It's not easy opening a restaurant in the Cahuenga Corridor, a stretch of Hollywood where restaurants and bars seem to shutter as soon as the neighbors become used to their presence. Chef Brendan Collins, who found previous success at Waterloo & City in Culver City, was apparently feeling ballsy when he opened Birch, a small but ethereal eatery that serves things like bone marrow and rabbit and soft shell crab. With its sleek, minimalist design and blond wood tables, it feels more like a restaurant you'd find in San Francisco or New York—anywhere but Hollywood. Essentially, it’s exactly what the Cahuenga Corridor needs.
If you don’t eat your corn on the cob doused in brown butter truffle sauce and truffle marscapone—honestly, who does?—Birch is great at reassuring you that this is how it’s supposed to be eaten. Yes, it's messy, with butter running down your chin with each bite, but I instantly fell head over heels for this appetizer. The squash blossoms are a surprise, too, stuffed with a risotto and topped with candied bits of bacon to play up the squash’s sweetness. Plates are small and, you guessed it, meant to be shared, but the complex flavors and richness packed into each dish make having a couple bites satisfying enough. You’ll also want to save room for the rabbit baklava, a dish that has quickly become Birch’s signature offering. No, this is not your standard baklava, but rather hearty strips of rabbit wrapped in dough and topped with bing cherries, white beans and dollops of mustard, the last of which offers a welcoming hit of zest. You could pin the baklava’s popularity on its oddity, but really it's just a fantastic plate of food, and worth returning for.
For non-game enthusiasts, there is squid ink pappardelle with lobster, accented by an airy foam that dissolves into the wide strips of pasta; and a plate of the most tender octopus I’ve had in a long time—huge chunks of it tangled among Japanese eggplant and a tangy red pepper hummus. There’s a playfulness about it, which is a theme that runs through most of Collins’ dishes, whether it’s a one-night-only strip of bone marrow stuffed with uni and radishes, or shredded rabbit wrapped in filo dough. Or, perhaps, a skillet toffee pudding that reminds you of a gooey, Toll House cookie straight from the oven. Eating his food, you might feel like a kid again—this time, with Hollywood as your playground.
What to Eat: The squash blossoms ($17). The summer corn and truffle ($18). The rabbit baklava ($20). The charred octopus ($19).
What to Drink: Gabriella Mlynarczyk has put together an exceptional cocktail program at Birch, with drinks that are as pretty to look at as they are to drink. You’ll be ordering by numbers, and I strongly suggest the #3, a bright carrot-based drink with Aperol and gin, perfect for pairing with the rabbit baklava. For beer drinkers, the #5 is a healthy compromise: a Thai basil concoction featuring peach, matcha and an IPA.
Where to Sit: The airiness of Birch lends itself to patio seating, and while there is actually a small patio in an alley outside, you can also take a seat near the roll-up wall and look out onto Cahuenga. Want to feel a little more removed from Hollywood? The communal seating near the kitchen is a less rowdy scene (though, you know, it depends who you share the table with).