Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Restaurant Review: Little Pine Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA

Little Pine is a new vegan restaurant in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles that was recently opened by long-time vegan and animal activist Moby (who also happens to be an award-winning electronic musician and producer). As soon as it opened (way back in November) I've been DYING to go, and decided that my birthday last weekend was the perfect time to dine at Little Pine.

Though I was very excited to eat there, I had heard mixed reviews on the restaurant, (though all the dishes I had seen shared on social media looked delicious!). I prepared myself by gathering recommendations from friends who had eaten there previously, scouring Instagram for other pointers, and then excitedly headed there for dinner there last Saturday night.

Little Pine Restaurant in Silver Lake

Little Pine has different menus for different meal times - they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as brunch on weekends and a kind of tea time in-between lunch and dinner with pastries, coffee and tea. I really wanted to try their pasta dishes, so that's why I choose to dine there for dinner as opposed to brunch or lunch, though I wouldn't mind trying those menus either! I'm also really intrigued by their pastries, and can imagine killing an hour or so before dinner with a sweet treat and a cup of hot coffee.

Anywho, this Saturday we had reservations for an early dinner there, so metered street parking was plentiful. However, it does get pretty full as the night goes on, so plan accordingly. I believe there may also be some neighborhood parking in the area, but always check the signs posted to make sure you can actually park there (and definitely don't park in the lots for the apartments nearby or you will get towed!).

Little Pine Restaurant dinner menu as of January 2nd, 2016 - the menu 
changes according to what is in season/available, so it will vary 
depending on when you go.

Once parked, we headed inside the restaurant, which is small but inviting, with white walls, exposed pine beams, and lit by candlelight. It definitely isn't the best light to take photos in, but it certainly creates an intimate, cozy dining experience! The table our party of four sat at had one side comprised of comfy booth seating with lots of squishy pillows, while the other side had stylish wooden chairs. For larger parties up to 8, the alpine booth (featured in many photos of the restaurant) is utilized. They also have a small outdoor patio area in the back of the building.

Our friendly server stopped by to take drink orders and explain the menu to us - she explained that everything is vegan (yay!) and that the plate size of dishes is smaller than most restaurants and that each plate should be treated as a tapa, or a small plate to be shared, like an appetizer. She recommended we order 2 to 3 plates per person. Since I had heard reviews reference the small portion sizes, I was expecting this and actually quite liked the idea, since you are able to sample more of the menu this way.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Broccoli Arancini (sorry the photos are
 a bit blurry, it was tough to get pics due to the lighting!)

We started off by ordering some Crispy Smashed Potatoes with herbed aioli ($8) and some Broccoli Arancini, or cheesy broccoli risotto cakes ($9). The Crispy Smashed Potatoes were really crispy and seasoned well, but they kinda were like leftover potato crunchies after roasting potatoes. They were good, but I wouldn't order them again. The Broccoli Arancini, on the other hand, was one of my favorite dishes of the night! They were fried to perfection and the insides were a decadent cheesy rice texture that left us wanting a truckload of these golden delights. The whole table agreed that these were phenomenal!

Trio of stuffed shells

We also ordered the Trio of Stuffed Shells, which include olive and pesto, artichoke and lemon, spinach and ricotta ($12). Their cheeses are all housemade, and this dish was another highlight of the night. I especially loved the olive and pesto stuffed shell!

Macaroni and cheese

The macaroni and cheese came out next, and it is a made of gluten-free pasta, housemade cheese sauce, and toasted breadcrumbs ($12). I liked how this mac and cheese wasn't a gooey mess, but had a real substantial flavor to it, with the breadcrumbs giving it a really nice contrasting texture. And the gluten-free noodles were surprisingly tasty as well!


I had heard good things about the cassoulet, which is housemade Italian sausage, baked seitan, tomato confit, and garlic breadcrumbs ($14), so of course we had to order that as well! It was a beautifully rustic dish, and was very hearty! It was packed with white beans and reminded me of an Italian bean stew I grew up with. And the Italian sausage (vegan, of course), was SO GOOD! Though it was delicious, it was a bit too filling and so it was the only dish we didn't polish off and had to take home (yay, leftovers!). I ate these leftovers a few days later, and can you believe that it tasted even better?! All the flavors had developed even more, and the delicate spiciness of the sausage stood out even more.

Roasted Tomato Agnolotti

They definitely saved the best for last, as the final dish we had was the Roasted Tomato Agnolotti, with handrolled pasta, truffled cream sauce, and blistered cherry tomatoes ($16). They need to rename this dish HEAVEN because that is exactly what it tasted like! Everyone was drooling over this dish and fighting for the last pieces. The cream sauce was incredible - I grew up on this four cheese pasta my dad used to make, and I was reminded of that creamy richness and complex flavors with these agnolotti. Out of the dinner dishes, this was my absolute favorite!

Little Pine dessert menu as of January 2nd, 2016 - I really want to go back to
try the PB&J Sundae and Cookies and Milk!

I could not pass up ordering dessert, and after much debating (everything looked so good, just look at the menu above!!), I settled on the S'mores Ganache, with graham crust, chocolate ganache, pecans, and toasted meringue ($10). Wow, this dessert blew me away. The chocolate ganache was decadent and fudgey without being too rich, and the graham crust gave it a toothsome bite. And, OMG, the s'mores meringue on top was unbelievable! It had a smoky flavor to it that transported me to a campfire! Seriously, it was so amazing!

S'mores Ganache

I had an incredible time at Little Pine, and I'm a bit flabbergasted by the bad reviews I've seen for this place. Perhaps people were expecting bigger portions? Or maybe it is a bit cost-prohibitive? However, for the quality of food you get and the sheer creativity of the dishes, plus the cozy ambiance, I'd say it is definitely worth the cost, which in my opinion wasn't all that bad to begin with.

Besides the truly stunning food, Little Pine donates ALL of its profits to animal welfare organizations like Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Sea Shepard, The Humane Society, PETA, and more (source: LAist). How cool is that?! Not to mention, Little Pine is a hotspot for celebrities, if you're into that kinda thing. So far, I've heard that Morrissey has visited, and of course Moby is there frequently as well. The night we dined Crispin Glover was seated at the table next to us, which was pretty cool!

I am already planning my trip back to Little Pine and drooling over the other dishes and desserts I have yet to try, as well as dreaming about having those arancini, shells, agnolotti, and s'mores ganache again!

If you are in the area, I highly recommend visiting Little Pine ASAP! It if my new fave place in LA to go!

For more information, including hours, reservations, and full menus, visit Little Pine's site!

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