Friday, September 25, 2009

Drago Centro Small Bites: Best Deal In Town!

Ed note: All photos were taken by J's iPhone since I forgot my camera. Not bad for a camera phone right?

I rarely use this blog to blatantly promote a restaurant, but I have to take this chance to tell you all: Run, don't walk, to Drago Centro in downtown. Sit at the bar, order yourself one of four wonderful wines by the glass (all priced $6 or under) and order off the small plates menu. You'll be eating some of the best, most well-prepared bar food in Los Angeles and feeling like you're getting away with something when you get the bill.

Half-drunk glass of me, they pour a lot!

Our first visit to Drago Centro was shortly after the restaurant opened, and we sat in the restaurant, had the tasting menu and enjoyed every single bite. It's expensive but worth it- the service is impeccable, the view of downtown from the large, glass wall is gorgeous and the food delicious and beautifully presented. It's fine dining at its best and the kind of place you think put on your list of where to go on a special occasion. So when we discovered that the bar area of the restaurant offered a small bites menu, we decided to go on a random Wednesday night and have been back four times in as many weeks.

The bar is adjacent to the main dining room, separated by the huge, plexi-glass wine cellar which runs all the way to the ceiling. There are chairs at the bar, a long communal table in the middle of the room, a couple of smaller two-tops, plus outdoor sofas and tables. You get a decent view of the kitchen and can watch one of two flat screen televisions which remain silent as jazz music streams quietly over the speakers. Elegant, yet relaxed. Another major plus in my book: all of the bar seating have backs on the chairs so you aren't sitting on a stool for hours.

J and I always get two (each) glasses of the Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi Bianco from Campania- a light, refreshing white wine priced at only $5 a glass- and it's always a generous pour....6 or 7 ounces at least. It's a perfect accompaniment to the long, peppery cheese straws set in tall, silver vases that are all over the bar area so you can simply help yourself. Perfect to munch on while deciding what else to order.....

Having tried almost everything on the small bites menu, we have our favorites, but all of it is delicious. On this particular visit we went for:

La Bruschetta Mediterranea: a thick slice of peasant toast topped with roasted eggplant, smoked scamorza, roasted grapes and a hint of mint:

Not the prettiest of dishes but muy delicioso!

The Due Kobe Hamburgers: Mini Kobe beef burgers with mushrooms, arugula and fontina cheese on tiny brioche buns:

The La Pizza Ai Gamberi: a thin-crusted pizza topped with a pile of fresh shrimp, corn and mozzarella: (Ed note: We'd eaten 2/3 of it before realizing we needed to take a photo!)

We also always order this salad off of the regular restaurant menu- the Le Verdure e Lattughe Novelle: a gorgeous salad of assorted baby vegetables, young lettuces dressed with white balsamic (Ed note: again, being piggish we basically finished eating this salad by the time we thought to take a photo so this is the tail end of it!)

The quality is unbeatable- the salad is a perfect plate of the loveliest baby vegetables- zucchini, patty pan squash, Japanese turnips, golden carrots and radishes all cooked just a bit so that each element retains a nice, bright crispness. The shrimp on the pizza couldn't be fresher and the Kobe beef in the sliders is always moist, juicy and brimming with flavor. Nothing is over $9, with most of the items priced at $4 or less.

It's great to be able to eat at Drago Centro on any weeknight and get out for under $60 for two- with the four glasses of wine, pizza, bruschetta, salad and sliders our total came to just over $52.00. I hope you'll all get a chance to check it out; we rarely see more than a few people at the bar and, selfishly, I want this to stick around, so go on- get yourself some Drago-quality food at Subway prices!

Drago Centro • 525 South Flower Street, Suite #120, Los Angeles, CA 90071