Thursday, May 14, 2009

Barbrix - Silver Lake, Los Angeles

In what is the earliest initial visit HFF has ever made to a new restaurant, I headed to Barbrix with a restaurateur colleague on their third day open. It was rockstar fabulous across the board, even at this early stage.

We showed up early to kick off our evening that ended up wending through some of the seamier parts of Downtown Los Angeles (King Eddie's anyone?)--but that's a different post. Our early arrival was inadvertently shrewd as the place was packed with a line out the door by 7PM.

The space is well designed and pleasantly simply--a welcome relief from the oft overexecuted ripped-from-the-Hanging-Gardens-of-Babylon LA dining rooms that would be more appropriate as VIP lounges in Vegas strip clubs. There's a front patio with a cluster of tables, a big square wine bar in front, a bunch of tables (actual tables), and a back dining counter at the open kitchen.

The wine list is stellar (no surprise given co-owner Claudio Blotta's track CV) and dirt dirt cheap. No glasses over $10. No bottles over $55. A handful of very good bottles for under $20. A global selection of small-production labels, the most quotidian of the bunch is the Qupe Syrah. Wines on the list are priced only nominally over retail and well under the 3x wholesale bench mark that even the most casual LA restaurants seem to use as a starting point.

We went with one of the priciest bottles, the Sean Thackrey Sirius Petite Sirah at the absurdly low price of $55 on the freakin' list. Delicious, subtle complexity, pleasurable without tasting a damn thing like stewed prunes and grape jelly. Paso Robles this isn't.

We had a lot of food (it's all small plates), so I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff. Roasted cauliflower salad was great, very well done. Wild boar sausage with white bean ragout was fabulous. Porchetta-style pork belly was really nicely cooked, though the skin was absurdly (bordering on inedibly) crisp. Shrimp and chickpea "tortillas" (actually soccas): very good. Crostini misti (crescenza/fig/prosciutto, favetta & pecorino, jidori chicken liver pate) rocked, particularly the pate. Crispy grilled polenta with mushrooms: simple, tasty. The kitchen proved adept at the eclectic menu, showing themselves just as at home with pasta (an excellent beet arancini). The only so-so dish was the pork rillettes. It was fine, but I wanted stronger seasoning and a little more fat.

Now here's where it gets really weird. Service was excellent. When I walk into an LA restaurant staffed mostly by cute girls in their twenties (which is every restaurant that isn't staffed by ripped men) I'm immediately skeptical. The emphasis on looks above all else in a service staff has rendered LA service either mediocre and neglectful or eerily over-trained but under-engaged, vacantly rattling off info about the menu like a Hungarian speaking English phonetically. But at Barbrix the staff was very well-trained (you can tell they've had the opportunity to taste everything on the menu) while remaining honest and personable. I like idiosyncratic service. I like individual service. I like personality. The fact that everyone's hipster pretty (it is Silver Lake, after all) is merely a bonus.

And, seriously, I'm not trying to blog-fellate Barbrix but it's just so easy: even our fucking espressos were perfectly pulled, nice temperature, thick crema.

Our tab was like $150 including a generous tip, but that was with a pricey wine and way too much food. You could easily eat there for $30-$35 a head with wine. That's the sweet spot for a neighborhood place, which is what Barbrix is (and doesn't pretend to be anything else). It's the price that'll get locals in on a weekly basis. A lot of affluent and adventurous people live in the neighborhood and they need a place to eat. Keep the prices down, the menu evolving, and the atmosphere friendly.

It's a simple formula but incredibly easy to fuck up (cf. most every restaurant in Los Angeles).

Barbrix
2442 Hyperion Ave.
Los Angeles, Ca 90027
323-662-2442
www.barbrix.com

3 comments:

Adria Tennor said...

Hello there HFF!

Owners of barbrix here, Adria & Claudio. We appreciate your comments about our restaurant so much. We are thrilled to be part of the Silver Lake neighborhood, and it's nice to have all of our hard work and planning pay off and be noticed. Thank you! Next time you're in please say hello and introduce yourself. We'd love to meet you and put a face to HFF.

cheers!

Jennifer said...

I work at Barbrix. Thanks for the candid and kind description of the service! LOVE the top ten list you posted about Calso. #3 and #5 are classic. Go Bears!

Justin said...

I've heard great things from a number of people...getting tired of the west hollywood/hollywood restaurant scene...looking forward to trying out the latest silverlake gem!