.
Everyone I know loves Pho, and this was our first time with it. Now we need to find a vegan Pho place in the OC!
Second Course: "Portobella Prosciutto + Asparagus + Citrus ="
“Butter”-poached white asparagus salad, Portobella prosciutto, radish, spring mix, with passion fruit vinaigrette. I liked this plate just a hair better than the other one on this course, but Deanna loved them both equally. I thought this one was light and very refreshing, with a perfect dressing.
Asparagus wrapped in portobella prosciutto, Braised Yukon gold potato, roasted peppers, Meyer lemon confiture. This one had tangy sauce, and the portobello was perfectly cooked, not rubbery at all. The only thing we didn't like were the red peppers in some sort of Dijon-esque sauce, a flavor neither Deanna or I are fond of. And the potatoes were amazing.
Third Course: "Artichoke + Cauliflower + Eggplant ="
Grilled artichoke a la Greque, Cauliflower dolma, roasted eggplant puree, and petite ratatouille. Deanna is not a fan of dolmas in general, and only likes cauliflower in Indian food or in soup, so this one was the stinker of the night for her. I have to say that I think it would have been better if the dolma was heated up, the cold cauliflower just made it feel neglected, even though I know that is how it was supposed to be. The rest of this dish was totally fine.
Panko-crusted eggplant “steak," Artichoke agnolotti, cauliflower puree, and tarragon mousseline. "This one was amazing!" Says Deanna, and told our server, Sergio, that they should include this on the regular menu. You didn't even realize that you were eating eggplant! I think maybe "agnolotti" is fancy for ravioli, and those little suckers were great too.
Fourth Course: "Shiitake + Pistachio + Mustard ="
Pistachio “risotto,” Shiitake mushrooms and their puree, mustard green froth.
Yeah, "froth." This might not look like anything special, or might be enough to put on a cracker and chomp in one bite, but believe us when we say that this was one of the highlights! FYI: Deanna and I meticulously sawed down the middle of every single plate making sure that we each got exactly 50% of the food given to us. The very nice couple next us actually commented on how disciplined we were with our sharing, and said that they just devoured their plates like animals, but we have been married too long, and we know it's best to just share equally. Plus the girl had a see-thru top on and I was getting side-boob all night.
Grilled shiitake mushroom, Mustard spaetzle, pistachio-sunchoke puree, and juniper berry sauce. This one was good, but the risotto overshadowed it. So we actually don't remember it too well. Just that we inhaled it and forgot about it.
Fifth Course: Yep, 5th. "Cheese + Smoke + “Egg” + Magic Dust ="
(Magic Dust? Will I become more like Doug Henning?, or turn into a new-age hippie?)
Smoked cashew cheese soufflé, Shallot marmalade, & olive oil crackers. The chef here does NOT mess around when he is making vegan cheese. You would swear he is slipping you real cheese. Like the guy next to me said, the chef is a food-scientist. This dish was incredible, the marmalade had Deanna cooing about it.
House-made cashew cheese, “Egg” served sunny-side up, baby arugula, portobella bacon, black truffle vinaigrette. Again, how the hell does this guy make a vegan egg? Eggs are gross, and it was sorta creepy even eating this one, but man was it authentic. We tried to figure out what he did, but still have no idea what he used to make that thing. Seriously, astounding. Both dishes nailed it, and should be on the menu ASAP.
Sixth Course: (Dessert, and as Deanna calls it, "The Grand Finale")
"Chocolate + Blood Orange + Ginger="
Chocolate cake with molten center, Blood orange crème anglaise and sorbet, gingersnap “soil” - we think? On this one, the descriptions don't match the photos, but who cares, right? This chocolate "turd" was my best dessert thus far this year, and it will be very hard to top it, although I will be trying for another 10 months. Actually both of these combined are the best.
Blood orange curd, White chocolate “pudding”, candied ginger, & linzer tuile. If "linzer tuile" means cheescake, then that was the best vegan one I've ever had. And that white pudding dipped in chocolate one was hard to split, and in doing so I accidentally cut it wrong and conceded the bigger half to Deanna. Big mistake!
So in conclusion, we had a very romantic night of great food under the guise of some manufactured holiday. I will say that for $125 bucks - each, I was very satisfied, although for that much cash you almost expect to leave busting at the seems. (Like a real American.) And since we ate so early I did get hungry later - but we do stay up late. I think if you are vegan it is well worth saving up the cash and spending it on a truly gastronomic experience, if only once. These sorts of experiences help set the bar for food in your life. It will change the way you see food and approach your eating. And also you will realize that there is no loss of variety in being vegan. You will be enriched for the trouble.