Do you ever have those weeks where you find yourself drawn to certain activities, certain articles, certain conversations that all somehow congeal into a new attitude or understanding about life? That happened to me and it led me to the restaurant I’m writing about today.
The first thing I read was by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a journalist for The New York Times and a person who does not cook. It’s not that she does not cook well; she does not cook anything ever. Her theory is, unlike an article written on parchment and saved potentially forever, there’s no permanence in the creation of a meal. I would disagree. The memory of a fabulous meal stays with most people longer than any newspaper article. It’s all about the feeling you have while eating. The pleasure receptors that are stimulated create a permanent change in one’s nervous system, inexplicable to be sure, but profound.
Then I read about Jeff Gordinier, compiler of Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants List. What rubric did he use? What algorithm or methodology? After contemplating this, Gordinier decided the crucial factor was “How did the restaurant make me feel? Better or worse? Would I go back? Would I send my friends there?” I realized that, without putting a name to it, that’s what I’ve been doing all these 10-plus years as restaurant reviewer at the Los Angeles Times and the Pasadena Weekly. How did a particular restaurant make me feel? Bored? Inspired? In love with the art of cuisine? Shocked by new flavor combinations? Bowled over by a chef’s careful preparation so that the love is palpable, tastable? This is what I’m looking for in a restaurant and what I crave to share with readers.
Then I went on the Sunland-Tujunga Open Studio Art Tour. The caliber of work was so good I went back the next day. I hungered to take in more of the artistic output I witnessed again and again. Some of the artists clearly make a good living off their work, others just manage but all seem equally content and energized by their chosen discipline. I’m beginning to see that concentration, effort to create something pleasing, something that improves the momentary experience, is what brings true happiness.
Finally, I went to the Glendale International Film Festival. Here were filmmakers and film enthusiasts of all ages pouring their hearts and souls into their art, their way of conveying the beautiful.
With all this floating through my mind, I began to wonder what restaurant in recent memory makes me feel this way. The one that came to mind was Casa Córdoba, a very special place in the heart of the Montrose Shopping Park. Casa Córdoba is not just a place to eat dinner; it’s a place to have an immersive experience. Nibbling on payoya goat cheese and jamón ibérico made from black pig, sipping cold, minerally Tempranillo wine, allowing strains of classic Spanish guitar to caress your ears, letting your eyes wander over geranium filled pots and trickling fountains in the enchanting courtyard —- it’s an experience that fills your senses in a profound way.
Jeannie and Chris Bone don’t use books or the Internet to create this immersive experience. This isn’t a theme restaurant. They have visited Córdoba in the Andalusian region of Spain many times. They try to go back once a year, sometimes bringing their chefs and employees with them. My guess is they’ll someday live there but until then they’ve created a convincing microcosm of their favorite city in the world. The unhurried attitude of Southern Spain exists here, yet the service is top notch to the point where the owner will stop by your table just to discuss the loveliness of the evening before tending to your dining needs. It’s almost more like a play than a food service enterprise.
Taking the theater concept to new heights, Casa Córdoba has started a monthly flamenco show. I can think of no better environment to enjoy the thrill and passion of the bold dance style. Their next show will be Dec. 7 at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. The show is presented “tablao” style with the dining around the dance floor inside. They can handle 24 people per session so reservations are a must. It’s an extra $20 on top of your dinner bill, but it’s great fun.
If you’d rather not have foot stomping with your fritas, you can always eat on the beautiful patio near the bubbling fountain. On most nights, there’s a classical or flamenco guitarist sitting and strumming on the tile steps. The lighting is absolutely perfect and they’ve just expanded table service into a front patio if you’d rather do people watching along Honolulu in Montrose.
So what do I get at Casa Cordoba? The seafood paella is remarkable. The rice tastes like fire and iron and lemon and saffron and garlic. The shrimp, mussels and white fish of the day are juicy and tender. There is a salad that never disappoints and tastes great with their outstanding charcuteria plates. Called the ensalada de remolacha, it’s a chopped mixture of red oak lettuce, beets, kale, goat cheese, marcona almonds, raisins, raspberries and honey citrus dressing. Not too sweet, not too sharp and quite hearty.
I find I tend to go there for tapas. It’s a great place to meet friends for flights of craft beers and house-made sangria while noshing on small plates like marinated anchovies or cured tuna on toast points or sherry-braised Spanish octopus with potato pulp, chorizo, manchego and charred lettuce. The croquettes are filled with an ultra creamy ham and chicken mixture. My husband calls them delicious deep-fried clam chowder. A popular item I’m not a fan of is the queso fundido, a sort of hot cheese dip. Too much gooey cheese for me. Just give me a glass of Allagash Curieux Belgian Tripel and a bowl of those spectacular olives and I’m good.
Save room for the wonderful biscocho de almendre, a rich almond flour cake in tres leches broth studded with strawberries and topped with cinnamon ice cream. Quite a voluptuous adventure.
Take in the artistic experience created by owners Jeannie and Chris Bone, chef Erik Zeda, and the friendly staff at Casa Córdoba. Afterward, I believe you will feel better than when you went in.
2331 Honolulu Ave., | Montrose | (818) 937-4445
Beer and Wine/Major Cards