7/24/2013 02:00:00 PM

Best Thing We Ate: DineLA Lunch at Drago Centro

We usually look to DineLA to get to restaurants we haven't checked out yet, but also to revisit places we haven't been to in awhile. Looking for something in Downtown LA, our eyes popped at Drago Centro's menu, and we slipped in for a late lunch just in time. With so much Italian food saturating the Downtown market, Celestino Drago's Italian stunner at the base of the City National building is easy to overlook, unless, of course, you're one of the suits working in one of the tall skyscrapers nearby. The room is beautiful though, with a long marble bar, white linen-topped tables, and a gorgeous patio that's now shaded by new olive trees. In a word, it's sophisticated but not stuffy. Just what we were looking for.

We started with the poached egg with fresh green peas and cauliflower, a lovely dish where the yolk blends with a delicious brown butter sauce - we needed a slice of bread to get all of it, and we did; every last drop. Next, creamy risotto with duck confit. The risotto was absolutely perfect, the duck crisp on the outside and tender inside; we flaked off all of the meat and mixed it together. The chocolate and olive oil terrine for dessert was a dream - three different mousses (chocolate, caramel, olive oil) layered with a pretty quenelle of salted caramel ice cream to boot. We forgot that chef de cuisine Ian Gresik was a pastry chef for the Patina group before moving to savory; it's apparent in this dish. Just wonderful. This was all for $25, a complete steal in our opinion, especially since the portions were generous (we took home half the risotto). A tip: order a glass of wine from the bar menu where all food and drink is between $5 and $9; we had a nice white blend from Veneto.

In this instance, DineLA worked. The menu was a good representation of the restaurant, stood out from the typical chicken-salmon-steak menus that seem to be the norm, and it's a steal for a restaurant that is usually more expense account-friendly than budget-minded. Although that bar menu is always a bargain, especially since it's served all day long.

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