Orsa & Winston
Orsa & Winston was once one of the most coveted reservations in LA, a Downtown gem serving creative Japanese and Italian dishes no one had ever seen before. It was a place we were excited to bring friends to try everything from chicken katsu sandwiches to scallop chowder with pickled grapes to chilled soba noodles with pesto, uni, and abalone.
But sadly, after years of pandemic-related tweaks and changes, it's hard to see what the point is anymore.
Photos by Jakob Layman
Our last meal here was disappointing. There’s now only a single tasting menu at night, an unfocused mishmash of Euro-Asian dishes. Between the modern design scheme, open kitchen, and jazz playing in the background, you get the sense you’re supposed to be impressed. People wear cashmere and speak in hushed tones; wine is explained by thoughtful sommeliers intent on having a conversation with you. But at $125 per person ($205 with the wine pairing, even more with the automatic 20% service charge), we shouldn’t just “get the sense” that we’re impressed—we should feel the damn thing.
Although we’ve enjoyed Orsa & Winston in the past, its current state feels uninspired, like a time capsule stuck in another era. Except for the squid ink pasta—a delightful dish tossed in parmesan and amped up with meyer lemon—nothing on the formal is memorable. The artichoke soup is fine but arrives with a mushy coddled egg that doesn’t need to be there. There’s a bay scallop, a peanut-sized thing, that should taste nice and clean but is instead obscured with tomato sauce. In short, we don’t blame Orsa & Winston for what they look like now. The last few years have been hard, and to think that restaurants wouldn’t change accordingly is simply a fairy tale. We believe the real Orsa & Winston will come back, but we’re just going to have to wait for it a little bit longer.
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5 Course Menu
Unless you’re one of those people who skip to the Food Rundown without reading the review, you know that there’s only one thing on Orsa & Winston's menu: the five-course prix-fixe. Which many not seem like a lot at first, but in true fancy tasting-menu fashion, your server will drop at least four-to-six additional dishes at the table seemingly at random, and we foudn that these were better than the headliners. On our last visit, we had cornbread drenched in butter and a thick slice of kanpachi sashimi, for instance. And for anyone with even the slightest interest in wine, get the wine pairing. The sommelier will explain where the glasses came from like a classmate gossiping at school, not to mention enhance the excellent drinking experience as a whole.