Connie & Ted’s: LA Restaurant Review
Second stop on our 2018 “Must Visit Before We Move Out of LA” Food Tour (last stop was Sqirl and next week is… well, we’re not sure yet, but we’re going to have a nice, romantic meal at The Ponte on Valentine’s Day) is Connie & Ted’s. Connie & Ted’s is a restaurant based on a New England love story featuring, well, Connie & Ted who are this restaurant owner’s grandparents. When you think New England, you perhaps think lobster or clam chowder or some kind of seafood–and that’s what Connie & Ted’s is all about! The restaurant is huge with plenty of staff and it is everything seafood. Obviously, expectations are high based on their reputation, perennial presence on Mr. Gold’s 101 Best List, etc.
While I might not quite be a native New Englander, my family goes back for generations in New England, so I’m pretty sure I have chowda in my veins and the smell of seafood stuck in my sinuses, so I was a harsh critic! Still, overall, this was a good meal and we’d consider coming back, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Starting with their appetizers, I could’ve used more smoke in the mackerel dip, and the homemade crackers had no structural integrity. They fell apart holding the dip and failed to provide that textural contrast the dish needed. Just load on the smoke, some more salt and the flavor would have been outstanding… that piece of fish could handle it. From the flight of chowders, the only one that succeeded in the realm of flavor was the Manhattan. The sweetness of the tomatoes had this addictive quality. None of the three had more than a small piece of clam in them with a potato here and there. If you’re paying for the broth it better be good, and the New England was beyond bland. Also, when I saw that it said “No Thickeners” on the menu, I assumed that meant no artificial thickeners. I was wrong, completely, as all three of the soups were watery. That’s right, the New England clam chowder was just as thin as the Manhattan. The fried calamari was the winning appetizer, which I didn’t see coming. They were well-fried, and oh-so-juicy on the inside. They were extremely well-salted, and while the red sauce was nothing more than just okay, the orange sauce had beautiful hints of heat, acid and this beautiful creaminess.
The wine was nothing special in terms of tone and it was also a pretty small glass. Fortunately, they get a ton of credit in the realm of service (no surprise with their fleet of staff) for always keeping our glasses of iced water full. Also, we were notified when our waiter was going on break and introduced to the person taking over… extremely professional! They somewhat redeemed themselves when we made it to the entrees. I will say that the breadsticks/crostini that were served with each of our mains were oily. I’m not a huge fan of grease-saturated bread in general. I took one bite of one and, in an unprecedented move, didn’t touch them again. You know something is really bad when I leave it on the table as we walk out the door.
My Portuguese stew was packed with some signature flavor. It was well-salted with plenty of heat in the broth and a beautiful fattiness from the linguica. It was a bit disheartening that once again, there was far from an abundance of quality seafood, but the linguica saved the dish. The catch of the day (some form of whitefish) was overcooked and its flavor was completely taken over by the broth. Still, the dish was enjoyable, but didn’t come anywhere near its potential, which seemed to be the theme of the night. (Lots of technical flaws.) The clams and mussels was also well-salted with a beautifully developed and complex heat to the broth, and while there were nearly as many empty shells (and one unopened clam) in this dish, the brininess and seafood flavor sang in full effect, finally.
At $135 for the two of us, it was by no means an incredibly expensive dinner, but there were too many technical flaws and missed opportunity throughout the meal to justify that price tag. The chefs need to be more mindful serving the flight of chowders, and dealing with the dessert. Speaking of which, I couldn’t hide my excitement at the thought of eating a delicious blondie for dessert. Blondies were one of my favorite baked goods growing up and I haven’t had many in the past decade. Unfortunately, it was pretty bad. If it wasn’t for those breadsticks, it would have hands down been the worst part of the meal. (We did finish it.) The caramel was cloyingly sweet and borderline burnt. The blondie itself was also overcooked to the point that it had burnt a bit on the outside, leaving us with an acrid taste in our mouth as we walked out the door.
At the end of the day, we enjoyed ourselves due to the great dining atmosphere, including an appearance from one of our favorite actors. Still, we can’t get over the fact that our meal should’ve cost nearly half of what we paid, due to a lack of quality in certain products. Whether it was from poor dish construction or an error in the cooking process, those mistakes are inexcusable at a restaurant with this reputation, with a staff that large that looked far from busy on and off the line throughout the meal. Still, we’d consider returning for some of the other eye-pleasing menu items, although we’d be much more careful and edit our ordering. Thanks for reading and, as always, stay hungry and fit!