Tavern: star gazing while dining in Los Angeles
Tavern is their most complex and ambitious project to date of the chef and sommelier duo Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne. Well-known to the LA’s sprawling restaurant scene, they also own Lucques and the AOC wine bar in West Hollywood.
Tavern welcomes you with a bar, a spacious greenhouse hosting the restaurant and a gourmet shop/bakery called Larder. All that under one roof, so you can choose whether to come for a quick breakfast or get a freshly baked baguette from the Larder, a lunch or dinner at the eponymous restaurant or just a drink and snack at the bar.
Food: Spiced carrot and beet salad with queso fresco and green harissa is not cheep for an appetizer ($16), but it is delicious and big for a pre-main course dish. Multi-colored carrots are shaved over harissa paste and the fresh cheese adds creamy texture to a crunchy mass of veggies.
Roasted root vegetables with prosciutto, buratta and abamele, pricey for a starter ($17) and a bit smaller than the spiced carrot salad. The prosciutto and buratta are of outstanding quality though and the glazed vegetables with abamele are intensely flavored with this honey-like sauce (Making abamele: honeycombs are pressed to extract all honey and pollen which is then reduced in copper pots, creating one of the most ancient products of Sardinian gastronomy) matching perfectly the fatty cheese and meat on the plate. Ideal with a glass of Pinot Noir.
The signature dish at Tavern is The devil’s chicken with braised leeks, onions and mustard breadcrumbs, but we were advised to get a duck instead since the devil’s chicken is regularly on the menu and the other dishes are added seasonally.
The Duck confit with farro, black rice, pea shoots, tangerines and dates was much more expensive ($36) than the signature chicken. It was excellent in terms of combination of different flavors, the duck was great and the meal hearty as most of the food at Tavern. The sweet dates were an interesting alternative to a plum compote and other sweet condiments served usually with duck. The tangerines added zest and juice. The pea shoots lightened up the otherwise heavy meal.
Since the chef Suzanne Goin cooks according the produce she finds on Santa Monica market I was curious which fish her Tavern chef picked. The Market fish with cous-cous, spring vegetables, mint yogurt and kumquats ($29) was a red snapper served with Morocco-inspired sides. The cous-cous was disappointingly bland, but after mixing it up with the creamy mint yogurt, zesty kumquats and oily vegetables it got more flavour. As I mentioned the latter was a bit more oily to my taste which combined with the already oily pan-fried fish resulted in a hearty dish where one would expect something lighter.
Drinks: The wines by the glass are mostly from California. We tried the white blend by Chien which was very interesting and accompanied the fish well. A BTG Chardonnay was okay as well as a Chenin Blanc from Habit. From the reds other disappointments were a blend of Syrah and Grenache from Beespoke as well as an out of balance Cabernet Franc from Lang&Reed. One would expect that at a restaurant where a sommelier is one of the owners, the wines by the glass would be better. I must add that they were not cheep. The AOC is generally a much better place to have a great glass of wine. It is possible that we were just unlucky with our choice, with the exception of the white wine from Chien in Santa Barbara. This wine was made as the Alsatian popular table wine known as the Edelzwicker blend.
A good selection of scotch, bottled as well as tap beer and cocktails satisfy the non-wine oriented yet alcohol drinking population.
The dessert lovers will relish a strawberry-rhubarb buckle with gaviota strawberries, streusel and buttermilk ice-cream. It was like a crumble baked with rhubarb and strawberries. The buttermilk ice-cream was the best bite.
Tavern is a neighbourhood restaurant with generations-spawning clientele. Since the bar is an entry to the restaurant, it adds buzz to the dining area. One can also take on stargazing while waiting for the ordered meal as the entire roof is made from glass. Romantic souls will be intrigued.
Visit: March 2012
11648 West San Vicente Boulevard, Brentwood, Los Angeles, CA 90049, US
+1 310 806 6464
Breakfast: Mon-Fri 8am-11am; Brunch: Sat-Sun 10am-2:30pm; Lunch: 11:30am-2:30pm; bar menu: from 3pm daily; Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5:30pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm, Sun 5pm-9:30pm;
The Larder delicatessen 8am-8pm daily