This is not your Bubbe's Passover dinner.
Every year, Evan Kleiman--super chef, slow food proponent and host of KCRW's "Good Food"-- celebrates Passover with a special, one-night dinner at her restaurant Angeli Caffe. For the last two years, J and I have looked at Evan's menu, discussed how delicious it would be, lamented our college-student budget and went back to munching on matzah. This year, however, we decided to splurge in the name of Pesach and head to Angeli for a fusion Sefardic/Ashkenazi/Italian dinner.
Upon arriving, we were greeted by matzah, Sefardic charoset (dates, oranges, raisins, nuts and spices), long-cooked eggs tinted with onion skins and family-style tables. The grouping of the tables lent a lovely communal feel to the dining experience, and our table of eight really enjoyed chatting throughout the meal.
The first dish out of the kitchen was hummus--one side with lamb and one with pine nuts. Although this was delicious, I couldn't help but wish that I had a nice piece of bread to go with it...darn.
Next up were leek croquettes and potato fritters. Both had great flavor (particularly the leek), and it was next to impossible to stop popping these bite-size buggers into my mouth.
After the fried food came lighter fare--fattoush (parsley, radicchio, and Napa cabbage salad with lemon vinaigrette). Although this was tangy and tasty, my tummy was more interested in saving room for the heartier food to come.
The first meat dish of the night was Moroccan fish croquettes in cinnamon-scented tomato sauce. J enjoyed this, calling it a "Moroccan take on gefilte fish." As a fish-hater, I took his word on it.
Next up was Tortino di Azzime, a matzah lasagna (matzagna?) of vegetables and fresh tomato-basil sauce. After being baked with the vegetables and sauce, the matzah took on an interesting, softer, almost pasta-like texture. Although J and I make matzah pizza for Passover, a matzah lasagna had never crossed my mind.
The quinoa salad with spring vegetables was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The salad was incredibly fresh-tasting and was lemon-y and crunchy. Although there was some debate about whether the quinoa was Kosher for Passover for Ashkenazi Jews, this honorary Jew gobbled up several servings of the salad.
Then came the pollo arrosto-- a roast chicken cooked with rosemary, garlic and lemon. This was, without a doubt, one of the best roast chickens I have ever eaten. It was perfection--the chicken fell off the bone and had enough seasoning to highlight all the flavors but not so much as to detract from the flavor of the chicken itself. Yum.
Served at the same time was Evan's pot roast. Juicy and tender with a hint of orange, the pot roast was outstanding and a big hit at our table.
Sadly, the appetizers and entrees were finished. Happily, it was time for dessert. To finish the meal, Evan prepared an almond berry cream cake served with fresh strawberries. Sweet and dense, the almond berry cream cake was so delicious that J and I almost ordered a second serving (hey, that little square was small!).
As expected, Evan Kleiman's Passover dinner was just as (if not more) delicious as every other meal at Angeli Caffe. What is more, the environment was very warm and welcoming (even for a goy like me) and I'd recommend the annual dinner to anyone who likes good food and experiencing a different culture. You can bet J and I will be back next year.
7274 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046