Though the vertiginous prices at Capo make this “modern Italian” more suitable for a splurge than an ordinary night out, vegetarian foodies should put it high on their list for a very special evening (in our case, a second anniversary dinner). We may have spent a bundle, but the brilliance and variety of the food, not to mention the ambience of this candlelit cabin steps away from the Santa Monica beach (1810 Ocean Ave., just north of Pico), made us feel that we had gotten the better part of the bargain. The key to this experience is the vegetable tasting menu, an eight-course bonanza that changes along with the rhythms of the farmers’ market. Since there were two of us, and since the kitchen generously provided us with different items in all but two instances, our eight courses stretched into fourteen. Nor were we stuffed at the end of the meal. The portions were all moderate, with an appropriate emphasis on quality rather than quantity. The effect was of a magical mystery tour through the land of vegetables, each course a delightful surprise, each ingredient gently prodded to give its very best performance in a stirring ensemble. The meal began with pillowy ricotta-stuffed ravioli plated in a buttery, slightly garlicky sauce and topped with razor-thin slivers of truffle. For the next course, we were treated to Holland white asparagus in an exquisite butter sauce, and an elegant square of eggplant seated atop a ratatouille-style stew of zucchini and tomato. The asparagus was tender, almost juicy, and yet still held on to a slight, pleasing crunch. The creamy eggplant had a grilled taste; the ratatouille a strong tomato tang. For the third course, we were delighted with two dainty teacups of soup, a cream-topped carrot-ginger, with an initial bite followed by a mellow warmth, and a creamy mushroom made with fresh porcini, earthy and intensely flavorful. The next round riffed on gorgeous heirloom tomatoes: In one dish, they were chopped into a salad with deliciously bitter arugula and plated with creamy, slightly sour fresh buffalo mozzarella; in the other, they were grouped with cauliflower and brussels sprouts in a butter sauce, all revolving around a silky glob of burrata topped with delicate green beans. For the fifth course, there were Lyon artichoke and grilled romaine. The artichoke plate included leaves grilled on a skewer, ready to be dipped in a garlicky aioli, and tender hearts chopped into a green salad with tomato. The grilled romaine, in a kind of reinvented Caesar salad with croutons and a garlicky cream sauce, made us look on this humble green with new eyes. Just when we thought things could not get any better, the sixth course, our entrée, arrived, a creamy, corny, sticky polenta encircled by a colorful array of pan-fried vegetables (cauliflower, red and yellow beets, brussels sprouts, carrot, and leek); meaty, gamey wild mushrooms, including a salty, squid-like clump; and pomodoro sauce, a potent concentration of tomato flavor. Courses seven and eight were dessert, including little cups of ice cream (vanilla and fragrant, nutty pistachio) and sorbet (raspberry and tangerine); rhubarb pie with a tender crust and a scoop of unsweetened whipped cream on the side; a Meyer lemon semifreddo topped with blueberries that burst with fruitiness; and a plate of cookies and chocolates (walnutty chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, and a crunchy biscotto). We savored every bite of this epic feast, and we eagerly await the next excuse to lighten our wallets at this refined, romantic spot. Our third anniversary won’t come a day too soon.


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