October 18, 2010

Ganging up at Drago Centro

I’ve developed a few new obsessions these days and Groupon being one of them. To my surprise, a few months back, one of L.A.’s fine dining establishments Drago Centro had a Groupon for $30 for $60 worth of food and beverages. Fantastic deal!

It turned out Annette also bought one. However, to be able to use both Groupons, we need to have a party of 5 or larger. Naturally, a triple date was planned. Brandon and I. Annette and boyfriend Hank. My bus buddy Amanda and husband Colin.

And no, there was no 3.5 hour Italian cinema this night…to much of Brandon and Hank’s relief. But to our mild disappointment, we couldn’t use the Groupons with Dine LA special pre-fixe menu. Boo. And I was soooo looking forward to @michaelshearin's wine pairing!

Our awesome waiter not only made great recommendations on the foods and wine but on how we could maximize our dining experience. He suggested that we all pick one thing each, order a couple dishes of something, and they can portion everything out for 6 servings. No need to go family style or passing your plate around.


Now, being a good foodie and a bad wine connoisseur, I took pictures of the food but didn’t bother to write down what wine we drank. Colin was our wine man and he ordered was some kind of a mixed grape Italian red. And it was one of a more reasonably priced bottle and went well with everything.

Oh, and the amuse bouche of salted cod croquette and herb aioli really stirred up our appetites.

Amusebouche of salted cod at @dragocentro

For the antipasti, Colin picked l’insalata di pomodori, a salad of heirloom tomatoes, bocconcini mozzarella, pancetta, and basil crème. 2 orders divided 6 ways came out to be a perfect little starter salad. The tangy and sweet tomatoes cut the creamy cheese, and the crispy delicious pancetta was seriously the icing on the salad.

Burrata tomatoes salad @dragocentro

Then we were separated into 2 camps: those who wanted to try le animelle (crispy sweetbread, polenta, blackberry) and those who would rather not eat a calf's gland. Annette, Colin and I went for the sweet bread, and I really liked it especially with the blackberry sauce. Amanda picked la burrata, a plate of burrata, endive, basil pesto, and crostini...which was similar to the salad we just had, but still a lot of yummy.

I had the monopoly on the first course here as I wasn't going to leave Drago Centro without my favorite dish. The first time I ate at Drago Centro, I ordered le pappardelle al fagiano, and it has never left me. My most favorite of pasta, pappardelle, is home made and is tossed with the perfect amount of the roasted pheasant and morel mushrooms ragu. I was happy that everyone agreed with me on how lovely the dish was. And again, 2 orders portioned 6 ways was enough pasta to keep us moving forward.

Pheasant morel parpadelle @deagocentro

Alas, the big show. Brandon chose la bistecca per due, a bone-in ribeye the size of my arm, meant to serve two, with potato, globe carrots, chanterelle, and smoked hollandaise. Now this half of a cow came up sizzling to be carved table side. What impressed us most is that all of each got our own warm plate with one globe carrot, a few chanterelle, a schmear of sauce, and a quarter sized lemony, herby potato patty. It was sooo cute!

Perfect proportion to the 2 slices of steak we each got. And here I am thinking, how could TWO people possibly finish this sucker by themselves?! It's HUGE!

Drago steak

The steak itself was perfectly cooked to pink perfection and well flavored. However, it still managed to be a little chewy. Now, the smoked hollandaise tasted like liquid bacon to me. I had to seriously restrain myself from licking the plate.

Served up at the same time were two orders of Hank's seafood choice, le cappesante which were seared diver scallops, artichoke, celery root, fennel. The scallops were HUGE and cooked perfectly.

What the menu didn't say that there were also shrimps...sweet, succulent shrimps that seemed to have been rolled in the roes. I ate two and I wanted more.


It had been a dining EVENT so far...and we've been sitting around for 2 hours at this point. Service had been spot on with the pace of the meal. Any faster, we'd never have gotten to where we were. And slower, we'd never leave the place. The pacing also matched well with my ancient Thai secret art of eating: slow and steady and in small portion!

But we weren't going to leave without dessert. Well, I was full enough to have forgotten to take any more pictures. LOL.

Hank, the New Yorker, must have his canolis. Here they served you with 4 different flavors and dish of milk chocolate gelato: stracciatella (essentially chocolate chips and cream), orange pistachio, rosemary pine nut, and tiramisu. I never really had a canoli before. So with Hank giving the approval, I ate the tiramisu one. And it was divine.

While at it, we also ordered two of the Italian cookie plate: itsy bitsy pieces of biscotti, torrone, baci di cioccolato , nocciolati, savoiardi, and marshmallow. They hit all the right spots.

We finally rolled out of Drago Centro 3 hours after we first sat down, blissfully overstuffed.

We joked earlier on that if the bill came out to be ridiculous, we would consider that Christmas present for each other. Let just say that after the Groupons, we WILL be buying each other Christmas present. The price tag with the discount was super reasonable.

Although when we think about it, after the way we ate, even without the discount, it was still surprising reasonable for a place like Drago Centro. It does feel like eating with a group here is better for your wallet than dining with just 2 or 4 people.

But of course, you’d have to allow at least 2 hours for maximum enjoyment in a group. We wouldn’t have as much fun there if we were on a schedule to run to the theaters afterward.

Would we do this again without the Groupon? Absolutely.

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