Simmzy’s is a Long Beach Neighborhood Delight

Daytime view from open patio at Simmzy’s Long Beach

Long Beach is that sister city, south of Los Angeles. If you are one who truly loves being an Angeleno – without the irony, that is – you accept The LBC as the L.A. away from L.A. Each block is potentially completely different from the next, and it’s one vast county hosting a cornucopia of cultures and backgrounds.

Blue Cheese Haystack

And then there’s Long Beach-Belmont Shore. At Simmzy’s second location, their corner on the block is bustling with flip-flops, beer and pub food. It’s a true pub without having bowed to the recent “gastro-” trends as of late. Besides, Simmzy’s are beachy places without the beachfront. People sometimes just want good weather, good beer (offered up by two dozen taps), a good time and good food – not groundbreaking culinary trends.

While I tend to think the Manhattan Beach location is a tad small, the Long Beach one also has no problems filling its space to the gills. They’ve got day-of-the-week special, which happened to be the Short Rib & Chocolate Porter Chili on Saturdays – a sweet, tangy treat. Though their crust is not a lot to write home about, their pizzas showcase some original topping combinations, such as a smoked Bacon & Date Marscapone, made with garlic, mozzarella, sage and balsalmic syrup for a slightly sweet treat.

And while I know that Brussels sprouts are a bit of a shoe-in for many places, I can’t say that I’ve had many executed so impressively as their carmelized rendition, with butter, garlic, lemon, anchovies, capers and bruschetta for a succulent yet zesty combination.

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Soaking in Summer Weekends at M.B. Post

Truffle honey laced fried chicken

I don’t make it a secret that M.B. Post is practically my favorite restaurant in the South Bay and one of my top picks for all of Los Angeles. So it pains me to admit that I wish I lived closer so that I could take advantage of their new “Nooner” menu – essentially a weekend daytime menu that’s served from 2 – 5 in the weekend afternoon but also lunchtime until dinner on Friday afternoons.

Albondigas

You can count on Chef David Lefevre’s terrific truffle honey laced fried chicken to be on the mid-day list, as well as Albondigas and Meyers’ Farm “Never Ever” Skirt Steak. Order the Pomegranate Cous Cous with lavender feta, Marcona almonds and grapefruit and the Blistered Green Beans with Thai basil, chili sauce and crispy pork to pair, and you’re pretty much all set.

Oh, but wait. You’d be remiss not to try one of the awesome cocktails at M.B. Post. Since it’s daytime, go for the Coughlin’s Law, or the glorified Bloody Mary. Complete with quail egg, dill and picante, this will likely be the best Bloody Mary you’ve had in awhile.

If you’re good to actually make it to weekend brunch at M.B. Post, even better. You’ll have your choice of egg dishes, including the incredible Breakfast Frittata and the same Meyers’ Farm steak but with a sunny side up egg. Their Benedict incorporates the famous bacon cheddar biscuit and La Quercia prosciutto and truly makes me do a happy dance.

Either way, any time of day – even dinner – is prime time at M.B. Post, since there’s such a great selection and execution of small plates for every occasion.

Peep below for a slideshow of their brunch items:

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Brunch: 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Saturday & Sunday Nooner: 2  – 5 PM
Friday Nooner: 11:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Nooner menu

M.B. Post
1142 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.545.5405

Baco Mercat Steps Up the Savory

Szechuan Chicken Ribs

I made my overdue visit to Bäco Mercat one cold-for-LA, weekday evening. I stationed at the full bar, in full view of the construction of both Bäzeracs I ordered for the duration of my meal. The red tinge of the storefront neon sign brought a welcome warmth, and it proved quite the perfect setting in which to enjoy each of the small plates that gradually came out.

Caesar Brussel Sprouts

They are all essentially small plates with big flavor. It sounds so simple, but only Josef Centeno can effectively achieve that. You could also oversimplify the Bäco as a sandwich, but that would be the same atrocity as calling its flatbread a mere pita.

I haven’t had any of the other Bäcos (an offense to be corrected over many future return visits), but the beef tongue schnitzel variety was absolutely divine. The combination of breaded beef tongue and spicy harissa with smoked aioli were like bites of heaven. And there are no words for that secret flatbread, in which Centeno uses “different fats and lebni” – you have to try it on your own. It’s more moist and dense than typical flatbreads while affording a fluffy consistency. I wanted to finish the whole thing right then and there. (Alas, I had ordered too much food.) If I had to move downtown for my daytime vocation, the lunchtime Bäco alone would be a huge consolation.

Beef Tongue Schnitzel Bäco

The thinly sliced pork headcheese with capers was a great way to start off. I also really enjoyed the brussel sprouts, which were made into a warm, chopped caesar salad. The Szechuan chicken “ribs” were to die for. They had a ton of spicy BBQ flavor and were super tender – and big.

The “Cocas,” or crispy, poofy flatbreads, are have a scrumptious texture further spiced up with tasty toppings – most pizzas will seem far and away plain boring in comparison once you’ve tried. Mine had a just-spicy-enough salsa verde topping with anchovies – a perfect savory treat.

There are many more dishes that I can’t wait to try at dinnertime. So between all those and all the different Bäcos I have yet to try, I definitely have my work cut out for me. The full bar is yet further  enticement. It’s clear that Josef Centeno is loving having a place to truly call his own – and we, the diners, are all the better for it.

Lunch: Mon – Satur
11:30 AM – 2:30 PM

Dinner: Mon – Sat
6 PM – 11 PM

Sat mornings ”hair of the dog”
9 AM – 11:30 AM

Closed Sunday

Baco Mercat
408 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213.687.8808

First Taste: Cooks County Serves Up Stellar Mains

Braised beef cheek, creamed corn & fresh flageolet bean salsa

With the Gastropub Category in Los Angeles having undergone some oversaturation the past couple of years, it’s easy to dismiss the incoming restaurants that effuse that now-cookie cutter, industrial feel, which may or may not serve as a backdrop for small plates served at communal tables.

Pacific Seafood Soup | Mussels, clams, shrimp & rockfish with wild fennel

It’s not to knock small plates. I’ve always been more a grazer than one to focus on the entrée at the center of my meal. I’m not knocking communal seating, either, since I far prefer bar seating myself. Yes, it’s also “farm-to-table,” as much as I loathe how hackneyed that term has become. But it doesn’t discount the restaurants where it’s actually a practiced philosophy – only at those where it’s feigned.

I guess what remains, then, is really how interesting these small plates are, from the appetizers to the medium dishes to the family-style roasts and main events. What the particular chef’s spin on savory might be. Yes, you can guarantee that there are beets and braised meats on the menu – but why come here as opposed to any of the other gastropubs in the city?

Tagliatelle | Braised rabbit, picholine olives & lemon zest

At least one answer would be its advantageous location on Beverly Blvd. Beyond that, though, my lone experience at Cook’s County was a surprisingly stellar one. With Chef Dan Mattern’s previous post being at AMMO (a place I always had a mind about revisiting more often than I have) and his citing Mark Peel, Nancy Silverton and Suzanne Goin as mentors in the kitchen, you’ll find the taste of his dishes reflecting his practice of utilizing fresh produce while highlighting the properties of each dish’s ingredients. Thankfully, no flavors are masked – just beautifully enhanced. Each dish stops just short of going too far but holds its own with each ingredient serving its purpose in the whole. The flavors pop.

Wood-grilled Duck Breast, Brussels Sprouts, Kabocha Squash & Almonds

I really enjoyed the bulk of the mains. The appetizers, which could have doubled as salads, had arugula weaving a common thread through them – though they were mostly tasty in and of their own. Next time, I might order just one under that column and be done with it. Or, I’ll go straight to the mains.

Though I wished the Pacific Seafood Soup was more soup than broth, it was because I was sopping up the last of whatever was in the bowl by the end of the night. Awesome, rich flavor. And it’s not like I haven’t seen Rabbit Tagliatelle before, but this rendition was tops. The freshly made pasta was no detail, and the rabbit was deliciously tender as was the lemon zest a nice seasoning.

Meyer Lemon Angel Pie

The braised beef cheeks were as heavenly as the bean salsa that topped it was unexpected. The accompanying tomatoes made for sweet, little bursts of flavor in the rich canvas. But the wood-grilled duck breast was exceptional. Granted, I do love brussel sprouts all around as I do kabocha squash, but I’d be hard-pressed to find duck that flavorful in all but a few restaurants around L.A.

There’s a modest international selection of beers available but a larger wine list for vinos. I can appreciate the simple menu at Cook’s County, because I’m a believer in too much selection abetting too much indecision (personal quirk). It lends an appreciation for the focus it takes to perfect those delicious mains.

And, they do lunch and brunch. Those are certainly now on my to-do list. I hope Cooks County is here to stay. Though gastropubs are now a dime-a-dozen, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. It may be named after the county which seats Chicago, but Beverly Boulevard and Hancock Park can be proud (and on the weekends, they can be proud until 1 AM).

P.S. – Don’t forget dessert. That Angel Pie was divine.

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Lunch: Mon – Fri, 11:30 – 2:30 PM
Brunch: Sat – Sun, 10 AM – 3 PM
Dinner: Sun – Thu, 6 – 11 PM
Fri – Sat, 6 PM – 1 AM

Cooks County
8009 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323.653.8009

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

Wood & Vine: That Cozy, Warm Space on Hollywood Boulevard

Upstairs View of Bar Area

Hollywood is an awesome place to live. Not because of the bottle service and certainly not because everyone drives in from The Valley and Orange County on the weekends for the purposes of said bottle service.

Chicken & Waffles with Maple-Roasted Squash ($14)

It’s a great place because of the very spots that are overlooked in favor of bottle service and bass. Currently entering the second month of its operation, Wood & Vine is a two-story, neighborhood spot at which you can meet up with your friends and enjoy wine, beer, cocktails and/or food in a pleasant setting with wood furnishings and sage interior. There’s also a beautiful patio in the back – complete with lighting, ambiance and open flame – that may give you inklings of New York City thanks to the surrounding Hollywood “skyscrapers.”

The food is created by Gavin Mills, who was last sous at Bastide under Joseph Mahon (see previous post). As done in more and more eateries out there, he employs snout to tail and locally sourcing philosophies in that small kitchen and does a great job doing so. All the charcuterie, pates and rillette are made in-house, and together with cheese, start at $8 for three, $12 for five and $15 for seven.

Potato Gnocchi | Pea Tendrils, Spring Garlic, Confit Onions, Truffle ($12)

I sampled about half of the small, manageable menu (I’m all for quality execution over spreading oneself thin while indulging indecisiveness) and, of everything I tried, came up with a handful of favorites. The chicken and waffles was a refreshing rendition, with fluffy breading surrounding a sparingly syruped quarter-chicken over a bona fide, house-made Belgian waffle. The maple-roasted squash was delicious, too, with the $14 serving being none-too-sweet. Just perfect, actually.

The gnocchi were savory pillows, accompanied by pea tendrils, spring garlic, confit onions and just a touch of truffle. Beautifully simple and delicious. And if you want a little twist on traditional lasagna, Wood & Vine’s oxtail variety comes in its own, adorable Pyrex glass with horseradish and house-made ricotta – and packs a subtle, but much appreciated, kick.

But oh, those scallops. Granted, you have to screw things up really bad if you turn out bad scallops, but not only are these huge babies perfectly seared (with that crispy, barely-charred exterior), they come accompanied with Jerusalem artichokes upon some deliciously truffled grits. There was nothing left on the plate when I was finished – not even a smear of grits.

Grilled Scallops | Truffled Grits, Jerusalem Artichokes ($16)

I have yet to go back and try more cocktails (headed up by Jason McBeth) on for size. The Manhattan I ordered was good once I requested that it be served straight up (since it was initially served on-the-rocks), but I’m thinking that since I went early, they’re still getting their program squared away. However, their brown (whiskeys, ryes, bourbons, what have you) selection looks somewhat extensive, so I can’t wait to take a closer look. The dessert menu looks enticing, too, if also humanitarian, with proceeds from the sales of profiteroles going directly to the Los Angeles Youth Network – a cause that the owners care about. Another dessert that caught my eye: Butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel ice-cream. Mmm.

The guys behind Wood & Vine, despite the big space, did a great job at creating a warm ambiance and concentrated food and cocktail menu with only the necessities. It’s the place that nightclub birds walk past on their way to Hi-NRG spicy tuna wonderland while you’re inside, cozy while nibbling cheese and sipping on your Aviation – perhaps alone, perhaps in a group (because it’s big enough for that).

Please, keep walking.

All food, wine and cocktails were hosted.

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Wood & Vine
6280 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.334.3360

Favorite Dish: Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls at The Gorbals

Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls, Mustard Aioli, Fresh-grated Horseradish

The food interwebs has been all aflutter lately about gastropubs – myself not excluded. The craze over savory, rich and salty dishes only helps the shared, small plates-style of serving guests become more commonplace in a city (that’s us, Los Angeles) that prides itself on accessibly delicious food. And if not, then everyone at the table gets a taste without the commitment.

All this harkens me back to a dish I had earlier this fall at The Gorbals. (Better late than never.) Indeed, it was the standout dish not only because it was well-executed, but also evokes a sort of blasphemous, tongue-in-cheek humor. Though I’m not Jewish in practice nor ethnicity, my name is still Esther on the phone and I spend my 9-5 outnumbered by non-kosher Jewish colleagues. It goes without saying, then, that most of them now know of this dish that they can only get in Downtown LA, and preferably not on a Thursday night, should they favor avoiding the Art Walk crowds (go early, should you favor being a part of that crowd yourself).

It’s not in a soup, but the balls thrive on their own as piping-hot, juicy spheres of ground matzo and chicken stock. Of course, they are all taken to that level with the tender strips of bacon that make the orbit. The globes of matzo sit atop mustard aioli and are briefly showered with fresh-grated horseradish, which helps keep things from resting upon the bacon’s laurels by packing a couple punches in those couple of ways. The aioli really is perfect.

I will return for these and one of their many solid cocktails that rotate their chalkboard. Besides, there are many other small plates on Ilan Hall’s menu I have to try. It doesn’t mean that they can’t make for a big meal.

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Mon – Wed: 6 PM – 12 AM
Thur – Sat: 6 PM – 2 AM
Closed Sunday

The Gorbals
501 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213.488.3408