To say that I’m a big fan of Chef Josef Centeno would be an understatement. He’s a culinary genius, and when I heard about his new restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, Orsa and Winston, I couldn’t have been more excited.
This time around, Centeno decided to go with a tasting-menu-only, Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant. He chose a location not far from his other downtown LA ventures: his revered Mexican-style eatery Bar Amá and his critically acclaimed first restaurant Bäco Mercat.
Ever wonder where a restaurant gets its name? This restaurant is actually named for Centeno’s two little dogs, Orsa & Winston! (No, that’s not a joke).
Before dining at any popular restaurant in Los Angeles, certain preparations do need to be made. For example: how to get there? Where to park? Are reservations necessary? These are all things that need to be taken into consideration before heading out for the night.
Orsa & Winston is a pretty small restaurant. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to wait for a table, than I would suggest making a reservation. You can never know when a restaurant will be crowded or not. Generally the place isn’t over packed, but it is pretty popular, so there is definitely a good amount of people. If you want to make a reservation, you can do so online, but if you have a party bigger than 6 people, you have to email them about it.
Parking may be a bit tough. There’s no parking lot, so you’ll have to get parking on the street. If you go there at night when it’s crowded, just make sure to get in early enough to give yourself time to park.
The Greatness of Chef Josef Centeno
Owner and Chef Josef Centeno studied at the Culinary Institute of America. His career started in New York, where he worked at Daniel, La Côte Basque and Les Célébrités. He also served as the executive chef at Meson G and Opus in DTLA, and previously, the chef de cuisine at Manresa in Los Gatos, California. Josef and Bäco Mercat have been in the L.A. Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Food & Wine and Bon Appetit, to name a few. He also has been nominated for the prestigious James Beard award.
Taking a look inside Orsa and Winston restaurant
The restaurant itself is extremely enjoyable. Small, yet spacious. Modern yet refined. The kitchen is open but serves as a backdrop. It’s quiet and serene. What really had me surprised was that I didn’t feel like I was squished. I had expected the restaurant to feel pretty crowded due to its small size, but this was not the case. They arranged the restaurant in a way that everyone has their own space and doesn’t feel the real size of the place. Arranging the restaurant in a way to make most of the space is pretty hard to do, so I definitely give them props for that.
An Orsa and Winston lunch has a really intimate and romantic feel. I would definitely recommend coming here on a first date or with someone you want to be close to. The restaurant seats up to 32 people, so as you can imagine, it’s a pretty cozy environment.
For anyone who likes to be “part of the action” when it comes to the kitchen, this is definitely a good place to go. They have an open kitchen, which allows you to see everything (and yes that means everything) that’s going on behind the scenes.
From the moment I walked in, I got these amazing vibes from the staff at Orsa & Winston. In most Los Angeles restaurants, the service feels rushed, unhelpful, and disorganized; however, that was not the case here. I was pleasantly surprised to find my waitress friendly, informative, and attentive.
After one time being there, I already felt as if I was a ‘regular’ in their eyes. Each customer that I saw being served was treated the exact same way. It’s hard to find hard-working individuals that actually care about people. I was really able to appreciate the fast and efficient work of the staff there. I was served in just a few minutes after I ordered and I have never seen anything like it!
6 course tasting menu
The Orsa and Winston menu is pretty unique. Every day the menu completely changes so it’s hard to have a ‘favorite dish’ there. I decided to go with the 6 course tasting menu and I was happy that I did!
What’s on the menu?
- Fresh tofu, ome gelee, black rice granola
- Kanpachi with late winter citrus, Chile, nori delta asparagus, soft poached egg, black truffle duck liver conserva, caramel root vegetables, crème fraiche
- Pork testa dumpling, spring garlic, abalone, spigarello, almond milk
- Satsuki rice porridge and uni 30-day dry age New York tartare, bone marrow, germolata
- Dry aged duck, cherry blossom, pear mostarda
- Hot chocolate and dulcey ice cream
All 6 courses came to $80. Usually a place like this with such high end cuisine would be more expensive so I found the price to be reasonable.
The fresh tofu, uni gelee and black rice granola – I found the tofu was ridiculously soft and thought it went well with the granola and uni. It was super delicate but delicious. I like granola with just about everything, so overall this was a great way to start off the meal.
The Kanpachi with late winter citrus, chile, nori – I wasn’t sure about this dish when I saw it, but in the end it was amazing. All of the flavors blended together so perfectly, I don’t know how they did it, but you literally can taste each unique flavor in everything in the dish.
The pork testa dumpling, spring garlic- This was the most exiting part of my night. The dish was probably one of my favorite courses, but I’m biased because I am obsessed with dumplings. Came with two little dumplings that were full of flavor in each bite.
The satsuki rice porridge and uni- This dish I was a bit worried about because I am not a fan of rice porridge or uni, but after tasting it warmed up to the tastes and textures and I actually liked it.
The dry aged duck, cherry blossom, pear mostarda – this dish was brilliant! They brought out the full duck for us to see and that made us sort of sad. However, once we got the dish, everything was forgotten. The duck was prepared two ways and the sauces were so amazing and different (in a good way); the mostarda was like a pear mustard and it was tart but slightly sweet.
The hot chocolate & dulcey ice cream – Loved this! There’s always room for dessert! They came over and poured the chocolate sauce on our plate, but I wish they just left the whole cup for us to eat. Even though it was called a hot chocolate, it was more like a lava cake and it was DIVINE. I’m a big dessert person so I have to say this was my favorite thing to eat all night.
As a bonus dish I got the chawanmushi: also biased because I love chawanmushi and I grew up eating this stuff, but this was AMAZING! It was so soft and custard-y. Just delicious. This went great with my meal.
Also loved the grapefruit shaved ice with pear custard. It was nice and tart, and a great palate cleanser. Fantastic job!
I happen to be someone who’s pretty big in the wine area, so I was really excited to see their wine menu. Lucky for me, I knew exactly what I wanted! The wine list is pretty cool and it attracts wine lovers from just about everywhere.
The wine menu that they offer is HUGE so below you’ll find some of my personal favorite wine choices from their menu.
Domaine Achard Vincent Clairette De Die ‘Brut’, NV
Guy Larmandier ‘Vertus’ Brut 1er Cru Champagne, NV
Olivier Larochette Crémant De Bourgogne Rosé, NV
Doyard ‘Oeil De Perdrix’ Brut Grand Cru Rosé Champagne, 2007
Veyder Malberg ‘Hochrain’ Grüner Veltliner Wachau 2012
Habit Wine Co. ‘Mcginley Vineyard’ Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley 2013
Guiberteau ‘Clos Des Guichaux’ Saumur 2011
Guiberteau ‘Clos De Carmes’ Saumur 2009
Saint Cyr Beaujolais Rosé 2010
Sandhi Rosé Santa Rita Hills 2013
Podere Le Boncie ‘Cinque’ Rosso Di Toscana 2012
Digioia Royer Chambolle-Musigny Ac 2011
Albert Morot Beaune 1er Cru ‘Teurons’ 1993
Giovanni Montisci ‘Barrosu’ Cannonau Di Sardegna Riserva 2010
At the end of the day
Dining at Orsa & Winston has been an experience that I won’t easily forget. Everything about my time there was close to perfect.
Orsa & Winston is a fantastic example of an excellent chef’s imagination. This is a place where loud music and very good wine and all the inspirational food absorbed over a career of cooking are allowed to run wild. It’s also a fascinating step toward a new generation’s model for fine dining. You should absolutely get yourself the next reservation at this amazing place!
If your looking for a place that’s close to home and full of amazing surprises than Orsa & Winston is the place you need to be. Amazing service, fantastic food, and good vibes all around. What are you waiting for?