There are few things that irk me more, in the restaurant world, than wasted space. It takes a lot of money and effort to buy and run a restaurant and so it is disappointing to me when a new establishment can’t do what it is supposed to do. And that thing is to BE GOOD!
The glory days of Henry’s Hat on Cahuenga have given way to Spoonful, a lackluster attempt at southern cuisine and libations.
Megan and I stopped by on Friday full of expectation and post new year good cheer. Here’s how it went down. Megan was already sitting at the bar, fending off cool dudes and drunkards while forcing herself to sip an unevenly made Manhattan. I moved in and made my presence known. The bartender did not offer me a cocktail menu for 5 minutes. We had to ask for one. That means that I sat there, at the bar, with nary a glance from the guy that is supposed to be serving me. And just in case you’re asking….. no, it was not busy.
I finally get a seemingly exciting drink called The Hot ‘lanta. Mezcal, coca infused tequila, black pepper. It comes out pink, in a martini glass and literally undrinkable. I couldn’t even go in for a second sip.
Then I flailed my arms and got the bartender’s attention, told him I wasn’t digging it and he kind of smirked politely like, “no one likes this drink”. ( so take it off the menu!) Since I was in an establishment claiming southern fare, I ordered a Sazerac instead. Ten minutes later it came. I could taste nothing but straight whiskey. So the bar…. was a let down.
p.s. A big round ice cube doesn’t make your bar cooler or your drinks better.
Now the host and the server couldn’t have been any sweeter and I appreciated that. When we sat, Megan ordered a Hall Sauvignon Blanc and I ordered a Bogle Reisling. Both wines were excellent.
The menu did not have a lot of exciting options. It seemed stuck in a limbo of fine dining and sports bar. There are four sandwich options under “entrée” next to well worded short ribs and snapper options. I thought the mismatch was off-putting.
We went with the braised pork belly to start, a fried chicken dinner and the previously mentioned short ribs.
The pork belly was a move in the right direction. Very flavorful, tender, sweet and well presented. The vanilla gastrique on the bottom of the plate was really special and we ordered cornbread to sop it up with. The cornbread came out 20 minutes later, a cold, overly sweet wedge that was not made to order, therefore I could not understand its delay arriving at our table. The vanilla gastrique was cold by this time and all the joy of sopping it up was gone.
The short ribs themselves were fine but the plate had problems. Braised meat should always be served with its braising jus. That’s liquid gold in the kitchen. These boneless ribs were bone dry and served atop cold polenta; as if they had plated early and let it sit in the window, waiting for the short ribs to be put on top. Same goes for the broccolini. Good but cold.
Our Southern Fried Chicken Dinner was fine but not great. The collared greens were the actual winner of the dish. Warm and vinegary. They felt authentic. The overly seasoned chicken leg was crispy and good because fried and breaded protein is always good, but it could have been anybody’s fried chicken. Nothing special. A well browned dish of mac and cheese finished the plate. The cheese sauce was quite thin and lacked a real sense of richness or dairy.
Megan insisted on dessert. I have an aversion to bread pudding to begin with, but this toffee bread pudding with toffee ice cream was just richness for richness’s sake. Again, no character. And don’t make the accompanying ice cream the same flavor as the dessert itself. It needs to be a complement to the main attraction of the dish, not a repetition. Very amateur.
In a health conscious town like Los Angeles, where most people are calculating everything that goes down their throat, you have to give people a reason to indulge. Spoonful is not that reason.