“We’re bringing you the fried Fluffernutter on the house,” says our waiter. Is there a sexier phrase in the English language?
Of course, our experience thus far at Black Market Liquor Bar, a gastropub on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, has been one of pure seduction. It is, first and foremost, a date-night spot: gradually dimming lights and a low brick ceiling convey the utmost intimacy, as do the black leather booths that hug the far-right wall. For those who prefer to sit face-to-face, there are granite-top tables lined down the middle, and the bar provides ample seating when a mere getting-to-know-you drink is in order. True to its name, Black Market has a stellar, ever-changing cocktail list, and our waiter was quick to offer his suggestions, from a Fade to Black bourbon beverage to the aforementioned deep-fried Fluffernutter sandwich.
Fried, in fact, seems to be where Black Market finds its credibility, which is not a bad thing (Top Chef alum Antonia Lofaso runs the kitchen here). Deep-battered cauliflower renders a flavor-challenged vegetable into something far more lucrative and, when dipped into the accompanying ramekin of tangy lemon aioli, nothing short of addictive. “I could eat these every day for the rest of my life,” says my friend, so naturally, we order another plate—they’re just that good.
We haven’t fallen completely in love, though. While offerings of burrata are now de rigeur on most menus, Black Market’s version was unfortunately less than memorable. Its presentation is certainly a delight—the dollop of cheese is served beneath a mound of grilled peaches and porchetta and accompanied by thinly sliced, grilled bread—but the burrata is too firm when it should be airy and light. A more satisfying side is the brussels sprouts, which we devoured in minutes; the naturally bitter veggie was made sweeter with a sprinkling of red grapes.
Black Market’s menu is primarily composed of small plates, except that we didn’t even notice until the spicy Korean chicken wings and the veal meatballs arrived, and then we thought, “Oh.” No matter—while offering no more than a few bites each, both dishes are rich and well-seasoned, particularly the kimchi-slathered wings which had us breathing fire long after the plate was wiped clean. It’s a good thing, too, that diners aren’t left stuffed to the gills, because everyone needs to save room for the fried Fluffernutter. I repeat: The fried Fluffernutter is necessary. Peanut butter, marshmallow and banana are spread between two pieces of bread, deep-fried and drizzled in chocolate, resulting in a dessert that borders on pure perfection. Except, of course, when a dish of housemade nutella ice cream is plopped down next to it, and you think, “Now I’m in love.”
What to Eat: The Deep Fried Fluffernutter. The Spicy Korean Chicken Wings ($11). The Fried Cauliflower ($7). The Veal Meatballs ($11). The Brussels Sprouts ($9). Did I mention the Fried Fluffernutter?
What to Drink: The cocktail list changes weekly, depending on what's in season. If you happen to catch the Basil Ray ($11) on the menu, though, take advantage: the vodka-based libation includes pineapple gum and prosecco, and is refreshingly crisp. For beer drinkers, you can't go wrong with their selection of Dogfish Head.
Where to Sit: Grab a booth if you can. The center tables with high-top chairs do not have a back, and can be a bit uncomfortable over the course of a longer meal.
Conversation piece: Lofaso opened her latest restaurant, Scopa, in November 2013; the Venice restaurant has some striking aesthetic similarities to Black Market.