With a $22 dineLA lunchtime deal and a new chef, Yuji Iwasa — who took over from Joseph Panarello who took over for opening chef Shelly Cooper — we wanted a chance to taste the new creations.
Perhaps a pot pie evokes memories of oven-warmed freezer pies swimming in gluey white sauce or that reliable, comforting standard-bearer from Marie Callender's.
At any rate, it probably evokes meat and/or vegetables encased in pie crust. To this traditionalist school of thinking, Iwasa's post-modern pot pie is the glamorous antidote.
The crust is a flaky round mound of filo dough. It's not underneath or encasing anything. It's perched atop al dente vegetables coated in a translucent sauce halfway between broth and gravy. Could we do without the large, woody chunks that turned out to be hearts of palm? Yes. Could we do with more kick in the seasoning? Certainly. Do we appreciate the crisp vegetables, the elegant presentation, the effort at lightening a dish expressly meant to stick to your ribs? Absolutely.
In contrast to the pared down Waldorf salad (grapes and cherry tomatoes?!) and the chic pot pie, First & Hope's butterscotch pudding spares no ingredient in its quest for excess. Yes, butterscotch pudding is the molten chocolate cake of the new millennium. So what?
While First & Hope's chocolate bread pudding is more chocolate in name than actuality, the butterscotch pudding is two inches of quivering custard tinged with essence of burnt sugar. Not quite indulgent enough, it's topped with enough sticky butterscotch to make a dentist weep and graced with a dollop of whipped cream.
If pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez's legendary butterscotch budino at Mozza is a note-perfect symphony of harmony and restraint, then First & Hope's version is like listening to a thundering rock opera at full-bast on your headphones. We say: Turn up the volume.