I’m not sure how I came across it, but I recently “discovered” Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails at the Hotel Irwin in Venice, just a block from the beach. Like Fork in the Road in Santa Monica, Barlo is one of those places that’s pretty much flown under the radar of most food publications–a few “now open” posts on Eater LA, some “reviews” that are little more than restaurant listings on various sites, but no write-ups on Chowhound or from independent food bloggers–while ranking decently on Yelp with a 4-star rating on 208 reviews.
Barlo’s initial claim to fame, at least what early notices all seemed to mention, was their “bacon caramel”, which I had imagined as some kind of sweet, caramelized bacon confit, but it’s just bacon infused caramel, which is not a bad thing. The concoction is available on top of popcorn as an appetizer, or topping their eponymous Barlo Burger. With the lifting of the foie gras ban, the burger has been upgraded to Barlo Burger 2.0 on the menu to include a slab of the fatty duck liver on top.
The rest of the menu is eclectic, not what I’d expect a hotel restaurant in a very touristy area to serve, but if you’ve made the rounds to some of the hottest restaurants in town, you may experience some déjà vu. Of course, trendy items such as poutine and bone marrow appear on many restaurants’ menus, including Barlo’s, but seeing fried pig tails served like Buffalo wings and a meat pie with a bone “chimney” jutting out of the center can’t help but remind me of Animal and chi SPACCA, respectively. The most important thing, though, is how the food tastes.
Dining solo the night I tried Barlo, I could not order too much, but I did sample a trio of dishes.
Crispy Pig Ears, fleur de sel, grilled lime [$8]: The problem with this dish, not just at Barlo, is that breaded fried pig ears seem to soak up a lot of fry oil. The nice thing about Barlo’s take is that the ears are not cut too thin, so it’s not more breading than meat, and it doesn’t end up being too greasy. I did wish they were just a little crisper.
K-Town Pig Wings: crispy pig tail, kimchi buffalo sauce, pickles [$12]: While Animal did not invent the dish, their Buffalo pig tails are one of their signature dishes and incredibly popular. Fork in the Road does a Buffalo wing-inspired pig tail dish, but, at least in the rendition that I tried, the tail meat was made into more of a croqueta. Barlo sticks with the bone-in preparation, but tries to distinguish its take on the dish by introducing Korean flavors into it. The problem is that I really didn’t get much kimchi flavor in the sauce, and the pickles were rather sweet. In combination, these factors made the tail taste more like it was covered in barbeque sauce. While tasty, the dish just wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
Scotch Egg: duck egg, sage sausage, fig jam [$7]: Another tasty-but-not-quite-as-expected dish, the Scotch egg was probably the largest I’ve seen, due to the use of the duck egg. I’ve generally found duck egg whites to be a little more astringent, and the yolk to have a distinctive flavor, but that was not the case here. It tasted like chicken … egg! The issue I had with this dish was that the sausage layer encasing the egg was very thin. The breading was nice, but it was mostly what I tasted, along with the sage, but I didn’t really taste any sausage.
I found my meal at Barlo to be quite decent. It didn’t wow me, but not every meal has to do that. Despite being a hotel restaurant, it has a very neighborhood-y vibe. Hey, I’m just glad to find a place near where I live that has pig ears and tails, even if the menu seem a little derivative.
If I come back, and I plan to, I’d probably try the “Eggs and Bacon”, which is a salad that has crispy pig ears. That may cut the grease factor a bit, and be healthier too. Plus it’s got a 63° egg. I’d probably also try the Rabbit & Marrow Pie with the bone chimney sticking out the middle. If I could gather up some folks, I wouldn’t mind trying a “Whole Beast” family style dinner, like the Hog’s Head or the Leg of Goat–hey, those aren’t whole beasts! :-)
Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails (At Hotel Erwin)
1697 Pacific Ave
Venice, CA 90291
Check out my first piece for L.A. Taco: A Beginner’s Guide to Offal Tacos (Intro and Part One) by clicking the banner below:
Part Two and Part Three should be out this coming week!
It’s funny, I’ve seen République appear on a few “Best New Restaurant” type lists at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, but I haven’t thought of République as new for quite some time. I first visited the restaurant when it was actually new, in November 2013, the month it opened, and it quickly established itself as a go-to place for fantastic brunches and dinners. While I loved my first meal there–the côte de porc was amazing–it’s actually taken me a while to go back, mainly because it is so incredibly popular.
Thanks to the Reserve app, my wife and I managed to have a wonderful date night at République on a Saturday earlier this month.
‘Eggs on Toast’ I, soft-scrambled eggs, Santa Barbara uni [$16]: This being my wife’s first time here, we had to order this for her to try. When I had this on my first visit, I thought the bread was a bit too thick and the combination of egg and uni, while delicious, didn’t quite work together. Whatever they’ve done to tweak the recipe in the past year-plus has really made this a winning combination! The bread this time was lighter, and had a nice toast to it; I could even tell that it was buttered. The egg and uni played off each other much better this time as well.
(New, to me at least, on the menu was an ‘Eggs on Toast’ II option that was topped with Osetra caviar for twice the price.)
Ora King Salmon Crudo, citrus, Castelvetrano olives, celery, Umbrian lemon oil, tarragon [$18]: A gorgeous dish, but it was rather disappointing because we couldn’t taste the salmon at all! I’ve had Ora King salmon, a breed of king salmon sustainably raised in New Zealand, previously, and I remember it tasting great. However, for whatever reason we could hardly taste it. In fact, despite how wonderfully aromatic the ingredient list sounded, the entire dish was rather bland, unless you happened to get a bit of olive in your bite.
Charcuterie Board, for two [$14]: Having one hit and one miss so far, I really wanted a hit, and I definitely got that with the charcuterie board. This was one item I really wanted to order, but the starting price on the menu was $28 and serves four. Fortunately, our server said for a party of two, they do make a smaller board for half the cost! This makes it one of the most affordable charcuterie boards in town for the amount you get, and one of the best, quality-wise! The assorted pâtés & terrines (pork, duck, rabbit), salumi (prosciutto, salami), and pork rillette, is second to none, and it’s accompanied by a fruit chutney, olives, pickled vegetables, mustards, and an amazing crusty baguette from their bakery!
Tourte de Gibier, Sonoma duck, foie gras, wild mushrooms, blackberries [$36]: While I’m sure the duck was not wild, this “game pie” was still quite rustic and hearty. The foie gras and mushrooms give the filling a rich, deep flavor, which is balanced by the blackberry reduction. The crust was also perfectly golden brown, not too heavy, but also not too flaky!
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake, chai milk tea chaser [$13]: Desserts are a bit on the pricey side here, but their bakery puts out some amazing pastries. Unfortunately, the chocolate cake was not quite as good as some of the other baked goods I’ve had there. It was by no means bad, but it just wasn’t anything special.
Lemon Mousse, tangerine granité, oro blanco sorbet [$11]: Saving the dessert round, this dish was a superb interplay of tart, sweet, and bittersweet, and completely refreshing–a great way to end the meal!
As mentioned above, we used Reserve to get a reservation at République. Originally we were told we’d be at a communal tall table, but when we arrived we were actually able to get a table for two in the back room. Not saying Reserve had anything to do with that. :-) At the end of the meal, we were just presented with a card stating our check was paid (we do receive an itemized receipt from Reserve in email)!
Here’s the deal on Reserve. Yes, the service charges a $5 concierge fee, but only if you get a table and only after you’ve completed your meal. So there’s no risk in trying for a reservation through the app! They’ve already partnered with some of the best restaurants in L.A., including Alma, Bestia, Melisse, Rustic Canyon, Tar & Roses, and, of course, République!
If you want to try Reserve for yourself, download it from the iOS App Store or Google Play. Create an account, and use promo code OFFALOTWTR in the app (Account, Payments, Add Promo Code) to get a $25 credit. Disclosure: I do receive a $5 credit once you complete your first dining experience through Reserve.
Reserve has been all over the news lately, with celebrity investors like will.i.am, Jon Favreau, and Jared Leto capping off some significant Series A venture capital funding. More recently, the app landed exclusive rights to offer reservations to the best restaurants at Coachella! Check them out!
Despite a few disappointments, we were still quite happy with our meal at République. The better dishes absolutely made up for the others. We will definitely come back, though fortunately I will have the opportunity to sample chef Walter Manzke’s cooking sooner rather than later!
Chef Manzke will be competing in COCHON 555‘s Los Angeles event this year, taking place at the Viceroy in Santa Monica on Sunday, March 29th. His competitors include chef Ricardo Zarate, formerly of Mo-Chica, Picca, and Paiche; chef Kris Morningstar of Terrine; chef Steve Fretz of The Church Key; and chef Tony DiSalvo of CAST at the Viceroy. I will be there to check out the action, and I will post about it, hopefully next week! If you want to be there to see (and taste) for yourself, tickets are still available!
624 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade-adjacent Asian-fusion restaurant Buddha’s Belly closed last year and reopened in January of this year as The Independence. Initially, the kitchen was to be headed up by b.o.s. chef David Bartnes, but those plans fell through. Instead, chef Tom Block, formerly of Beelman’s Pub, helms the back of the house. Earlier this month, I was invited to try a large sampling of the menu at a hosted event.
Though the menu includes many of the mainstays of popular gastropub fare, the recipes all seemed fresh and execution was superb. My favorite dishes included the fork-tender Grilled Octopus, with smoked beans, grapes, celery, pickled chili; the bright and flavorful Smoked Whitefish Toast with pickled shallots, apple, fried capers; and the Thai-inspired Rack of Lamb, with Thai red curry rub, coconut milk, and an amazing smoked eggplant puree that could be served on its own with toast and sell like hot cakes!
Cocktails are the work of nearby sister-establishment Copa d’Oro’s Vincenzo Marianella, and there’s something for everyone. For those who light bright and tart, there’s the Sawtelle, with citron vodka, kumquats, blood orange, homemade honey-ginger syrup, Curtis lime bitters. For a more caliente taste, there’s the Buenos Ayers, with Jamaican rum, maraschino liqueur, stone pine liqueur, fresh lemon juice, Curtis smoked banana bitters, cayenne pepper & sugar rim. And for those who enjoy a fine cigar, there’s the Smoke of Scotland: Laphroigh cask strength scotch whiskey, extra dry vermouth, elderflower liqueur, Amaro Averna.
There is something for everyone on the menu, whether you’re vegetarian, or a burger lover. There is also has a decent looking Happy Hour menu that I can’t wait to try–a friend has already been several times and enjoyed her visits!
Disclaimer: As mentioned above, this was a hosted event. All opinions are mine.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
L.A. Weekly‘s “The Essentials” event took place this past weekend at the California Market Center in Downtown Los Angeles, the same week that their 99 Essential Restaurants 2015 list was released. This was just the second “Essentials” events, with the inaugural one just last year after a break in 2013, coming off of four years of “Gold Standard” events before Jonathan Gold moved to the Los Angeles Times.
I was somewhat apprehensive about this event, having read and heard from people who attended last year’s event what a mob scene it was, with packed crowds and long lines, and with restaurants running out of food after just the first hour of general admission (VIP tickets granted early admission)! However, those fears were somewhat unfounded, as I thought the event ran relatively smoothly this year!
Having GA tickets, I had wanted to arrive at least a half hour early for the 2 PM start time (VIP entry started at 1 PM). Unfortunately, I did not arrive until closer to 1:50 PM, when lines had already snaked out of the building. I queued for about 45 minutes and got into the actual event after 2:30 PM.
Lines for individual restaurants varied, but most were manageable, with relatively short wait times. Some of the more popular restaurants had long lines nearly the entire time we were there–Animal, Bestia, Maude, etc.–but they moved relatively fast. As far as restaurants running out of food, I didn’t notice any until around 4 PM, and most served up to the end. First place that I noticed had closed down their table was Guisados, but Petit Trois and Guerrilla Tacos had also run out before I could get a chance to try them–my fault, as they had food for most of the event, I just hadn’t prioritize hitting them earlier.
As far as crowds, while the event was lively and full of people, it did not feel too crowded. Elevators/restrooms in the center of the floor naturally separated the event space into two halves. Depending on which direction you came out of the elevator banks, it was easy to end up just circulating around your half of the event space. Many people remarked they had not realized there was a lot more to try across the floor.
But enough about that, let’s get to the food! Too many to recap individually, below are just some of the highlights for me.
Seafood: Coni’Seafood‘s shrimp, octopus, scallop ceviche; Sotto‘s albacore conserva; Chichén Itzá‘s octopus tostada; Providence/Connie & Ted‘s raw oysters; Saint Martha‘s uni tataki on seaweed “Doritos”.
Meat: Mélisse‘s wagyu beef béarnaise; Bestia’s crispy ciccioli; Tar & Rose‘s lamb tartare; Spago‘s pork belly bánh mì; Little Sister‘s beef shank & tendon bánh hỏi, Maude’s white asparagus pain perdu w/foie gras mousse.
So to recap the event: Yes, it was frustrating to queue up for so long before getting in. If I had arrived even later, and missed a more significant portion of the 3 hours, I might have been more upset, but arriving early for a popular event like this is, or should be, par for the course.
On the food front, I was very satisfied with what I had at the event; I probably got to try over two dozen different samples in a little more than 2 hours. Since I’m not a huge drinker, I would have liked to have more drink options than wine and cocktail samples, and Jarritos soda, but at least drink lines, like the food lines, were also manageable. All in all, I thought The Essentials 2015 was a relative success!
Participating Restaurants: Alimento, Sotto, Animal, Bestia, Belcampo Meat Co., Beverly Soon Tofu, Buna Ethiopian Market, Cacao Mexicatessen, Chengdu Taste, Chichén Itzá, Coni’ Seafood, Connie and Ted’s/Providence, Crossroads, DTLA Cheese,
Eggslut, El Huarache Azteca, Father’s Office, Kiriko Sushi, Lukshon, Guelaguetza, Guerrilla Tacos, Guisados, Hinoki & The Bird, Horse Thief BBQ, Hungry Cat, ink., Jitlada Southern Thai, Kogi BBQ, L&E Oyster Bar, La Casita Mexicana, Little Sister, Lum-Ka-Naad, Mariscos Jalisco, Maude, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, Mélisse, Mozza, Park’s BBQ, Petit Trois, Philippe the Original, Picca, Plan Check, Pollo A La Brasa, POT, Rocio’s Mole De Los Dioses, Saint Martha, Sarita’s Pupuseria, Spago, Sqirl, Sticky Rice, Summer Rolls, Superba Food + Bread, Szechuan Impression, Tar & Roses, Valerie Confections.