[For images with captions inline with text, visit http://theoffalo.com/2014/07/early-bi...]
Flores on Sawtelle, in West Los Angeles's Little Osaka neighborhood, opened just over a year ago and the dishes introduced by its opening chefs, husband-wife team Rob Lawson and Angela Hernandez, both alums of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in NYC, were well received. In April of this year, however, the two chefs and owner Amal Flores parted ways, and the restaurant closed for a few weeks while incoming chef Brian Dunsmoor and pastry chef Sarah"Bearclaw" Schreck, both of and continuing at The Hart and the Hunter, developed a menu that focuses on Southern fare.
To go with the culinary shift, Flores also underwent a name change of sorts, to The Ladies' Gunboat Society (19th century women's organizations that raised funds and supported Confederate efforts during the Civil War), though technically it is a name "appendment". The restaurant's menus, website, and Facebook page all render its name as "Flores & The Ladies' Gunboat Society". Apparently, the plan is for the restaurant to shake up its chefs, concepts, and name every once in a while, sort of like Fifty Seven in DTLA.
FLGS (easier to type) had generally positive mentions right from the start--Chicken Fried Rabbit and BBQ Blue Crab seemed to be the early hits. However, I noticed some negative Yelp reviews that appeared right after the transition, though many seemed be by fans of the former chefs' food dischuffed from said chef shuffle (say that three times fast). The menu has already gone through some changes to stay seasonal, and the restaurant introduced a fried chicken "Early Bird" happy hour-and-a-half back in May with weekend brunch service starting just last month.
My adopted little brother Chris Hei and the rest of my family checked out the Early Bird over Memorial Day weekend. I had heard that the special was only available at the bar, but since we'd have some teetotaling tots with us, I phoned ahead and was assured that the same deal was available on the patio. But what exactly was the deal?
The Early Bird special consists of three pieces of fried chicken and a beer for $12. Without the beer, the price is $9. This is a very respectable happy hour pricing, and downright cheap compared to another 3-piece fried chicken special on the Westside: Superba Food + Bread's $20 Sunday-only fried chicken supper (to be fair, SFB's comes with sides: biscuits and collard greens slaw).
We arrived around 6:30 PM on Saturday evening, and the place was probably 2/3 full. We were seated at a beautiful table that looked like it was made from driftwood. We ordered four Early Birds for five people and a few other dishes to go along with them, starting with...
* Antebellum White Grits, Morel Mushroom, Peas, Asparagus, Green Garlic, Vermouth, Parmesan: I did not grow up with grits, but it feels like comfort food to me. This bowl of creamy grits, with its assortment of bright, seasonal vegetables, was hearty and definitely comforting!
+ http://instagram.com/p/ociwOrg-kf/ - Antebellum White Grits, Morel Mushroom, Peas, Asparagus, Green Garlic, Vermouth, Parmesan
* Grilled Country Bread, Santa Barbara Uni Butter, Grilled Zuckerman's Asparagus, Florida Bottarga: The asparagus, like the veggies in the previous dish, was very fresh. The bottarga was bold and briny. The butter was tangy, but I didn't get too much of the sea urchin. The flavors were well balanced; didn't even need the sea salt.
+ http://instagram.com/p/ockToZg-mf/ - Grilled Country Bread, Santa Barbara Uni Butter, Grilled Zuckerman's Asparagus, Florida Bottarga
* Local Albacore Crudo, Chili Vinaigrette, Citrus, Scallions, Benne Seeds: This was my older daughter's entrée, as she wasn't as into fried chicken as the rest of us. She loved it and has asked many times since to go back to FLGS just for this dish. I can't remember if I got a taste of this, but I trust my daughter's judgement that this was a good dish!
(By the way, "benne" seeds are generally synonymous with sesame seeds, but I guess there is a difference between "true" benne seeds and sesame seeds, per this article: http://ansonmills.com/grain_notes/19/.)
+ http://instagram.com/p/ocjadHg-lR/ - Local Albacore Crudo, Chili Vinaigrette, Citrus, Scallions, Benne Seeds
* "Early Bird" Fried Chicken: The moment we had been waiting for.... The chicken came out hot and crisp, and with a smokey honey dipping sauce. The pieces were nice and big, with the wings being the full three segments. Speaking of wings...
+ http://instagram.com/p/oclKncg-nW/ - The Early Bird Fried Chicken
...we couldn't help but notice that all the pieces on our plates were flappers! This was strange because our friend Remil went the night before and legs and thighs were part of his Early Bird. Perhaps they had run out by our meal. Oh well. The wings were still delicious, though with all the nooks and crannies, parts of the chicken were a little over-battered.
+ http://instagram.com/p/ocnNNMA-pP/ - FLGS, like Red Bull, gave us wings!
* Ballast Point Pale Ale: Lest I forget, the drink portion of the Early Bird was a choice of Ballast Point canned beers, specifically the Pale Ale or the Big Eye IPA, but if I recall correctly, they ran out of the IPA, so I ended up with the Pale Ale by default. I'm not a huge fan of ales, but for an ale, it wasn't bad!
+ http://instagram.com/p/ocmqlIg-o3/ - Ballast Point Pale Ale
After polishing off food and drink, we were hoping to try an amazing looking dessert that we saw on the the restaurant's Instagram feed the week prior, the cornbread pudding topped with peaches, but apparently we were too late as it had dropped from the dessert menu. Instead we tried...
* Chocolate Mousse Pie, Caramel, Sea Salt: This dessert was sweet, chocolatey, and decadent. My younger daughter, the chocoholic (yes, she's addicted to chocohol, whatever that is), loved it!
+ http://instagram.com/p/ocn2Mog-p3/ - Chocolate Mousse Pie, Caramel, Sea Salt
* Maple Blueberry Crème Brûlée: My only quibble with this dessert was that the caramelized sugar shell was a little too thin and not hard enough, so we didn't get that satisfying crack of it breaking as we dug in with our spoons, but everything else, was spot-on. The blueberries were a bright and tart contrast to the sweet custard, which had a smooth, creamy texture.
+ http://instagram.com/p/ococN2g-qq/ - Maple Blueberry Crème Brûlée
While I'm a little disappointed that I never got to try the first incarnation of Flores, I do love what the current chefs are doing, based on the small sample of dishes we got to try. Aside from the all-wings strangeness, the Early Bird special* is definitely a great value, and, more importantly, terrific fried chicken!
*Hey, I made it through the entire post without making a joke about Denny's or the AARP!
Flores and The Ladies' Gunboat Society (http://www.floreslosangeles.com/)
2024 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
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