You can smell the wood-fired grill from a block away. It’s an irresistible siren call.
Chef/owner Andrew Kirschner first made a name for himself at Table 8, followed by a long run at Wilshire, which is probably where he fell in love with cooking over wood. Everything here that can be is cooked using either the wood-burning oven or grill. This includes vegetables like corn—roasted in the wood oven in a bath of goat cheese—or cauliflower folded with chopped white anchovies and pine nuts or potatoes with garlic and a spicy tomato aioli. Even cantaloupe—wrapped with prosciutto—gets its turn on the grill; paired with burrata so soft, it barely holds its shape.
The menu doesn't really propose to reinvent anything. Rather, Kirschner simply focuses on doing it better, with a little extra finesse. His food is uniquely original, yet without ever being challenging. To the consummate foodie, this is comfort food. To the less adventurous eater, this is a thrilling but safe new adventure. Steak tartare gets a lively boost from Sriracha sauce. The perfect duck leg confit mingles with wood-roasted grapes and hazelnuts. A perfectly medium-rare Kurobuta pork loin is the yin to the yang of smoked peaches. You simply won’t find a better roasted chicken than the one here.
The long, narrow dining room stretches past an open kitchen where flames are licking up from the grill. Tables are squeezed—but not too tightly so—along an expanse of a banquette that runs nearly the entire length of the room. While this is a great date restaurant with a tolerable decibel level, it's also a great place to gather a group of four or five friends, the perfect size party to share one of Kirschner's family-style platters like whole-roasted goat, a standing rib roast of pork or a feast of paella—all tinged with some sort of wood,be it mesquite, walnut, olive or oak.
Happily, the use of the wood-fired oven doesn't exclude desserts. The strawberry tart, with a not-so-faint hint of mesquite charcoal, is sublime.
Drink this: Go straight to the red wine list, and drill down to the amazing selections from Italy and Spain. These are the perfect wines for this food.
Eat this: Start with a bowl of bacon-and-brown-sugar popcorn. Then go for the braised lamb belly. After that, focus on wood.
Sit here: The most romantic and coveted seats are the ones all the way to the back on the restaurant’s quaint, enclosed patio.
Conversation piece: Chef/owner Andrew Kirschner competed on Bravo's Top Chef Masters, but he got booted off way too soon.