The restaurant is a hidden gem in the truest sense of the words. Located on Riverside Drive, just east of Lankershim Blvd, and literally tucked behind a row of other stores, it’s only visual representation is a large, lit sign perched high above. While there is street parking, valet is at the end of a driveway squeezed between the buildings. But don’t fret, this is the end of the “small experience”.
Upon entering the eatery, your eyes start blinking because there’s a lot to take in. Surrounded in moody and romantic lighting this former residence has been transported into a passionate Latin American vacation. The front room holds several tables, and a stage where live music is often performed — and sometimes television is projected. This extends through to the next room where there is more seating, an opened kitchen where you can watch the chefs, and a wooded bar area. On the opposite side are two cozy lounges with leather ottomans and small tables perfect for a more casual setting. Outside the back doors is a bungalow-style patio area that seems to stretch around the perimeter of the building.
As you walk in, you’re welcomed by the most vivacious Latina you’ve ever met: Patty Gamba. Her excitement can only be registered on a Richter scale — in a good way. She’s excited to see you. Why? Because she knows something that you don’t: you’re about to have an amazing time.
Our meal started with D’Cache’ s signature Sangria. A not too-tart, not too-sweet red wine blend. While I’m not necessarily a Sangria guy, the rest of my party (whom were) gushed over this red wine and fruit concoction.
Keeping it light, our food choice was tapas. Our group shared two dishes: Mushrooms al Ajillo and Salmon Fresco. Presentation followed along with our experience thus far: passionate and robust.
The Mushrooms al Ajillo featured Mushrooms in garlic sauce with Manchego cheese bread. Each bite brought a taste of garlic that’s better than you deserve. The garlic bread delivered a needed substantial base to enjoy supplementing the strong flavors.
The Salmon Fresco was a delight in several ways. Salmon tartar served with spinach, avocado, cucumber, on mango sauce displayed as art on the dish. Tartar fans will devour this. Vegetarians will crave the tasty dish for its variety. Foodie newbies may enjoy its simplicity. It’s constructed so that every simple bite has all flavors packed into one punch. Kudos to the Chef.
Right around this time, a server walks around with a special leather satchel of red wine (which I later learn is called a “bota”) and gives each of us a squirt of red wine in our mouth. He continues around the restaurant and ends up on the stage, singing a Latin love song to the front room patrons. This is the kind of vibe D’Cache’ promotes: passion, adventure and fun.
Remember that Latina firecracker from a few paragraphs back? Let’s revisit her for a moment. It turns out Patty Gamba is a co-owner. She welcomes every guest either at the door or via a visit to their table. Her story is an example of the American dream, albeit adapted just like her restaurant, with a Latin fusion. She has worked hard to renovate this 1920’s house into the restaurant of her dreams and her eye for detail is strong. From the decor, to the entertainment, to every bite and sip.
She tells us stories of movie stars who visit weekly, get inspired and play the bongos along with the band. Located so close to the movie studios, she often throws events including The Grammy Awards post-party, birthdays and elaborate dinner parties. When you press her for celebrity names she only laughs. “They don’t come in because they’re famous, they come for our fun. Everyone has fun here!”
At this moment, D’Cache’ is a hidden gem. And I mean both words to the extreme. Hidden; discrete and not entirely visible. Gem; sparkling and vivacious. As buzz continues to grow, Patty is determined the gem part will continue. But the hidden part? Not a chance.
As for the audience. It’s truly fitting for a group, ladies night out or a romantic date. But probably too intense for a first date.