In Studio City, a small restaurant is doing big things. The Bellwether, opened mid-2015, was started by Ted Hopson and Ann-Marie Verdi, both veterans of chef Sang Yoon’s restaurants. I admit I don’t know much about the Studio City dining scene, besides the fact that veteran Asanebo and well-regarded relative newcomers such as Barrel & Ashes and The Gadarene Swine are in its borders, but I’ve yet to go to any of those restaurants. I did have a really good meal years ago at the now-defunct Raphael restaurant before a concert at the now-defunct Gibson Amphitheatre–that’s how often I dined in Studio City.
But The Bellwether is definitely a reason to visit Studio City. I had always enjoyed the dishes that chef Hopson served at food events in the past, so I was excited to have an entire meal of his food. The chef’s style seems to be to sneak in a little under the radar–the dishes on the menu don’t necessarily jump out at you on paper. When you taste them, however, they are quite delicious, with flavor combinations that are more bold and imaginative than they’d seem to be.
Among my favorite dishes of my meal were the octopus and the Okinawan sweet potato. I’ve had plenty of octopus dishes, even prepared with Mediterranean ingredients as they are here, and there was something about the cephalopod here that just made it different, better. And those purple yams were the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and tangy, with blistering-crisp skin and a fluffy/creamy interior.
The highlight of the meal, rightfully so, was a bone-in ribeye, probably 48 oz., confit in butter, finished medium rare, and topped with truffle oil. Fortunately, the kitchen didn’t go overboard with the truffle oil, and the steak, which was well marbled and not too fatty as ribeye can sometimes be, was cooked perfectly.
There were a few near-misses, dishes that were still quite good but did not click with me as much as the other dishes. I was probably looking forward to their scallop crudo the most, but the dish was a bit too bland. Obviously I don’t want my raw scallops to taste off, but these were so clean tasting they almost came off as flavorless. Even though they had a plump and taut texture, they were missing the natural brininess and sweetness of scallops.
The other disappointment were the fries, which seem to be lauded everywhere, but for us rather than being almost creamy on the inside, they were almost hollow, and oil dripped out of them. Maybe we just had an off batch, since literally everyone else loves them!
But beyond that, we really enjoyed our meal at The Bellwether. The poached shrimp, lamb shoulders, even the ubiquitous Brussels sprouts were very well received at the table. The desserts by Quenelle’s John Park (another Yang Soon alum) were good, especially the chocolate cake. Check out hashtag #offalobellwether for my Instagram posts of those dishes.
The Bellwether has been getting some good press–Jonathan Gold praised the execution, and more importantly the taste, of the subtly trendy menu, while Gordon Ramsay really seemed to enjoy his meal there recently, including those great Okinawan sweet potatoes. I hope the restaurant continues to do well, because it’s doing some really great things. Must go back to try their brunch, which includes a Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich!
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13251 Ventura Blvd. Suite A
Studio City, CA 91604