ADVENTURES IN LALA LAND – Son of a Gun

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The corner of Orlando and W. 3rd St. in Los Angeles has become a happening one. If, until a few years ago, the only bright spot was Joan’s on Third, the ever popular eatery, now the swanky Churchill hotel has appeared on one corner and Magnolia Bakery, of Sex and the City fame, on the opposite. And then there’s Son of a Gun. Brought to us by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the masterminds behind Animal, the pair tries to do for seafood what they did for meat, i.e. make it very interesting.

With only a few concessions to a couple of salads and a chicken sandwich (which I saw coming out of the kitchen and looks fantastic, something I would actually order), the entire menu is devoted to seafood. Unfortunately, because the prices are somewhat steep, ordering the entire menu was out of the question but that was my first inclination when I read it.

The L-shaped room is not as minimalist as Animal and it’s filled with maritime memorabilia, with the shortest part of the L devoted to a long, communal table with stools. The tables are a bit too close together, easily promoting conversation with your neighbours and it might not be the right place for a romantic dinner or a first date. It’s also extremely loud. But, oh the food! Everything we picked, did not disappoint.

Most of the dishes are on the small side and it’s worth checking with the server as you might end up hungry if you only order a couple of items.

My friend and I started with poke, served nearly raw, cut in little cubes, marinated with ponzu and served with yuzu and white nectarines. Everything melted in my mouth. This is where the difference between restaurants who serve only top-notch ingredients and those who don’t becomes apparent: the freshness of the fish, the intense sweetness of the yuzu and the pitch perfect flavor of the nectarines cannot make a dish fall flat no matter how hard a chef might try.

The lobster roll, that I had noticed flying out of the kitchen while waiting, is a tiny rectangular of brioche, brushed with butter and toasted, with a slit on top filled with the lobster/mayo salad that has made this East Coast staple so famous. I could have eaten five rolls in a row without missing a beat. The octopus salad was also a standout – tender octopus, grilled and paired with mirepoix and chili.

And then it was time for the Peel and Eat Shrimp boil – half a pound of boiled shrimp served in their shells with a lime mustard sauce. Sounds uninteresting right? Half of the fun was eating with our hands and getting messy (hot serviettes and lemon wedges are provided) and the other half was seeing how such a simple dish could be brightened with the right marinade and a sauce so well-balanced I wish I could have bought a bottle to take home.

What I like about both restaurants is their integrity – only the freshest and best quality ingredients are served, with no fuss but just an apparent joy of cooking them. This means it won’t be cheap but it’s worth every morsel. On the good side, the restaurant purifies and carbonates tap water themselves – which is served in simple glass bottles with jam jars standing in for glasses – and only charges 10c a person for it. No shelling out $7 for some Scottish Highlands water in a fancy bottle.

For desserts, only a few ice-cream selections are available, probably also excellent, but I had purchased a chocolate flourless cupcake with Swiss meringue topping from Magnolia that our server was gracious enough to let us eat, even providing us with plates at no charge. Lunch service is friendly, girly and efficient.

PS – This girl is going on a well deserved 2 week vacation. Might blog occasionally but probably not, unless I can’t fight the urge. Will bring you back news, tidbits and suggestions from the motherland upon my return. Enjoy your Summer!

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