First Taste: Neal Fraser’s Redbird at The Vibiana

Maine Lobster, gnocchi sardi, nettles, black trumpets

The long-awaited restaurant from Neal Fraser, Amy Knoll Fraser and Bill Chait is finally here, and all of Los Angeles is the better for it. With a cocktail program focused on the classics by Julian Cox and a wine list curated by Diane Pandolfini, Redbird will stand to be one of the most exciting openings of 2015 – something everyone can confidently say even while it’s still January.

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First Taste: Faith & Flower in Downtown Los Angeles Opens Today

Sturgeon with pickled mustard, brussels, polenta

I had the privilege of attending one of the first nights of service at Faith & Flower during a night of Friends & Family. There was a backing up of reservations that occurred at the middle of the night and they ran out of a few things, like Milk Punch and Stuffed Quail, but that’s what a test night like last is meant for. Besides, we got a chance to get really acquainted with a good third of the stellar cocktail menu by Michael Lay.

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The Fat Cow Soft Opening: You’ve Never Had Mall Food This Good

Fat Cow Interior

The 10-year-old Grove was built to be the Anti-Mall. Everything, from the height of each streetlight down to the exact height of the curb is so calculated so as to appear as if it were…not. It’s a collection of stores within the same structure, but meticulously manufactured to evoke a stroll down the street – with fake snow in the “winter,” to boot. But that is the masterpiece that is The Grove, and its success at that intangibly cozy feel doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.

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Delicious Bites and Top-Notch Cocktails in Elegant Sadie, Hollywood

The Lounge at Sadie

I was at Sadie last night with some good girlfriend-bloggers – about a week past its official opening. It was a belated discovery that the cocktails at Sadie, curated by Giovanni Martinez, are pretty tasty. Having known Giovanni is a cocktail sleuth behind the bar thanks to his extensive travels, I was definitely not disappointed by the range and execution of the drink menu.

The Sadie Float

Although the crust on the flatbreads were overcooked and tough, the main entrees were way better than I might expect from a Hollywood Boulevard spot. (I’m truly enjoying each time I’m surprised by my own neighborhood, by the way.) Dave Schmit’s Scottish Salmon, Jidori Chicken (with delicious spätzel) and Spinach Pasta were all enjoyed by my dinner companions and myself.

But on those cocktails. My favorite of the night was the White Monk, made with white pepper & cardamom-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth, silver tequila, Castilian bitters and Benedictine rinse. I love tequila, but this is the cocktail to erase all those college Jose Cuervo memories that have soured some drinkers towards tequila forever. It’s beautifully fragrant and extra smooth going down.

Black & White

But there’s nothing like a secret cocktail menu to spice up a stint at the supper club. Off Giovanni’s public list is “The Badger,” a unique drink made with reposado tequila, egg white and Miracle Mile bitters. But my favorite off this secret menu was definitely The Sadie Float. It’s made with Campari-flavored soda, Peychaud ice cream and, of course, Campari.

Looking at it, you’d think it was the typical, sweet cocktail made sweeter by the fact that it also has ice cream. Once you taste it, you discover pure Italian genius. It’s fizzy, slightly bitter and yet creamy. And it’s pure heaven. Hint: Don’t get it if you don’t like Campari.

Sadie Courtyard

While you’re there, you have plenty of perspectives to choose from as far as seating as the entire interior is pleasing. Sit in the front foyer bar area, dubbed the Parlour, for some darker hues and modern angles. The middle Lounge provides more of a speakeasy feel while the stone effaced Courtyard in back is probably one of the most beautiful patios I’ve seen in all of Hollywood. (Heat lamps are plentiful, if not in overabundance, back here.)

But you’d be committing a crime if you were to leave Sadie without having dessert. Their Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream Sandwich is out of this world, as is their Black & White, or flourless chocolate cake complete with white chocolate ice cream on the side. The “clutch” dessert, however, at this spot is the Homemade Donuts and Irish Coffee Cream.

You won’t visit Sadie for the bargain, but like most places in Hollywood, for the atmosphere which thankfully is not a detractor from the food and cocktails, but instead an enhancement. The food has the potential to stand all on its own while the cocktails make Sadie a destination. Forget Les Deux I, II and IX; hopefully Sadie, with its multi-faceted interior and approach, is here to stay.

All food and cocktails were hosted.

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Dinner:

Tue -Wed: 5:30 – 11 PM
Thur – Sat: 5:30 PM – 1 AM

Bar:

Tue – Wed 5:30 – 11 PM
Thur – Sat 5:30 PM – 2 AM

Sadie
1638 N. Las Palmas Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.467.0200

Larry’s in Venice: A Space To Savor

Larry's Exterior

There’s something poetic about a restaurant that knows its place. Larry’s, located on the beach and open since mid-August, seems to embody that with its beautiful, convertible patio and simple menu.

Potted chicken liver & foie gras parfait

Not a single item on the menus (printed on paper and ready for you to tally as in a sushi bar) is over $15, yet hardly any of the dishes lack in heft. Rather, full flavors – and beer, complete with 26 taps – seem to be the focus at Larry’s. It may be Vegetarian- and Vegan-centric Venice, but omnivores can appreciate the wide selection of charcuterie, flatbread toppings and small plates doubling as entrees; there’s plenty of meat on this menu.

Such as the delicious pot of chicken liver & foie gras parfait (nothing like duck liver to even out the pungency of chicken liver). You can also order the charcuterie and cheese – a solid representation – either to start or to nibble on during the length of your stay. Nothing is parsed out as appetizers or mains, and it serves as a plus. No one is going to scold you if you want to share your organic sal, I’m sorry, bacon-wrapped organic salmon with your friends.

Shrimp & Maine Lobster Ragout

Flatbreads: check. The crust is respectable (could it be the water?) and the variety of topping combinations is enough to keep anyone satisfied.

The Green Curry Mussels – a staple at any gastropub – were good and maintained its status as a reliable dish.

Surprisingly, one of my favorites was found in the capellini pasta, which was a Shrimp & Maine Lobster Ragout with lobster tomato sauce, basil and truffle. While sampling some of the heavier items (yes, even sampling does this) had me worried about passing out on my drive home to Hollywood, it was this pasta that was ironically the standout. That is, in addition to sipping Ommegang’s Hennepin Farmhouse Saison and a New Belgium Hoptober.

While you won’t go to Larry’s to achieve your latest culinary epiphany, Chef Brendan Collins (Waterloo & City) does a great job setting up a solid menu for this gastropub-by-the-beach. They also tap new, local and/or rare brews there once in awhile, such as Atwater Village’s brand new Golden Road Brewing Company’s Point the Way IPA. Whereby I normally avoid the beach in most things food-related (it’s about the view, isn’t it?), Larry’s, with its wide draft selection, beautiful people and unmatched outdoor-indoor backdrop, really can’t be beat.

Bring friends.

All food and beer were hosted.

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Mon – Fri

11:30 AM – 10 PM

Sat – Sun

11:30 AM – 12 AM

Larry’s Bar & Restaurant
24 Windward Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
310.399.2700

The 2011 L.A. Easter Brunch Round-Up

Quail Eggs at Kaohsiung Night Market | Photo: hk_traveller on Flickr

I don’t remember ever having given up anything for Lent. But I always have celebrated Easter in non-ritualistic fashion – just as I eat and celebrate life. Every day is a rebirth, right?

Did I mention that I love eggs?

I compiled a bunch of Easter Brunch specials around town. There are plenty of restaurants offering up 3-course prix fixe menus for Sunday morning, but a lot of them have some pretty solid choices.

Go ahead…you can scan this post for the bottomless champagne or mimosa spots. I totally understand.

(By the way, I can’t believe how Westward this list skews… Do Eastsiders not celebrate Easter?) 😉

Happy Easter!!

***

Eva (Beverly/Hancock Park): 12 -  8 PM

$39 per person.
Bottomless wine. 5-course prix fixe.

I know I said “brunch,” and I know Mark Gold calls this the “Eva Dinner Party,” but the noon start time has to count for something, doesn’t it? You get all of the following: Deviled Eggs, Nicoise Salad with Olive Relish and Roast Peppers, Chicken “Pallard” with Arugula and Mustard, Warm Potato Salad, Prime Skirt Steak, Grilled Asparagus and Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Creme Fraiche. I know. Amazing. This is where I’ll be…sometime during Easter Day.

7458 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323.634.0700

Chaya Brasserie (Downtown, Beverly Hills, Venice): 11 AM – 3 PM

$37 per person, $15 per young adult.
Bottomless champagne. 3-course prix fixe.

You get a couple choices for your 3-course prix fixe, all menus of which vary according to location! Be sure to peep the right Chaya outpost for your menu.

A few highlights from what I can see on all three menus include French Toast with Granola Crust, Kabocha Squash Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi, Grilled New York Steak and Fries with Poached Egg, Pancetta-wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Provencal Grits, Meyer Lemon Mascarpone Cheese Tart. I think the Downtown location is where to be!

525 South Flower, Los Angeles, CA 90017, 213.236.9577

8741 Alden Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 213.859.8833

110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291, 310.396.1179

Obika (Century City): 10 AM – 4 PM

$25 per adult, $15 per child under 12.
Comes with one mimosa or glass of Prosecco. Buffet-style plus one family-style pasta.

Not feeling the prix fixe but don’t want any hassle? Obika’s doing it up buffet style – at the mall. Mozzarella di Bufala along with a selection of Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon, Assorted, Salumi, Caponata with Pan Carsau, Artichoke Ricotta Quiche with Thyme and Mint, Ricotta Mousse and four (yes, four) flavors of Tirimisu will all be available. In addition, your table will get to pick one choice of pasta served family style, including Handmade Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage, Lasagnetta with Peas and Tagliolini with Artichoke and Mint.

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067, 310.556.2452

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Wolvesmouth: The Supper Club Worthy of Being Kept Underground

Black Bass | tortilla puree, avocado, onion, cilantro flowers, lime

Underground supper clubs are all the rage these days, but there’s something to be said about the stress placed on their novelty. Does the fact that you are in-the-know and dining in secret digs wear out by the 3rd course? Are the setting, the ambiance and the company used to justify the food? Does defying health codes fail to elicit giggles at the table by the 5th course? Is that pillow you’re sitting on uncomfortable and superfluous dinner entertainment not…entertaining?

Celery Root | parsnip soup, crab, crouton

A night at Wolvesmouth doesn’t warrant a Yes to any of the above. To the contrary, this is innovative and thought-provoking food by Chef Craig. When you book a night at the Wolves’ Den, come prepared to embark on a 10-14 course culinary expedition. It’s not for the faint of heart but for the adventurous and ravenous. Each course is like an art piece, with ingredients being a sight for the senses as well (mmm, flowers). The dishes were each worthy of their own accord. If forced to guess which dish was inserted for “fluff” to fill the 10 course quota, I would have an extremely hard time choosing. The pacing of this underground meal would surprise you; dishes came out expediently and would shame places in which I’ve done half as many courses as at Wolvesmouth. I knew even before entering The Den that this meal was belated; rave reviews came in from friends on a consistent basis. Now, it was finally my turn.

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The Tuscan Fried Chicken at Cube LA

Tuscan Fried Chicken

If “November” and “turkey” have become a little too synonymous for you, you’re lucky to have the option of some good ol’ fried chicken at Cube. It’s available only until Wednesday, November 24 – and if you don’t catch it now, you can expect to see it again in about a year.

Cheese & Salumi

The recipe is of the Tuscan variety and for $23 you get a a half-chicken chock with lemon wedge, Maple Roasted windrose Farm White Acorn Squash and sauteed McGrath Pea Tendrils. This isn’t your usual, butter-filled entree but rather a zesty, juicy bird that packs a punch; red pepper flakes are in the batter. The fluffy breading crumbles beautifully under the weight of your knife (should you feel like sharing) and between your jowls to reveal an extremely tender, semi-boneless masterpiece by Executive Chef Erin Eastland.

While you’re at Cube, don’t forget a custom cheese-salumi plate of your choosing and glass of wine to start. It’s always a delightful experience whenever I’ve dined there; trying the limited edition fried chicken plate was no exception. To finish it off, go seasonal and try their Warm Hachiya Persimmon Pudding or satisfy your chocolate craving with Dark Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake.

All food and wine were hosted.

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Fried chicken available through November 24, 2010

Tue – Sat, 11 AM – 11 PM

Cube
615 N. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
323.939.1148

Favorites From Elements Kitchen, Pasadena

Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks w/Homemade Porcini Fettuccine ($26)

Elements Kitchen rose out of a successful catering business by Chef-Owner Onil Chibás and established its brick and mortar dining room in January of this year. Its menu isn’t traditionally structured; instead of the traditional appetizer-entree distinction, it asks you what you’re in the mood for. This is, after all, “New” American. But you can appreciate the emphasis on ingredients, or “elements” as the restaurant’s theme revolves around.

Pistachio Butter ($19 for PF&J)

Chicken & Birds? Lobster? Duck? Beef? Mussels & Oysters? Squash? It reads like a dozen questions in a row … but who’s to criticize an establishment that wants to pinpoint and cater to your desires to a tee? An extension of that are the extremely tasty, borderline odd creations such as Pistachio Butter, which is presented on the same platter as Foie Gras Torchon and Jellied Sauternes – dubbed “PF&J”. Plus Roasted Grapes. I’ll be honest: My mind was blown at the Pistachio Butter. But the endless combinations that were possible made it hardly polite to complain, because somehow, they worked.

There are a lot of dishes at Elements that work with a few that probably try to do too much, but it’s good to see a spot in Pasadena that is taking risks for once. One of my favorites was the Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks – which sat atop a bed of housemade Fettuccine. The Seared King Trumpets were a perfect middle texture, flavorfully connecting the über tender meat with super fresh pasta.

Oyster & Mussel Chowder: Yukon gold potato cream, crispy pork belly ($12)

The Oyster & Mussel Chowder was a true winner. It consisted of a delicious Yukon Gold potato cream broth and was sprinkled with shavings of crispy pork belly and green onion, thickened further with potatoes yet also crispened with celery. It was a chowder combining all the right textures and tastes, with a good helping of oysters and mussels serving as the center of the dish.

A really good dish at Elements Kitchen that also happens to be pointedly vegetarian is the Spaghetti Squash with Marinara ($9). The sauce itself is quite fresh as the herbed ricotta is substantive, bringing a weight to the stringy contents of the gourd.

While you’re at Elements, be sure to try out one of the cocktail creations by Michel of Neve Ice – the recently-named overseer of their cocktail program. Every Wednesday, Elements features “Sketches” – which is a set of dishes that focus around one ingredient. Every Thursday are new “Liquid Sketches,” cocktails that center around another ingredient. If you’re on Twitter, you can re-tweet @ElementsKitchen on these days for a free dish or $1 cocktail.

And if you’re up for dessert, don’t miss their White Chocolate & Coffee Mousse with Milk Chocolate Ganache – an absolutely divine and indulgent dessert that should send you home with your tastebuds dancing.

All food and drink were hosted.

Further reading:

The Review: Elements Kitchen in Pasadena — all the elements of success – S. Irene Virbila for LA Times

Elements Kitchen
37 S. El Molino Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91101
626.440.0044

@elementskitchen