Waylynn Lucas, the new dessert chef, has been here only over a month, but she's very good. She'd have to be since she was previously pastry chef at the Bazaar by José Andrés in Beverly Hills. I'm fascinated by the way a tarragon and arugula granité heightens the flavor of strawberries. Or the way toffee and chocolate are welded together in a soft milk chocolate dessert that's subtle and under-sweetened. Tres leches is served up in a dainty portion wearing a soft meringue cap, a lovely tribute to the Caribbean.
Splichal has mentored a good many of L.A.'s top chefs — Octavio Becerra, Walter Manzke, Eric Greenspan, Josiah Citrin and Rafael Lunetta, among others. But Esnault arrives as a fully formed talent with his own ideas about how to meld French techniques with a California sensibility. What I love about his food is its balance and grace. This is quietly confident cooking, delicious by any measure.
And to find it in a restaurant downtown at the Walt Disney Concert Hall makes it even more of a pleasure. Not to forget: Joachim Splichal was one of the first well-known chefs to take a chance on downtown. And now, once again, Patina retakes its position as downtown's flagship restaurant.
141 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; ; http://www.patinarestaurant.com.
Dinner starters, $18 to $26; main courses, $38 to $46; desserts, $12. Seven-course tasting menu, $120; six-course vegetarian tasting menu, $95. Corkage, $30, waived if you buy a bottle from the list.
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. Supper is served at Patina after all Walt Disney Concert Hall events. Full bar. Valet parking, $8.
Rating is based on food, service and ambience, with price taken into account in relation to quality. Four stars: Outstanding on every level. Three stars: Excellent. Two stars: Very good. One star: Good. No star: Poor to satisfactory.