Maré at Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese
In the back of chef Eric Greenspan‘s eponymous Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese shop, through a freezer door—complete with a horizontal latch handle on one side, and an inside release button on the other—is Maré, an al fresco-only restaurant-within-a-restaurant. Less exclusive-supper-club and more neighborhood-hidden-gem, the diminutive restaurant’s diminutive menu is well focused and affordable, and the staff is quite amiable and gracious.
Our service began with some fantastic seeded bread that was just a tad too hard to easily break or cut, accompanied with marinated olives, kumquats, and pistachios, as well as market vegetables, which was a plate of vibrant peppers that night.
Seafood was well represented on the menu, even with what I’d consider starters. The Fried Smelt, with roasted lemon sauce, served on radicchio, was light and delicate for it being a plate of whole fried fish. The Crudo of Albacore, with strawberries, chili, saffron aioli, and fennel, a special that night, was a playful contrast of flavors—sweet, briny, aromatic—and textures—meaty, tender, creamy, crunchy.
Our vegetables came out next, a plate of Roasted Broccolini and a bowl of Salt Roasted Potatoes. The broccolini, dotted with chili, and sprinkled with garlic chips and what looked like strands of saffron, had some hearty stalks that were a bit difficult to cut through. The individual spuds, topped with “Bold” aioli, was a table favorite, with skin crisp and lightly crusted with salt, while remaining light and fluffy inside.
My wife ordered one of the shellfish bowls—a choice of mussels, clams, or shrimp, cooked in one of four broths— as her main. Her Shrimp in Leek & White Wine Broth was just a touch bland, but the seafood was cooked perfectly. It came with a side of pasta, as well as an egg soft-poached in-shell for diners to crack into the broth themselves.
My kids split the Skirt Steak, with oregano chimichurri, and sea urchin butter. The butter did not taste strongly of uni, but definitely had a different dimension to it that was amazing not only on the steak but also on some of the bread from the beginning of the meal. The other sauce didn’t seem like a chimichurri to me—not green or herbaceous enough—but whatever it was, it also accompanied the steak quite well.
The Whole Branzino, with a fig pomegranate glaze, was ostensibly my main course, but it was big enough to share with the family. At $19, it’s an incredible value. We had the option to have it deboned, but we tried it whole. It’s a little more work to eat, but I think it’s a better preparation. When we started digging into the fish, we discovered it was packed with whole sprigs of rosemary, which really added great flavor to the branzino during roasting.
We ordered both items on the dessert menu. The Assorted Sorbet included peach basil, something with chocolate, and something with plum (I couldn’t remember what accompanied the named ingredients in the latter two flavors). All were delicious! The Blood Orange “Trifolo”, which I assume is Italian for trifle, was layers of semolina cake, cream, and fruit compote. The cakes were a bit too dry and needed more cream and/or fruit to balance it out.
Maré is a small, intimate, restaurant that gets even more cosy when the sun sets. My family had a really great meal there. Despite the small menu, it was easy to find something that everyone liked, and the specials each night increases the selection by at least 50%. It is both literally and figuratively a hidden gem, and I can’t wait to go back!
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7465 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA, 90046