My sister, Ashley, and her boyfriend, Adam, were in town earlier this week and they decided that they wanted to try the Stinking Rose. A whole menu made around garlic sounded a little bit overkill to me but Adam is a big fan of garlic and I, being somewhat of an amateur I-think-I-can-make-anything chef, was interested in trying it as well.
Walking into the Stinking Rose, on La Cienega in Hollywood, I was surprised to see that it was rather dark. I had only seen it from the outside before and I had assumed, from the nondescript, white building, that it would have a normal amount of light, like most restaurants. There were tables and booths that had canopies of draped, rich cloth and snakes of garlic adorning the walls. The colors stayed close to the dark theme, being deep shades of red, green, gold, and blue. The whole place had the feeling of coven being taken over, the original decorations remaining intact, and shielded from being taken back by the previous occupant with a plethora of garlic. I liked it.
Our pleasant waiter smiled his “I know I’m being overly nice, but I need your money” smile and took our drink and appetizer order. We went for simplicity for the first part of the meal with a small, cast iron skilled filled with roasted cloves of garlic in oil. They were caramelized and soft enough to be spread over the soft dinner roles that come with every visit. Delicious. There was a little dish on every table filled with a spread of what tasted like diced fresh garlic and parsley in oil. The raw garlic made it a little spicy and it paired wonderfully with the caramelized garlic appetizer. As we enjoyed the beginning of our meal, Ashley and Adam talked about how the smell of garlic seeps out of your skin if you eat too much. According to them, you can’t get rid of the smell for days. After telling them to stop being disgusting and that it is not true, I decided I’d had enough garlic appetizer and that I was going to wait for my food. Purely coincidental.
Ashley, who is not a very big eater, got the shrimp Caesar salad; Adam, who eats everything, got a huge seafood platter with mussels, shrimp, and crab, all of it coated in a very garlicky butter (with more on the side, of course); and I got Gnocchi with asparagus in a garlic, gorgonzola sauce. In case you are not familiar, Gnocchi is a small potato dumpling, most often described as potato pasta. It’s very good, but can be heavy and doughy tasting if not made correctly. Their Gnocchi was actually called Gnoccheti, which just meant that the Gnocchi was smaller than the normal size, and very light and fluffy. My asparagus was a little overcooked, but the sauce was to die for. It was thick and rich with just the right amount of garlic and a hint of gorgonzola, which can be an overwhelming cheese. I would definitely order it again (on a calorie splurge day).
Ashley got a Caesar salad, so how much can I say about that? You can never go wrong with a Caesar salad. Adam’s mussels were a little burned, but the crab was superb and the shrimp were cooked just right (he let me try some).
I wouldn’t recommend it as a date place, if only for the high garlic factor, but I would love to go back with a group of friends or on a night that I need some alone time, sit at the bar, order some seafood and a glass of white wine, and just be. And no, I did not smell like garlic the next day.