Stefan’s at LA Farm

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Amongst the vastness of the city there lay a lonely stretch of road. They called it West Olympic Boulevard, I prefer ‘Cemetery Drive’. A place where a business can go to slowly fade away into nothingness. The scents of yesteryear have dissipated into the stark night and the rustle of a solemn tumbleweed forms the only sense of company. Beneath the glow of a neon sign a building stands, a place of hospitality, a dining establishment. Built for the purpose of entertaining the hordes of transparent spectres that line the streets in that lonely spot. It’s name, ‘Stefan’s at LA Farm’.

The scene was set for a dining experience I’d rather forget than reminisce about, purely for the sake that it saddens me. There is no love at all at Stefan’s. No love for food, no love for the restaurant itself, no self respect. The large ex-office space still retains that soulless feel. The dining room is littered with vacant tables, harsh spotlights accentuate the emptiness. The restaurant looks unfinished, even though it has been open since 2009. There’s even a ragged curtain covering the hallway to a suspect restroom, akin to one you might find in a bus station. The dining room is reminiscent of a communal area at a pensioners’ home, only with less atmosphere. Although the association shares a common notion of impending death.

The patio area has more of an intimate vibe it must be said but only two servers look after both dining areas. It’s almost like they’ve anticipated the lack of diners. The service is found wanting, not awful but unapparent. From the aspiring actresses with their heads in Hollywood clouds, to the busboys that throw cutlery down like house keys at the end of the day, nobody cares. Frankly neither do I. There’s no reason anyone could hold their head up high in a place so devoid of passion and dignity.

The menu sounded interesting, the kind of American style food that gets the mouth watering. Everyday snack foods elevated to restaurant quality and hearty sounding, more refined mains. Don’t believe everything you read. The “truffle arancini” were truly disgusting. I love arancini and without a shadow of a doubt they were the worst I’ve ever tasted. There was absolutely no truffle flavour whatsoever, it had been replaced by a greasy fish taste. It’s as if they had been fried in old oil used the day before.

The “crispy pork belly” was as limp as the male population here at the pensioners’ home. Maybe the chef should’ve garnished it with some deep-fried blue pills, at least they would’ve had crunch. There was also a sickly sweet pear salad of some sort and a bowl of mini corn dogs which would’ve had stiff competition from the frozen food section at Kwik-E-Mart. The only saving grace was a dish we almost didn’t order, the “pretzel dumplings & creamy mushroom sauce”. I genuinely really enjoyed it, rich, unctuous and full of flavour. I’m still not entirely sure what it was but it tasted great. The mains were nothing to write home about either. The lamb was overcooked but the curry roasted romanesco & truffle grits were great accompaniments. The other dishes were distinctly average.

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Pretzel Dumplings, creamy mushroom sauce

All in all a thorough disappointment. The manager later emerged after we had voiced our displeasure at the experience. I hadn’t seen her all evening up until this point. A bad sign considering she should have been one of the first people we saw as we entered the restaurant. She handled the situation well and knocked off the dishes we had the most complaints about. She also brought us a tasteless ice-cream lollipop dessert on the house to sweeten us up. She was incredibly apologetic and dealt with everything very professionally. To be honest we weren’t in bad spirits anyway, the evening was a lot of fun. Mainly due to the steady flow of martinis and amusing conversations had at the restaurant’s expense.

So what can be said about Stefan’s at LA Farm. For a chef like Stefan Richter, who is well known for his accolades in TV’s “Top Chef”, it’s a puzzling shame to see such a lack of care in a restaurant with his name above the door. Maybe the place has just aged badly after the hype fizzled out. Although I don’t believe it ever filled its potential. Maybe in all the media frenzy it lost its soul amongst grand ideas of big business and dollar signs. One thing’s for sure, it’s location on death row has done it no favours. Will you make the journey out into the barren wasteland to eat at Stefan’s at LA Farm? Not unless there was a resemblance to an actual farm and not an abattoir.

D.
Stefan’s at LA Farm
3000 Olympic Blvd
Santa Monica
CA 90404

+1 310 449 4000
http://www.stefansrestaurants.com

 

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