Preux & Proper
Green Gullah – St. George Gin, Green Chartreuse, Pineapple, Lime, Ginger Beer, Chipotle / Treasure Island – Stolen Rum, Orgeat, Pineapple, Lime, Smoked Luxardo, Lemon Bitters
Dungeness Crab Hushpuppies – Bourbon Barrel Green Hot Sauce, Basil Spice, Poblano Butter
Fully Dressed Fried Chicken Po’ Boy – Fresno Poblano Buffalo Sauce, Avocado Ranch, Shaved Red Onion, Pop’s Slaw
It’s All Gravy Deep Dish Biscuit Dough Pizza – House Andouille, Smoked Mozzarella, Slow Cooked Egg, Country Sausage Gravy
Grilled Yellow Street Corn – Pork Cracklins, Queso Fresco, Aleppo, Smoky Miso Aioli
Charred Octopus – Crispy Weiser Fingerlings, Anchovy Remoulade, Mustard Greens, Blood Orange Mojo
House Andouille Sausage – Peads & Barnetts Pork, Anson Mills Sea Island Red Peas, Marjoram, House Gorditas
Baked Orecchietti – Crawfish Etouffe, Willow Maid Dry Jack, Jambalaya Tomatoes, Turbodog Ale
Tripe Chili Cornbread Skillet – Hominy, Sour Cream, Scallion, Smoked Mozzarella, Cheddar
Liberty Farms Organic Duck Breast – John Haulk Yellow Corn Grits, Roasted Black Kale, Mulled Huckleberries
Sunburst Farms Trout Caviar – Smoked Trout Rillettes, Hoecake, Kentucky Sorghum, Chive, Meyer Lemon Crema
Roasted Japanese Eggplant – Shakshuka Spice, Walnut Pralines, Feta, Chermoula, Toasted Spice
Chicken Fried Pork Cheek – Ancho BBQ, Pickled Radish, Refried Red Beans, Pineapple Verde, Blue Corn Crumble
Spicy Roasted Nantes Carrots – Goat Keffir, Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Toasted Yellow Eyed Peas, Okra Leaf
Squash Blossom Chile Relleno – Humboldt Fog, Christmas Lima Bean Succotash, Cornmeal Crust, Pumpkin Seed Mole
Fried Mississippi Catfish – House Pickles, Celery Salt, Red Remoulade
Fried Whole Game Hen – Buttermilk Biscuits, Serrano Jelly, Grated Nutmeg, Crushed Pecans, Honeycomb
Chicory ‘Café con Leche’ Bread Pudding Ice Cream Sandwich – Horchata Ice Cream, Guerrero Chocolate, Cayenne Crème Anglaise
Kassady’s Mama’s Key Lime Pie – Secret Recipe, Served with Whipped Cream
Pate a Choux Beignets – ‘Bananas Foster’ Dulce de Leche
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp – Toasted Oats, Ginger, Vanilla Bean, Lemon Curd Ice Cream
Now toqued by Chef Samuel Monsour for over a year, his predecessor Michael Ruiz doing whatever it is at Bottega Louie that keeps customers pouring in, it was as a group of six that dinner was enjoyed at Preux & Proper on Friday night in Downtown Los Angeles, the evening beginning with Happy Hour Bites in the first floor barroom before moving upstairs to the drafty “Proper” dining area where gluttony in the form of seventeen additional plates served over two and a half hours would ensue.
Concepted by NOLA native Joshua Kopel in 2014 and since growing its audience by way of quality ingredients from sustainable purveyors and the “Laissez les bons temps rouler” spirit of the French Quarter, those familiar with the Crescent City will immediately be taken by the presence of Gas Lamps illuminating the entryway beneath a cloth awning featuring the restaurant’s moniker, an arrival just prior to 7:00pm finding the downstairs absolutely packed with not a seat to be found whether at the bar or at one of the high-top tables.
Attempting to offer transportive yet inventive fare rooted in one of America’s culinary hotbeds, a job made all the more intriguing by Southern California’s image-centric focus on pseudo-food allergies and trends including Cold-Pressed Juice, Kale Salad and Avocado Toast, a look at either of Preux & Proper’s two menus will immediately strike seasoned diners as “too much” or “unfocused,” the Chef’s desire to explore different ingredients seemingly at play without any sort of editing on a menu whose total number of plates hovers just shy of fifty.
Tellingly detailing on their website that “Every dish we serve is a result of our entire kitchen working together as a family,” many of the plates including an ingredient (or three) that could probably be left out without compromising the effect, it was after a bit of standing that the first four guests to arrive located a small table at the far end of a bar where craft Cocktails are offered alongside Frozen Daiquiris and a space-consuming Shuffleboard game, an order of five Crab-stuffed Hushpuppies bathed in Poblano Chili Butter and spicy Sauce served piping hot and creamy at their centers while the Fried Chicken Po’ Boy and Pizza with Biscuit Dough baked crunchy in a pan were full of stick-to-your-ribs goodness, the bun on the former every bit as good as Leidenheimer ‘s while each slice of the Gravy and Yolk-soaked Pie weighs in at about half-a-pound.
No doubt a more refined space upstairs, though the chilly April air and open windows certainly left something to be desired in terms of comfort while sitting on stools in a room where the music ranged from Mo-Town to early 2000’s Pop, it was after long perusal and a few drinks that the decision was made to order three rounds of plates, the server warning the group that it would be a rather substantial amount of food – the total bill with tax and automatic gratuity coming in at just under $600.
Dining with a multi-cultural group including a Chef and persons involved in the Arts, Law, Computer Programming and Medicine, all seasoned diners both in Los Angeles and elsewhere, it was with seven plates requested as part of the first course that dishes were slowly sent out as readied by the kitchen, opening bites of Grilled Yellow Street Corn not particularly “Creole” as much as they were Mexican with Pork Skins and Fresh Cheese while the Charred Octopus seemed more like a Spanish dish with the bitterness of Blood Oranges playing off the briny Anchovy sauce alongside the Cephalopod and fried Spuds.
No doubt a technique-driven kitchen, occasionally perhaps to their own detriment, a shallow plate of Housemade Andouille Sausage featuring locally-sourced Pork proved to be one of the early shining stars as the kitchen focused on simply nailing a classic without over-thinking, the Gorditas well placed as delivery mechanisms for the mashed Red Peas while the Roast Duck was served in the dry, dirty style common down South with Grits and reduced Huckleberries.
Going quite heavy with both Pasta and Cornbread, the latter served with tender bits of Offal mixed in as opposed to on top as one might guess while the Orecchietti themselves were overcooked and flaccid despite a cheesy mix of Crawfish and Tomatoes, those looking for something a touch lighter would be well advised to order the smooth spread described as “Sunburst Farms Trout Caviar,” the flavor of smoked Trout brightened by Sorghum and Meyer Lemon atop a soft pancake of Cornmeal.
Taking note of the sheer volume of ingredients the kitchen must have on hand as the meal pressed on, the ‘Shakshuka’ Eggplant served as a rather unattractive pile that nonetheless tasted good with buttered Brioche with the flavor of Feta offering a subtle bit of brine, the meal’s two biggest flops arrived as a one-two punch of acid and aggressive spices shortly thereafter, the fried Pork Cheek virtually inedible as the Pickled Radish and Vinegar overwhelmed the mushy Meat while the Roasted Carrots were inexplicably paired with sliced Baby Tomatoes that did nothing but mask their flavor amidst the Legumes cooked with far too much Marjoram.
Improving with the last three savories, both the Fried Game Hen and farmed Catfish served without a lot of fuss or complication, just time-honored technique plus some flaky Biscuits and Fried Pickles, those interested in a Vegetarian entrée would be well advised to investigate the Squash Blossom-stuffed Chile buried in Humboldt Fog, Corn and Lima Beans, the Pumpkin Seed “Mole” actually a Pipian and again more ‘Mexico’ than Louisiana, but delicious just the same.
Full but undeterred at this point, the service admittedly better than most places in Los Angeles with just enough ‘Southern Charm’ to work without seeming fake, Desserts represented a veritable ‘pick ‘em’ in terms of which was better amongst the 4 of 5 ordered, the signature Coffee Bread Pudding wrapped around Rice-Milk Ice Cream something like a spicy Tiramisu while the Key Lime Pie and Crisp beneath an enormous scoop of Ice Cream were straight-forward classics, the “Pate a Choux” Beignets not light and airy like those at Café du Monde, but instead these soft orbs of Butter and sweetness rich with boozy Bananas and Caramel.