Larry’s Folly

When our friends Vic and Jessie invited us out to dinner, who were we to say “no”? We love them, and besides being a person of fine taste and author of the restaurant blog, Vic Ate Here (he got his review up before me — how is that possible considering 12 hours ago we had just sat down for our reservation!?), Vic is also the man behind the wonderful new food website, Foodie.com, and wanted to treat us to an evening checking out one of our fine city’s newer restaurants.

Waiting for Nikita

Waiting for Nikita

They chose to take us to Nikita, a new restaurant in Malibu funded by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison — one of the richest men in the United States, who likes fine things and has been busily buying up a swatch of Malibu’s Carbon Beach. Once we got over the name confusion — was it a Japanese restaurant or a Russian restaurant? — we learned that the largely Italian menu was overseen by not only a Roman chef, but his entire crew of six sous chefs he’d brought along from the Eternal City. The name? 68-year-old Ellison’s 20-something Ukrainian actress girlfriend.

Drinks out on the patio next to the misty Pacific were creative and interesting — mine pairing mezcal with lime, jalapeño and ginger ale, Leslie’s infusing tequila with hibiscus, Vic’s boasting a Japanese shiso leaf — and Vic assured me the mixologist behind them also had a unique pedigree from someplace or other. The service was friendly, genuine and presented with only the necessary amount of exclusivity and pretension and no more.

Vic shooting the drinks

Vic shooting the drinks

Scacciata

Scacciata

The best part of the meal may have come next. Vic had told us about the bread, which he described as scacciata. What arrived was something of a revelation — crispy, flaky puffs of cloud that were somewhere between a ciabatta and a croissant. If it requires an unpaid apprenticeship in a hot Roman kitchen, I must learn this bread.

Inside the airy restaurant, always the crashing of the waves providing a marvelous aural backdrop, the menu looked promising. The prices even, for such an extravagant setting on one of the world’s most exclusive pieces of real estate, seemed reasonable — starters ranged from $12 to $20, pastas and entrees from $20 to $40. Until, that is, the waiter confessed that the portions were “tiny,” and we should order a lot. (“Did he just say the portions were ‘tiny’?!?” Vic gaped when the waiter walked away.)

Starters

Starters

We followed the waiter’s advice and ordered “a lot” — four starters, two pastas, four main courses. After an unremarkable amuse bouche of tiny vegetables, the tiny starters came. And they were, indeed, tiny. The best was a few slivers of exquisite Santa Barbara sweet shrimp sashimi with oscetra caviar and some crunchy rice on top, as well as something called “Nikita connolo” which featured raw sea bass encased in a crunchy breaded crust; the worst, an ill-conceived beef crudo that was mushy and vulgar, and a very average salad of microgreens. If there are four of you, you will each get one bite of every starter. Except the beef crudo, in which case you will get more bites than you want.

There was much quinoa present throughout the meal, which led me to conclude that the Roman chef must’ve just discovered the Andean supergrain upon arrival in the yoga capital of the world, and was smitten.

The prettier, though less tasty, of the two pastas

The prettier, though less tasty, of the two pastas

The two pastas came next: one was beautiful and one was delicious. The delicious one was an inside-out carbonara called fagotelli — when you bit into it, the carbonara sauce burst from within. It reminded me of those Cantonese soup dumplings that pop in your mouth.

Perhaps it was the effect of the superb Calera pinot noir we were drinking, but the sound of the waves crashing outside seemed to grow ever louder. I remembered video I’d seen of the tsunamis in southeast Asia and Japan, and I imagined the taut faced woman to my left being swept away mid-sentence by a tsunami — a reverie I shared with my companions, who were caught off-guard, smiled politely, and continued with their conversation.

Rib-eye bites

Rib-eye bites

There had been some debate as to whether to try the dry-aged rib-eye or the Wagyu loin. We opted for the rib-eye, which came to the table with our other three entrees: two fish dishes and chicken cacciatore. The rib-eye meat, arranged in little bite-size pieces and drizzled with sauce, was crisp and tasty, perfectly cooked. I enjoyed my two bites. I can’t remember the fish. The chicken was interesting, rolled up and cut on the diagonal, resembling a Chinese egg roll.

The sun had faded behind a wall of clouds at the western horizon, flames danced in the fireplace nearby, we were wine-soaked and sleepy. It was time for dessert.

We ordered three to share. One was a seven-layer “chocolate bar” that looked like a long, fancy Kit Kat with gold leaf on top. Another was a cannoli and the third I can’t remember. I’m not really a dessert person. I had hoped perhaps a miniature Nikita would pop from within one of them in all her voluptuous glory. But it was not to be.

I liked my double espresso best of all.

Salad, bread, a road-worn Shannen Doherty at the table next to us (what was she doing in the 90265!??) and the Pacific beyond...

Salad, bread, a road-worn Shannen Doherty at the table next to us (what was she doing in the 90265!??) and the Pacific beyond…

At the evening’s end, I made my way to the bathroom. Standing at the urinal, which was lovely, I gazed down at the misguided urine drips all over the floor. All urinals were the essentially the same, I thought, no matter whether you were at a $20,000,000 Malibu restaurant or a McDonald’s. And I was also reminded of a simple truth — that we humans were all essentially the same: the Mexican busboys, Larry Ellison and me. We all did our best to hit the urinal, and we all missed. And when the tsunami came, it would wipe us all away mid-sentence — Larry and his Ukranian girlfriend, the taut-faced woman to my left, washed-up celebrity Shannen Doherty at the table beside us, the seven Roman chefs, the beautiful and blessed of Malibu, and those who served them.

The urinal

The urinal

Unless, that is, Larry had a helicopter waiting… Because sometimes we’re not all exactly the same.

For more review and fewer digressions, hop over to Vic Ate Here for his insights.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andy
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 00:23:31

    Beautifully written, as usual.
    Rain? What rain?

    Reply

  2. pal-O
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 01:06:09

    The Scacciata looks like it would have made a great sandwich. . . and there was good wine!

    Reply

  3. Michelle
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 02:41:27

    Oh, you make me laugh. Bravo!

    Reply

  4. Glennis
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 19:58:16

    Sometimes when I go to Malibu, I WANT that tsunami to come sweep it all away.

    Reply

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