Café Pinot

This romantic spot celebrates the season with a new chef and new flavors

By Grace Jidoun

With its floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary dining room overlooking the tranquil Maguire Gardens of the historic Central Library, and a patio that promises a singularly transporting experience, this leafy oasis in the middle of Downtown consistently ranks as one of LA’s most romantic spots. But not content to rest on these laurels, Café Pinot is bringing out some new tricks, courtesy of new chef Phillip Martin. To celebrate, Blackboard Eats subscribers are treated to a special four-course menu of Cal-French cuisine reimagined by the rule-breaking, sustainability-loving chef from East LA.

Six months ago, Martin came aboard this elegant grande dame and, as he says, “flipped the menu, adding more textures, flavors,” and enchanting surprises. Schooled in classic French technique through stints at Patina, Ludobites, and Bouley in New York, Martin infuses elegance into his cooking-from-the-gut style.

Created specially for Blackboard Eat subscribers, the exclusive “Winter Solstice” menu begins with a refreshing salad of chicory, pomegranate seeds, blood orange, and walnuts. Decadent creaminess from balls of fried fromage blanc complements the nutty, citrusy salad.

Take advantage of the well-priced wine list—a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine du Vieux Lazaret is the perfect way to prep your palate for the second course.
Get ready for an “unforgettable” night, as the West Coast premiere of Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole comes to the Geffen Playhouse on February 5 starring Dulé Hill and Daniel J. Watts. Set around the final broadcast of Cole’s groundbreaking NBC variety show—the first program hosted by an African American—the musical explores Cole’s struggle to break through America’s color barrier in the early days of television, as well as his enduring musical legacy, with hits like “Nature Boy,” “It’s a Good Day,” and “Smile.” Fresh off a sold-out run in Philadelphia, the production promises to bring the house down. BBE subscribers can score 30 percent off tickets, by using code BBENKC at checkout.

Valid on performances February 5 through 22 only. Excludes price level 3 tickets. Service fee applies. No ticket limit. Offer expires December 16 or while supplies last.
Martin has a sixth sense for unusual combinations of ingredients, and the second course is where his creativity goes full tilt, and you can choose from from two options. The first, a beautiful, MOMA-worthy composition of wild mushrooms—whatever seasonal windfall Martin might come into. Drizzled with a Béarnaise sauce, the wild mushrooms are accompanied by a mustard seed “caviar” and a red wine shallot jam that provide a counterpoint to the richness. The second choice is a deceptively difficult dish of Wagyu beef tongue that has been braised for three hours, resulting in meat tender enough to cut with a fork. Martin pairs it with a bright broccoli mole he came up with one day while experimenting in the kitchen.

Settle in under the twinkling patio lights with a complex red, like Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Siduri, but you’re not done yet. A locally sourced Jidori chicken entrée awaits, with meat so flavorful the curried squash and Cipollini onions on the plate recede into the background. And as satisfying as the chicken is, who can resist a dish that Martin describes as “a happy fish that tastes of the sea.” Striped bass sourced from Pacifico, a sustainable fishery in Baja, comes with sunchokes, salsify, and charred leeks that jibe with the fish’s robust flavor.

End the meal choosing from two desserts that embody luxury without a big show. Buttermilk panna cotta with fresh berries offers a discreet sweetness that might leave you feeling lighter than when you started. But the poached figs mixed with honey mascarpone, walnuts, and torn croissants will win over your heart—at least for the evening.

BBE exclusive 4-course Winter Solstice dinner for two ($80)

First course (one per person)
Crispy fromage blanc salad—chicory, pear, citrus, pomegranate, and walnut

Second course (choice of one per person)
Forager’s Pick—wild mushroom, red wine shallot jam, mustard seed caviar, and Béarnaise
Beef tongue—salsa roja, pearl onion, broccolini, and cilantro

Third course (choice of one per person)
Jidori chicken breast—cipollini onion, carrot, butternut squash, and vadouvan
Market Fish—salsify, sunchoke, charred alliums, and Meyer lemon
Arborio rice porridge—cauliflower, corn, and black truffle

Dessert (choice of one per person)
Poached figs—honey mascarpone, walnut, croissant, and red wine
Panna cotta—mixed berries, citrus, and mint


Lunch: Mon–Fri 11:30 AM–2:30 PM
Happy Hour: Tues-Fri 2:30-6PM
Dinner: Tue–Thu 5PM–9 PM; Fri-Sat 5PM–10PM

price range

$11 (Forager’s Pick) to $30 (steak au poivre)