A nod to his 1990's NYC restaurant, Chef Stephen Kalt's Spartina has finally landed on Melrose. With a beautiful, airy, expansive space featuring wood details, aesthetically, Spartina certainly fits in with the current restaurant trends, and has an upscale casual atmosphere. We love that there's a big outdoor patio, and with the chef's background in fine dining, the restaurant is approachable yet sophisticated. The menu is not only influenced by Kalt's experience with regional Italian cooking, but also the local farmer's markets and the diverse LA food scene; he often incorporates Mexican, Korean, and Chinese ingredients into his recipes. See below for some photos of the welcoming interior.
We began the meal with a few appetizers. The first was the Baked Eggplant, which was like an Eggplant Parmesan. The eggplant was cooked perfectly and was so tender; the dish was rich and delicious, and the tomato-y bites added both sweetness and acidity. We loved the eggplant dish, and would definitely return just for that!
Next were the Pork Meatballs. They were nice and crispy on the outside, and very meaty on the inside. They were a bit smokey and really flavorful, and we loved how the "salsa" (which reminded me a bit of a pesto) added both some moisture and acidity. Another great appetizer.
Our first entree was the Burrata Raviolo with featured a little smattering of uni on top. The raviolo was nicely rich and creamy, while the brine and fishiness of the uni added a really interesting element and beautifully balanced the dish. It was a really fun dish, and we really enjoyed it.
For our final entree, we got the Octopus and Bone Marrow pasta. Similarly to the Raviolo, the fishy flavor of the octopus balanced out the richness of the bone marrow and lent some serious complexity to what looks like an average pasta dish. Though I couldn't really see the bone marrow in the dish, it definitely impregnated the perfectly cooked pasta with meaty and fatty flavors. Another great dish.
Finally, we got the Mascarpone Panna Cotta for dessert. The panna cotta was really light and had a nice, creamy texture. I really enjoyed the added sweetness from the honey. The dessert wasn't too sweet, and was a nice way to finish out a fairly rich meal.
Overall, the food was fantastic. In each dish, we could sense the freshness of the local, farmer's market quality ingredients and the care that is put into everything. I particularly appreciated the complexity of each dish, as nothing we ordered was a standard or run-of-the-mill take. With their extensive wine list, Spartina is certainly a destination for a delicious but relatively fuss-free meal with friends, family, co-workers, a significant other, or any occasion. However, we do have to mention that the service was not spectacular (but it was pretty quick!). Our waiter seemed to lack enthusiasm for the restaurant (in contrast to the stellar, enthusiastic service we've received at places like The Rose), and we really had to push him to walk us through the menu and give us meaningful suggestions. The service, though, did not detract from how much we enjoyed the meal overall, and we could easily see ourselves coming back for more.