President Obama was in town. Again. At this rate, he is risking the wrath of Angelenos who, already frustrated by regular traffic, get swallowed street closures of epic proportions, always at rush hour, to allow the President’s motorcade to whiz him to wherever he is fundraising next. Don’t get me wrong – I am all for his re-election but can he please start landing at more convenient times?
Despite yet another monstrous gridlock, this time I was able to keep my reservation at Tavern, Suzanne Goin’s Westside outpost. Long occupied by Hamburger Hamlet, the cavernous space on San Vicente in Brentwood has been very tastefully transformed and divided into three different concepts:
The Larder, at the front – essentially a deli selling anything from granola to cheese, coffee and pastries (the croissants looked extremely attractive);
The Blue Room – otherwise known as the bar, with a long counter, comfy chairs in the middle and tables against the windows;
And the Restaurant proper, in the old conservatory shaped space, enclosed by glass walls.
The colors are different shades of grey and pale greens, with yellow leather couches that serve as banquettes the only bright spot. It’s beautiful and it works well. Even when the room is completely full, the noise is not deafening but, be warned, the tables are set so close together that it is practically impossible not to eavesdrop on your neighbours’ conversation and it takes a bit of concentration to tune them out (silicone injected blonde to my left complaining about her server and lady to my right droning on incessantly about work).
The food is consistent with what you would expect from Ms. Goin – seasonal, simple, Californian clean lines and flavours. My blackberry mojito was excellent and the barman did not skimp on the tequila. The crusty bread, served with butter and a heap of sea salt, was so good and tempting it was all gone long before my meal arrived. Refills are offered but I was feeling guilty enough.
My companion and I skipped appetizers and went straight to the main courses. Perfectly grilled and juicy salmon on a bed of very thick tomato sauce with saffron potatoes and grilled fennel was exactly what I wanted. The sauce was so rich in flavor, I did contemplate flagging my server down and ask for more bread to mop it up with.
The devil’s chicken is Tavern’s signature dish and I expected the Italian version of it, flattened and blackened on the grill. Instead, the chicken is breaded in mustard crumbs, pan-fried and served with braised leeks and onions. It was good but, maybe because of my expectations, not earth shattering.
I purposefully left room for dessert because Lucques’ sweets never disappointed me. Our server recommended the mini churros that, straight from the fryer, plump and short and served with a melted praline, were out of this world good and enough to share. The plate of cookies accompanied by a glass of milk is also meant to be shared, with five rather large cookies: they were good but somewhat lacking in imagination.
Service is attentive and not intrusive although, by the time the restaurant was full (on a Monday night!) it became a bit lackadaisical. With wine and cocktails, the bill was somewhat pricey but within the realm of what you would expect for such an establishment. All in all, if I feel a craving for Ms. Goin’s cooking, I am glad I don’t have to schlep to Hollywood any longer.
11648 San Vicente Bouleverd – Brentwood
310 – 806 6464