Why this place doesn't get more press, I can't understand for the life of me. I'm sure if this restaurant were in SF or NYC, it would be packed every night .
Let's start from the end. The cheese cart. There is somewhere around 15-20 types of cows, sheep, and goat cheeses offered. There is an excellent mix of hard and soft cheeses, fresh and aged cheeses, mild and pungent cheeses. This cheese cart eclipses pretty much every other cheese cart I've seen at any fine restaurant I've ever been to be it NYC, SF, or LA. The only 2 cheese carts that are in the same league would be the ones at Daniel and Joel Robuchon in Vegas. Gary Danko's much talked about cheese cart in SF is about half the selection.
The cuisine is a mix of bistro classics, fine dining, and crazy molecular gastronomy. There's something for everyone. The price, absurdly afforadble. The dishes come as full and small portions. The small portions are generous and would be classified as full portions in greater than 90% of mid-high end restaurants. The wine list is also very affordable and more importantly, drinkable. The burgundy by the glass actually tastes like burgundy.
The cuisine is creative and a welcome change to the ubiquitous cal-med cuisine that predominates the LA dining scene. The chef/kitchen's achille's heel is clearly octopus which was consistently tough and chewy in 2 separate dishes. However, at $9-$10 appetizers and $19 entrees, I can live with a few minor misteps. Especially if the rest of the dish consistes of perfectly cooked sea bass. I ordered small portions for everything so I could try as many dishes as possible. We had:
Amuse: duck proscuitto with mango chutney. Excellent duck proscuitto.
1. Sea urchin tapioca pudding with shot of kummamoto oyster and lobster gelee- $10. The tapioca pudding was savory, the sea urchin sweet, the toasted nori added that 4-5th dimension to a perfect dish.
2. Lobster salad Corn Cannoli, Red Beet, Burrata Sorbet- $10. As good as it reads. Everyone in town is doing burrata these days. How many have paired sweet beets with a subtle burrata sorbet?
3. Mussels, clams, shrimp, octopus in kimchee broth- $9. Probably the one miss of the night. The kimchee broth was delicious, the shellfish okay, and the octopus, chewy.
4. Poached Hen Eggs In Red Wine, Bacon and Mushrooms- gratis. This was a mistake since I ordered the crab corn chowder. It ended up one of my favorites. Bistro classic. Perfectly done. The yolk and the red wine sauce blended in perfect harmony.
5. Dungeness crab, Corn and Cheddar Soup, Poblano Chile, Bacon Powder- $10. Weird dish of the night. Couldn't taste the bacon in the bacon powder. I like the effort though.
6. Diver scallops with sea urchin oat meal- $16. I forget if it was 2 or 3 huge, thick, delciously seared scallops. Again, very generous portions
7. Black bass with Saffron, Confit Orange Rind, and blood sausage- $17. Perfectly cooked sea bass. There were 2 bones which don't bother me but would probably really unnerve some people. A delicious dish though. The blood sausage was a homerun and I don't usually order the stuff.
8. Veal medallion, Basil Gnocchi Gratin, Fava Beans, Eggplant Fondue, Mustard Jus with lavender- $17. Another delicious meat prep. Tender veal, the jus was savory and tasty.
We finished with selections from the spectacular cheese cart which was pared with several house made highly interesting "condiments".
I highly recommend this place for anyone who's into creative cuisine or who wants a fine dining experience without the stuffy cost or setting. Not every dish is a success then again, what restaurant has a 100% success rate? The prices are reasonable enough that it's worth the gamble and worth the experience. Kind of the way Lubobites was at the beginning before the prices jumped. It is very refreshing to have this level cuisine and creativity in LA. For anyone that has seen the recent Paris No Reservations episode, this is like what Bourdain was describing. High end talent cuisine in an accessible setting and price range.
It's like Ludobites meets bistro and fine dining. It's not as crazy as Ludobites but the cooking also has more substance. And for anyone that really appreciates cheese and wine, I would recommend bringing your favorite special bottle and going all out on the cheese selection. That's what I plan on doing.
8009 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048