You can tell a city has entered a seafood renaissance when several of its most admired chefs and restauranteurs make it a centerpiece of their sophomore-or-later efforts. We watched with delight as they’ve sprung up all over town these past couple of years, and as recently as last week. It’s indicative of a supply feeding the demand, which appears to still grow.
While I love living in Hollywood, sometimes you have to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of living in a town that’s the notorious destination for clubs, live acts, theatre and just plain drinking. And as a resident, I’m so glad that David Reiss’ (A-Frame, Sunny Spot) new place featuring the wares of Jason Travi (Spago, Fraiche, La Terza) is here. Littlefork is a clear selection that sits under the “positives of Hollywood” column. (If you’ve ever eaten at the former Korean BBQ spot, which happens to lie spitting distance from arguably the best concentration of Korean food in the world, I’ll try not to judge you.)
If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you’ve probably noticed how much I’ve been craving oysters recently. For awhile, I wasn’t exactly sure whether it was a by-product of my trip to New York – every day of which I enjoyed raw oysters (and what a glorious trip it was).
As it appears, my itch has failed to taper off whatsoever.
So what am I to do except create a round-up of my go-to spots for raw oysters on the halfshell? It’s pretty much the best seafood to consume in the world, with 95% of all oysters consumed being farmed with sustainable practices. And if bacon were vegan kryptonite, oysters are almost vegan … kale-beet salad? Having no central nervous system, oysters feed off plankton while filtering the waters around them and actually benefiting nearby marine life. Check them out on Seafood Watch to see that they’re “Best Choice” when it comes to consuming seafood.
I’m lucky enough to have great options in my neighborhood offering quite a variety of ambiances, as well as a variety of oysters to enjoy between Oysterholics Anonymous meetings, to boot. Of course, you’ll find more West Coast varieties with a sprinkling of East, but never fear – you’ve a handy online oyster guide spun off Rowan Jacobsen’s book to guide the way. It’s a fantastic way to have info on each oyster handy at your fingertips.
Anyway, back to it. Here’s where I personally break to slurp on those briny and not-so-briny bivalves. And yes, it’s centered on Hollywood and Silver Lake since this is my hood!
- L&E Oyster Bar – Silver Lake
Located down from The Satellite and across from LA MILL, the no-reservation L&E Oyster Bar is a great place to grab a dozen – the Daily Dozen, to be clear. You’ll get three varieties while saving a few bucks off the per-oyster price. Wash each oyster down with one of the excellent varietals of wine (after all, Dustin Lancaster and Matthew Kaner also brought us Bar Covell). L&E is already a neighborhood favorite but also the subject of a recent S. Irene review, so your best bet is to arrive near their 5 PM opening time. It’s often slammed, but when it comes to oysters it’s easy to see why.
- Public Kitchen & Bar (Tuesdays) – Hollywood
Jonesin’ for bivalves on a Tuesday? Escape into the Roosevelt Hotel and into this 1960′s library-esque restaurant with moss-lined dining rooms, high ceilings and rustic interior for their special oysters and Champagne menu. They’ve a dozen varieties of West and East Coast that switch out from week to week – so whether you want $14 for a half dozen, $20 for nine, or $28 for the dozen, you’ve got a few increments to choose from. And if you’re not looking to end on bubbly, there’s two awesome bars in the same hotel: The Spare Room and Library Bar.
- Pour Vous – Hollywood
Well look at that, little French Champagne & cocktail bar! This latest venture by Steve Livigni, Pablo Moix and Mark and Johnnie Houston is just one of those bars I’m so glad is in town – oysters or not. But hey, if oysters are a go, then you’ll really find no other place in the city with better libations to slurp them down with. If cocktails are the new food-is-the-new-rock, Pour Vous is essentially your rock supergroup with a vast but excellent menu featuring 26 drinks. But don’t come here if you’re looking to grab a dozen in your sweatpants; remember to come with a jacket and/or collar, guys, and ladies – you’ll have tons more fun dressed to these fabulous surroundings in your sharp garb. If you’re lucky, Livigni will be on deck…er, on the decks.
- Hungry Cat - Hollywood or Santa Monica
Hungry Cat’s really been the neighborhood stalwart of seafood, so when power duo David Lentz and Suzanne Goin expanded all the way over by PCH in Santa Monica, our city’s beachcombers rejoiced. Whether you supplement your oysters with one of their solid cocktails or get them as a prelude to their annual CrabFest (which sells out soon after it’s announced), you really can’t go wrong. Get the half-dozen for $15 or a full dozen for $30 – and supplement with plenty other shellfish and seafood – including plenty of other raw iterations – at will. Parking in the complex lot is also a cinch thanks to 2-hour validation.
- Christophe Happillon at your event – Various
Let’s not forget your own place or event. I was at a Dine LA media party once, and my friends and I were essentially glued to Christophe Happillon’s shucking station. It was the best party, ever. Everything I learned about oysters (away from the internet), I learned from this guy. You’ll learn a ton about oysters in the process, as in how environmental conditions and geography play a role in how each variety looks and tastes. You can also seek him out on Tuesdays at Church & State and Fridays at Joe’s Restaurant.
I’ll see you at the oyster bar!
L&E Oyster Bar
1637 Silverlake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Public Kitchen & Bar in The Hollywood Roosevelt
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
5574 Melrose Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90004
Hungry Cat Hollywood
1535 Vine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Hungry Cat Santa Monica
100 W. Channel Road (@PCH)
Santa Monica, CA 90402
It’s about time there was an approachable French Brasserie on the block; thankfully, Le Saint Amour is just that restaurant. With Walter Manzke having consulted on the menu and Chef Bruno Herve-Commereuc in-house to see that vision through, the Culver restaurant is putting out traditional French dishes that delight.
DuringÂ our media dinner, I even caught MaÃ®tre Ã‰cailler (that is, shellfish expert) Christophe Happillon stopping by to visit old friends and enjoy dinner at the bar – proof that even an industry Frenchman will stop by Le Saint Amour to get his fix of back home.
All charcuterie, pates, sausages and terrine served at Le Saint Amour are made at the restaurant. Luckily, you can get your taste of them with little commitment, with a plate of pates and terrines starting at $11, or $12 including a serving of foie gras.
My favorite hors d’oeuvres of the night (besides the pates and terrine) was the Moroccan Merguez ($11), with refreshing couscous, arugula and baby carrot salad surrounding two tender, spicy and flavorful lamb sausages. This salad is a great way to start off a meal here, with pickled ribbons of carrot and radishes bringing bright flavors to the beginning of your meal.
Or, you can order a traditional Escargots de Bourgogne, in which you get 6 for $10, each encased in their little containers for you to peel the buttery tops off onto which you spoon the snails in all their garlic and parsley buttered glory.
As for entrees, the mussels in white wine-cream sauce are definitely a must. They come with fries frites, which you can use as sauce and sop up all that goodness thanks to the crispy potatoes. Each mussel was almost like candy – you can’t have just one.
The Boeuf Bouguignon was also an indulgent main and one that I wish I had more room for. The peasant staple at Le Saint Amour was as well an executed dish that I’ve had in memory – though admittedly, my memory hasn’t spanned across numerous Boeuf Bouguignons. I think I’ll let it stand as being a dish of flavorful, braised goodness.
And don’t forget dessert. Their chocolate profiteroles (Profiterolles au Chocolat – $8) were delicious and appropriately hot and saucy on the inside, garnished well with a small scoop of banana ice cream, but what I really loved was the off-menu Blood Orange Granite, atop tangerine ice cream and panna cotta. This was a tart treat, a dessert that never made it so fun to suck in your cheeks.
All in all, you’re in for a rendezvous in France when you visit Le Saint Amour. The best part is, it’s not an experience that will break your bank. It’s down-home, approachable and traditional French fare that’s serious yet doesn’t take itself too seriously.Â Â They’re also open for brunch, which will add a great weekend option to your calendar.Â
All food and wine were hosted.
I first wrote about Christophe Happillon, the “Oyster Gourmet,” from a visit to one of his Friday night stints at Joe’s on Abbot Kinney. Little did I know how far he would expand the gospel of his seafood – and it turns out that he has dedicated his weeklyÂ efforts on Tuesdays to Downtown Los Angeles atÂ Church & State.
On Tuesdays, he’ll be serving up his favorite oysters after shucking them each personally. The West Coast varietiesÂ include Carlsbad Luna, Totten Virginica, Kumamoto, Malpeque and British Columbia Fanny Bay oysters. They’ll have the benefit of a pairing by Church & State Sommelier Jeremiah Henderson with crisp, cold Muscadet, such as his 2007 Domaine Tourmaline â€œSaint-Fiacreâ€ or a 2007 Michel Olivier CrÃ©mant de Limoux TÃªte de CuvÃ©e.
Not a bad way to kick off a meal featuring Chef Joshua Smith’s French Bistro fare…
6 – 10 PM
Church & State Bistro
1850 Industrial Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Christophe Happillon, The Oyster Gourmet
It’s that time, again. Mixologists – mostly hailingÂ from New York City -Â have flown in to show off their steez at The Edison in Downtown LA tonight. With Joe Brooke now firmly at the helm of The Edison’s cocktail program, there have been a few changes in protocol thatÂ we were made aware of at last night’s media preview. At tonight’s Radio Room, you will only be able to order each cocktail from the visiting mixologist who designed it via drink tickets at designated stations and servers. Edison staff will serve all other cocktails, food and beverages. An added perk on the food side as well: Christophe Happillon, who has for awhile now served oysters on the half-shell during Radio Room, will also have crab claws available!
Though most have flown in from the other coast, I enjoyed the cocktails from Seattle’s Zane Harris (of Rob Roy) probably the most. Last night at the media preview, the Globo Rojo #2 made me do a double-take withÂ its smoky strawberry profileÂ at the center. The other cocktail he brought us was the Vieux Cerde, made with 12-year Jameson, VSOP and a “drizzling” of Elisir M.P. Roux and bitters. It was truly a cocktail that made you think – in a good way – with a deep complexity that evolved the longer it lingered on your palate.
Following closebyÂ as far asÂ my favorite cocktailsÂ for the night wereÂ byÂ Giuseppe Gonzales – currently at Dutch Kills and working on a new bar called Painkiller on the Lower East Side. The Wild Orchid (gin, almond, elderflower & red wine floater) and Infante (tequila, lime, orgeat, orange blossom water, nutmeg) both come from Dutch Kills and they were both incredibly refreshing in their own way. The red wine floater in the Wild Orchid, which is usually suspended when the drink made with crushed ice, added a bit of weight and color to what might otherwise be a lightweight concoction.Â The Infante, which is Dutch Kills’ most popular cocktail, was like a sophisticated turn at the margarita – perfect with the added citrus of orange blossom and rounding out with a nutty finish from the freshly-grated nutmeg. Beautiful.
Don Lee, of Momofuku Ssam Bar fame, put together his Rite of Spring – which was a “fresh, seasonal take” on a classic Gibson. The base was vodka and also had rice vinegar, but with such a strong onion infusion in the cocktail, I thought gin might have blended better. Korean peppers further added complexity but I had a hard time with this particular vodka cocktail. Simon Ford (Pernod Ricard -Â New York & London), served up a cocktail named Good Morning, Vietnam, which featured gin, ginger and orange marmelade. I think by this time during the night (with yet another stop at First & Hope to come) my palate had gotten tired – as Maya swore she tasted the ginger, and I had tasted absolutely none. I tasted more lemon than anything, but it was still a welcome introduction to the Los Angeles spring to come.
Another bit of news: The Edison will have a new location in Manhattan in about 18 months. Now cocktail aficianados onÂ the other coast won’t have to travel 3,000 miles to get their own dosage.
Cocktail menu ($14 each):
Wild Orchid (Giuseppe Gonzalez)
Infante (Giuseppe Gonzalez)
Rite of Spring (Don Lee)
Globo Rojo #2 (Zane Harris)
Vieux Cerde (Zane Harris)
Good Morning, Vietnam (Simon Ford)
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Radio Room at The Edison
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
108 W. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
It may have been another night out in the neighborhood for Chris when I met her and Ken at Joe’s on Abbot Kinney last friday. But it had been awhile since I had a drink from their bartender, S. Hector Bury – and he didn’t disappoint with a delicious cocktail made with bacon-infused bourbon.
But we were there to learn about Christophe Happillon’s oyster program, which is at Joe’s on Friday nights and The Edison on Tuesday and Thursdays. So, whether you’re feeling The Downtown LAÂ vibe early in the week or more in the mood for Venice towards the end, you know where to go for your oyster fix.
Truth be told, I was also at The Edison for their latestÂ Radio Room just three days prior (which prompted Nico to accuse me of “cheating”) and had gotten a preview of Christophe’s awesome oyster display of Fanny Bay oysters. The real lesson would come at Joe’s, however, where he featured three different types of oysters. I have always loved oysters but knew very little – and was really appreciative to get a lesson in the West CoastÂ ones Christophe was carrying that night.
When Christophe set to shucking oysters for us (“Oysters are like women -,” he mused, “you cannot force them”)Â he started out with San Quintin Bay oystersÂ from Baja, California. This was the strongest, saltiestÂ oyster of the bunch, with this particular bay not receiving much rain and therefore putting the oysters in an environment with more sediment.
The next two oysters proved milder – as they were from areas also on the West CoastÂ but which had more rain and bigger waves: British Columbia. The Fanny Bay oysters, which were also at The Edison, had a tougher consistency than the San Quintins. Because there are more waves, the muscles in these particular had developed more than the previous variety.Â They wereÂ also not as salty as they grew in less sediment.
The final variety, from Metcalf Bay, was also from British Columbia but was the sweetest of the bunch. Christophe pointed out the Metcalfs’ shells in particular – which were especially brittle – as the environment Metcalf has less waves than the San Quintin and therefore had less elasticity. In general, the more muscle an oyster has, the sweeter its taste.
Now Christophe may be a French shellfish specialist,Â but he stresses that oysters on the half-shell are a primarily American dish. Think turkeys at Thanksgiving being stuffed with oysters, and the search for an aphrodisiac when primarily male emigrants relocated to the continent.Â Our time at Joe’sÂ was a great lesson in the history and origins of oysters’ chemistry, salinity and temperature, and I came away that muchÂ more knowledgeable about the bivalves. Now to eat more…
Half-dozen oysters: $17
One dozen oysters: $30
(Prices subject to change according to availability and market price.)
Oysters in this review were hosted.
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CAâ€Ž 90291-3386
All photography courtesy of Andrew Herrold
East is not the kind of place that, upon drive-by, would make me turn my head while noting to come back or even to simply do more research. If it’s a Japanese Pan-Asian place on Hollywood Blvd., I’ve basically assumed it’s Geisha House or the recently-shuttered Club DSushi (which is actually on Sunset Blvd but pretty darned close). I have a stock montage that I play in my head – slow motion close-ups of collapsing hand cut spicy tuna rolls being shoved into lipsticked mouths as low-frequency four-on-the-floors pulsate through the venue. Having to shout over trance lasers to hear the person immediately next to you. Sake bombs. Blech. Saketinis. Blech. You know the place. The place where renditions of Miyagi’s go.
I get it – it’s hard to imagine Hollywood Blvd. as a culinary destination. I wouldn’t argue with you there. But then, I think, it would be unwise to completely extract that scene from the identity of a restaurant like East. During my visit, I sat across from Rob Dyrdek (for all you extreme sports fans). Celebrity or not, the guy was on to something, here – the restaurant actually doesn’t rest upon its Hollywood Blvd. laurels and serves up reliable seafood on the half – and will even impress you with its minimal, classy interior.
Let me stress again: Don’t come here looking for a bargain. Bring your date here because while you may want to throw her off with the exterior and location of yet another typical Hollywood spot, East will surprise her with classy, minimalÂ decor and some amazingly good dishes. Keven Alan Lee heads the kitchen, hails from Vegas’ LutÃ¨ce and let’s face it – there are some you want to impress outside of business and East is the place to take him or her. Even the starting spinach salad with arugula and duck confit was very good – a good amuse to precede the seafood to come.
And do concentrate on the shellfish – not so much the sashimi (“We do sashimi, not sushi” I was told).