Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stefan Richter: Not a Dick?

I'm going to be honest: I went into last night's "Anniversary Dinner" at Stefan's at L.A. Farm with the hopes of hating it. After watching the cocky Stefan make his way through "Top Chef" two seasons back I realized I had never loathed a reality character so much. Not that Richard Hatch guy on the inaugural "Survivor" or even "Real World: San Francisco" alum Puck from way back in the day. Sure, Stefan plated the most appetizing dishes and certainly -- at least to the television viewer at home -- deserved to win over hopeless romantic Hosea. But, he didn't win (and I and Bravo don't like him) because he came off as a total dick. So, he lost. Hooray for the good guys.

To make things worse, a week after "TC" ended I saw him flying solo at O'Briens on Main Street flirting with anyone who would give his shiny bald head a chance. I suddenly loathed him even more...

Fast forward to last night. I felt I could not pass up the chance to eat a three course meal at Stefan's at L.A. Farm for freaking $12. I expected small courses with a we-had-to-make-a-shit-load-of-this-stuff-so-it's-okay-that-the-food-is-only-okay-deal-with-it attitude. I was happily surprised to find it was the complete opposite. Not just was the food good, but the portions were hearty.

The appetizer was a delightful veal and beef carpaccio salad with a salty olive dressing.

They followed that up with a truffle risotto. The creamy risotto let off a wonderful garlicky aroma that may still be buried in last night's shirt. And, seriously, put truffles in my Diet Coke and it will please me.

Even the main course, bratwurst with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes, pleased this non-brat lover. The fluffy potatoes combined with the sauerkraut pungency and the crispiness of the fried onions really pleased. And the phallic nature of the brat certainly provided a chuckle or two...

There were also mini plates (I'm talking minute) at a discounted price. We had the Little Big Mac, which was a tasty two biter.

The highlight, however, and I can't believe I'm saying this, was Stefan himself. It started with the menu. Topping the "Anniversary" menu was a giant thank you to all his customers. Celebrating 12 years in the U.S., he provided genuine words of gratitude. In person, he was incredibly genial the whole evening, swaying from table to table discussing the meal with anyone who requested his ear. On numerous occasions he pulled up an extra chair and joined interested parties. I even saw him try someone's dessert. While many high end restaurants and chefs offer special discounted meals from time to time never had I seen a chef so appreciative of people paying a mere $12 for his food. For once it sort of felt like a chef actually appreciated his patrons.

Sure, maybe it was all a self-aggrandizing salute to himself, but when is it not in the culinary arena? As I learned in my college philosophy course there is no such thing as true altruism. But, for one night, Stefan made me not believe everything I see on TV.

Here's the menu:


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