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Restaurants & Bars 6

Opening Night at the New Hatfield's

kevin h | Feb 2, 201009:11 PM

On August 8, 2009, Hatfield's served up its last Croque Madame. Fortunately for us Angelinos, the shutter was only temporary. Indeed, this bastion of contemporary Cal/French cuisine was merely relocating to a new address: 6703 Melrose, the site previously occupied by Tim and Liza Goodell's pan-Asian eatery Red Pearl Kitchen. The rationale behind the move was that the Hatfields simply wanted a bigger space, in order to take the restaurant to the next step, with a larger menu, lunch and dinner, seven days a week--in other words, the new spot is designed to be permanent. The transition was initially slated to be completed by November 2009, but as usual, the schedule slipped, and a new opening date of February 1st was announced in January. Given my positive experience at the old restaurant, it was a foregone conclusion that I would give the new Hatfield's a whirl, opening night, of course.

Hatfield's was arguably best known for its seven-course, tandem tasting menus. Unfortunately, that format wasn't quite ready yet, so we were given a choice between à la carte and four-course Seasonal Prix-Fixe options; we went with the latter, at $58 per person (adding on supplements, naturally). More exciting perhaps is the new beverage program, designed by new GM-cum-sommelier/mixologist Peter Birmingham (of Pourtal fame). There is, naturally, a strong wine list, but what piqued my interest was the cocktail selection, featuring both classic and modern libations. And apparently, with the new bar comes a separate bar menu--oh my!

Here's what we had:

Frisée and Smoked Trout Salad [$12.00] | Apple, avocado, warm fingerling potatoes in grainy mustard butter
All our supplemental courses came out at once, and first up was this frisée salad. The actual bits of trout were somewhat difficult to pick out, but the fish's smoky, briny essence was apparent in spades. I quite enjoyed the unabashed saltiness at play here, perked up by the salad's tangy dressing, as well as the fantastic moderating effect of the potato. The tuber also added an interesting textural element, and I likewise appreciated the crisp sweetness of the apple.

Agnolotti [$9.00] | Mustard greens and ricotta agnolotti, parsnip, cinnamon banyuls
The agnolotti looked appealing on the menu, but wasn't nearly as successful as I'd hoped for. Though texturally, the pasta was almost spot on, the dish was overwhelmed by the intense spicy-sweet sapor of the cinnamon banyuls. The ricotta was almost completely masked, and was only slightly apparent on the finish.

Beet Cured Japanese Fluke [$11.00] | Herbed yogurt, pickled shallots, buckwheat crisps
How do you make fluke look like tuna? Give it a beet bath! Besides adding a dash of amaranth to the fish, the beet also contributed a very soft sweetness that went quite well with the fluke's naturally delicate flavor. I appreciated the fish's soft, supple consistency, and the great crunchiness provided by the buckwheat.

Warm Cuttlefish Salad [$10.00] | Maitake mushrooms, sunchoke purée, baby arugula, artichoke chips
Here we have a dish that I had on my last Hatfield's visit. On that occasion, I wrote that "the cuttlefish itself could've been a bit more apparent." Fortunately, the subtle brine of the cephalopod was indeed much more conspicuous this time around, and I quite liked its interaction with the earthy gravity of the maitakes.

1a: Charred Japanese Mackerel | Oven dried pineapple, avocado, fried shallots, nori infused salsa verde
The fishiness often associated with mackerel can be overbearing at times, so it's interesting to see what chef's do to moderate the power of the fish. Here, the key was the pineapple. Its sweetness was a critical part of the dish, while I also enjoyed the lush creaminess of the avocado bits. The fried shallots, meanwhile, gave things a nice crunch.

1b: Pan Roasted Diver Scallops | Braised celery, salsify, apple froth
I despise celery, so things were not looking good here. Fortunately, the veggie wasn't as offensive as I'd feared here, adding a pronounced, but not unpleasant backbone to the dish. The scallops themselves were a bit too thin for me (I couldn't really enjoy their texture), but I did appreciate the interplay between the savoriness of the bivalve, the tang of the celery, and the sugariness provided by the apple.

2a: Prawns a la Plancha Espelette | Creamy crab rice, roasted peanuts, preserved lemon, mint
The kitchen was definitely channeling the flavors of Asia here. The prawns had a delectable, almost Thai-style spicy kick to them, and were beautifully complemented by the bits of peanut. The coconut savor of the rice, heightened by hints of mint, definitely moved the dish even more in that direction. Very nice.

2b: Olive Oil Poached Alaskan Halibut | Orange scented beets, horseradish crème fraîche, herbed pepita crust
The halibut was probably my favorite dish of the night. The fish was cooked to a ridiculously tender and juicy consistency, with a delightfully salty, yet delicate sapor. The crux of the dish, though, were the pepitas (pumpkin seeds). They added a perfect smoky nuttiness to the halibut that really took this dish to the next level.

3a: Long Island Duck Breast | Whisky prune smear, butternut squash, porcini quinoa porridge
Taken alone, the duck was very flavorful, and very good. With the prune smear and quinoa, it developed an almost Chinese roast duck-like character that I absolutely loved. Unfortunately, the squash was completely unnecessary, with an overt sweetness that detracted from the bird.

3b: Horseradish Dusted Short Ribs and Hanger Steak | Spring onion confit, smoked potato puree
This was another dish that I'd had at the old Hatfield's. Again, I started with the short rib, delightfully tender, but still with a bit of bite. My dining companion described it as having an almost "hot dog" flavor, while I enjoyed its mild earthy smokiness when paired with the potatoes. The steak had a more forceful flavor, with a tender, yet "toothsome" texture. I did have to be careful with the included onion confit though, which could dominate the beef if taken in large amounts.

4a: Lime Cream "Pie" [$10.00] | Gingersnap crust, oatmeal crumble, citrus chamomile ice cream
The key here for me was the interaction between sweet and sour. The lime cream gave the dessert a tangy base on which the various accoutrements could work; I especially liked the refreshing apple-like flavor of the ice cream. And the gingersnap crust? Crisp, crumbly, fantastic.

4b: Coconut Custard "Macaroon" [$10.00] | Marinated pineapple, vanilla tapioca, passion fruit-elderflower sorbet
Here, we had a core of coconut custard intermixed with vanilla tapioca pearls. The saccharine pineapple and tartish sorbet then added layers of flavor on top. The best part of this dessert, though, was the admixture of disparate textures.

4c: Chocolate "Nutella" [$10.00] | Ganache cake, butterscotch rosemary ice cream, hazelnut toffee
Here we have a fairly classic pairing of chocolate cake with ice cream, with the added wrinkle of rosemary, which gave the dessert a beautiful astringency. At the same time, I loved the crunch added by the hazelnuts, but I wish that their flavor would've been a bit more apparent.

4d: Cinnamon Swirl Brioche Pudding [$10.00] | Pear confit, maple syrup ice cream, cinnamon toast chip
Finally, we have here the kitchen's version of a bread pudding, a marvelous one at that. I adored the soft, yielding texture of the pudding, as well as its creamy-spicy-sweet flavor, tarted up by the application of pear.

Reflecting on my last Hatfield's visit, I expressed concern that Quinn and Karen might not be able to translate the old restaurant's intimacy, honesty, and vision to a larger venue. I'm happy to report that Hatfield's is back with a vengeance. With the addition of new menus, new libations, new dining options, methinks that Hatfield's is well-poised to outdo its former self.

Full review with photos: http://www.kevineats.com/2010/02/hatf...

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