I love wine.
I love graze-y, noshy, snacky, wine-filled, conversation-heavy evenings. On frequent occasions I love a destination that is not my or one of my friend's houses that can accommodate such an evening. Surprisingly there are fewer options than one may imagine - especially with quality food (I am not talking about a glass of "house red" and wings here). Obviously A.O.C. is a great option but it usually ends up being a whole THING - kind of dressy, kind of expensive, kind of a scene. There is Vinoteca, in Los Feliz, which is lovely. But it's more of a wine bar in a literal sense - a bar that serves primarily wine with an extensive wine list. They do serve food and it's not horrible - but it's not so great either. Mediocre at best.
Late last Summer I learned about Tasca. I went on a date (I know... it's rare, but it does happen occasionally) with someone who seemingly frequented the place. We were there for dinner. We sat at a table. Date ordered a bottle of wine (after we had a couple glasses of prosecco) and then proceeded to order a slew of menu items, primarily small plates, that came out staggered at a nice pace. We had the Artisan cheese plate with fig & quince paste and fruit & nuts ($12), the charcuterie plate ($14), white anchovies (man do I love an anchovy) served with tomato, hard boiled egg & aoili on crostini ($9), the Boudin Noir - black sausage with sautéd apple & onion ($12), Gambas Al Ajillo - sautéd shrimp in garlic sauce ($11), charred rapini ($5) and a salad of Burrata, heirloom tomatoes, Serrano ham & watercress in a balsamic reduction ($12). I guess we ordered a lot.
The food was perfectly fine if not wildly memorable. I did particularly like the white anchovies and the Boudin Noir. The cheese and chartcuterie plates were just a little weak - uninteresting cheeses that were not entirely ripened, Spanish-inflected but still mediocre choices of cured meats, etc. The shrimp was a little drowny in the (slightly heavy) sauce. The salad was great but I have become admittedly alarmed that it has remained on the menu to this day - when heirloom tomatoes are not in season.
The wine list is quite nice. Simple, clean and well priced with a wide selection available by the glass and quite a few nice bottles in the $50 range.
The space is intimate, warm and inviting with nice, subtle lighting and lots of candles. There are about a dozen tables lined along one side of the room with a bar that stretches the entire other side of the room. The music is a little abrasive - or maybe just not my style (Eurotrashy beats) but isn't too loud. The staff is delightful and obliging. The crowd is varied, local, casual, happy, and - it would appear - regulars.
I've been back to Tasca quite a few times since the date last Summer with different people in different contexts - friends, chef-y roommate, Madeline, a possible romantic interest, and even by myself. The more I go the more I dig it. I prefer to sit at the bar and try different wines by the glass with different dishes. On one of my recent visits with - who else, but - Dixon, we tried their roasted tomato soup ($8). It had a beautiful presentation, in a terrine, but was somewhat lacking intrigue and a bit sweeter than I would have liked.
We then ordered the baby artichoke salad served with "heirloom" tomatoes over arugula in a Meyer lemon vinaigrette with shaved parmesan ($11). This was a very simple, fresh salad that I quite liked.
The most exciting menu item of the evening was the braised short rib served with butternut squash agnolotti ($12). The meat was rich and tender and the agnolotti was decadent, soft and sweet with a brown butter sage sauce drizzled over it. Yum.
We tried a few medium to heavy reds throughout the evening. I was fond of the '04 Chateau Le Fleur Bibian Bordeaux ($7) while Dixon went a bit heavier with the Parrone Cabernet Sauvignon ($6). When they have it in stock the Tempranillo ($5) is a great choice as well.
It's nice. I can roll in in my jeans or in a fancy, girly ensemble. I can be with a friend, multiple friends, a date (ahem), or solo. I can sip and snack. I can graze. I can eat a proper dinner. Hell, last night I just stopped to meet a friend for a couple of glasses of wine. I'm not saying I've found my Regal Beagle, but Tasca has something I've found rarely in LA and something I very much appreciate - a sense of place.
Note: Parking is a bitch but there is valet.
8108 W. 3rd St. (at Crescent Heights Boulevard)