Once upon a time, I conjured up an idea of how the perfect diet would go. It involved everything fresh and bright: lots of vegetables, even more fruit -- particularly figs, ripe and tender -- salads dressed with grassy olive oil, the most vibrant colors splashing every plate. Meat consumption would be slim, but would come in the form of seafood and the occasional bit of red meat -- if not cured or smoked and sliced impossibly thin, then definitely grilled. Wine, prosecco, minty ades all would be part of the discourse. And everything would be eaten outside. Maybe it's a little silly, but over the years, my friends and I have spent inordinate amounts of time developing The Philosophy. And this weekend at Cube on La Brea, it came to life.
This tiny spot used to be the Divine Pasta Company, and still has an Italian bent: the menu covers an extensive list of artisanal cheeses, panini, and pasta -- Divine Pasta, of course, including a wide variety of ravioli -- as well as gorgeous salads, vegetable sides, and meatier mains. I swooned over how well the menu understood the spirit of the Philosophy: dishes like grilled prawns with salsa verde, or summer cantaloupe with black pepper, olive oil, and ricotta were summer incarnate. We ordered light: a cheese flight, a ravioli dish, and a salad.
A meal on Cube's front patio is festive. While, admittedly, our server seemed a little bored with the proceedings, he did adhere to the no-corkage policy, so a few twists of the corkscrew and we were adding to the bubbly chatter of the small sidewalk space. Even the cheese was living it up: along with a nutty 3-year provolone, ciambella all'aglio, and 2 kinds of salumi, we also got ubriaco al prosecco -- a cow's milk cheese that's bathed as it ages in all the grape stuff that's left over from making Prosecco -- all sitting happily on a slab of chalkboard marked with their names. The pasta was a delight too -- rapini and pecorino ravioli with brown butter and sage.
The prize of the night was the salad though, with even its name sounding like it had been preened and primped for hours by a food stylist: first of the season pink pear apples, speck, shaved fennel & red cow parmesan with acetoria apple balsamic vinegar. Perfect half-discs of fresh apple had it looking like a piece of modern art, and flavors clamored for attention like a bunch of rascally kids: smoky, pungent, nutty, sweet, even a pleasant bitterness.
Top it all off with a Valrhona chocolate lava cake, as decadent and deeply chocolaty as it sounds, oozing into vanilla bean gelato. (Perhaps you'd say this dessert was a little heavy for our summery Philosophy, to which, in this case I would reply, philosophies were made to be broken.)
Cube is casual but thoughtful food. It's got a cafe atmosphere (in fact, the shop itself sells take-home pasta, artisanal cheeses, gourmet olive oils and much more, but all this is lost in shadows at night), but with its no-corkage policy, seasonal produce and quality ingredients, a informal meal here becomes something special. I guess that's what The Philosophy's all about.
Cube is at 615 N. La Brea Ave., between Clinton and Melrose.