Snubbed by Jonathan Gold, but probably the best new restaurant in Los Angeles.
Not my first time last night, but it’s been a while since I’ve eaten at a place where everything felt so perfect for the most part (the only miss was the dessert).
As my brother pointed out, the ferocious list of dishes that actually carefully elaborates all of the ingredients in each dish can be a chore to get through, as the lightning is incredibly, hmm “intimate”, and the menu reads like a short 5 paragraph essay. Still, it’s worth your while to get through it. This place seems to be nearly as dedicated to the sourcing of ingredients, and reliance on the unique flavors of very particular produce to produce certain flavor in its dishes as Sean Brock’s Husk. Otherwise, I have no idea how to explain the depth of flavors coming out of the dishes here.
Red peas and rice (and smoked sausage) feels earthier than usual, yet cleaner in its flavors, with smoke pervading the dish. It almost feels luxurious somehow.
Shrimp and Grits, kind of just the perennial classic. I guess by now the standard for this dish it pretty high out here in LA even, but this was probably my favorite version I’ve tried here. Maybe because the delicately grilled shrimp were de-tailed making it less of a hassle to eat? Maybe because the grits were the most intensely viscous, creamy version I’ve ever had while not being dry. Maybe because the gravy/sauce was just right, not overly heavy and intense, nor non-existent, but providing just the right type of spiced accent. And the beef bacon expertly done, somehow not overpowering, but simply adding notes of fat, and char to amplify the other textures of the dish.
The Peads & Barnett’s pork chop is done so remarkably simply it almost doesn’t feel right. There are splashes of the most refined, savory version of maple-spiked pork jus on the plate, and some perfectly fried pieces of pumpkin, but in the center of a massive plate is just a humble looking, eminently charred piece of pork. Perhaps more an exercise in incredible sourcing, and cooking something so simply… my brother wonders why every restaurant doesn’t have a pork chop this good. “Surely you learn how to cook a pork chop in culinary school?” I suppose I am forced to admit that they must not teach you how to cook a pork chop in culinary school.
The game hen with lemon, king oyster mushrooms, and house-made ricotta is perhaps even more stunning though. The succulent nature of the game hen is enough to make one gasp with delight as the ambrosial chicken juices slick your maw. I don’t even totally know how this dish works to be honest. Ok, grilled lemon juice squeezed over chicken makes sense…even the massive, steak-like king oyster mushrooms, crisped on their floppy eared-edges, with buttery center lending blasts of umami make sense… but I’d never eaten ricotta cheese with chicken before, and oh what I have been missing apparently. The ricotta here is creamier, more composed than other ricottas I’ve had…I’m not totally sue how to describe it, but it works in the strangest way imaginable with this plate of chicken, mushrooms, and lemon. The blackened skin on the bird is exactly right by the way, just black enough for flavor without being burnt, and releasing a wonderful burst of spices on the palette…but the chicken’s flesh itself is incredibly flavorful. I am left totally bewildered by the depth of flavors coming from a simple plate of chicken, lemon, mushrooms, and cheese.
Sides at Hatchet Hall are the sleeper hits of the menu, clocking in at $8 a piece, for massive portions in most cases, all of some of my favorite vegetable preps anywhere. We got a plate of beef fat cooked mini potatoes that came out with almost french-fry crusts on them, slathered in a gorgeous garlic aioli, that were marvelous…kind of like the McDonald’s fries everyone misses so often, amped up to an 11/10 level I guess. And acorn squash, which was three gigantic wedges of the stuff coated in brown butter and pecans, and roasted to a level of outside crispness, and inside gooey splendor that I’ve never been fortunate enough to encounter in squash before. My brother’s comment, “I hate squash, but this is fucking incredible. Hell, this might be the best dish of the night.”
The roasted apple sundae we managed for dessert was the only off thing. It wasn’t even necessarily bad, the buttermilk ice cream is actually fantastic, and the roasted apples give it just the right kind of comforting apple flavor. It’s just that the apples and the apple donuts were cold, if they had been hot, I think it would’ve made the whole thing make more sense. But oh well. Great buttermilk ice cream is a kind of beautiful thing in itself I suppose.
Cocktails seem to be some of the best in LA here. Although a rather small amount for the money, their tongue-in-cheek play on the pumpkin spice latte, sort of like a fall version of the milk punch at Faith & Flower, was really wonderful. I had a fizz before dinner at the Old Man Bar that displayed a fairly high level of bartendering (sounds like bullshit, but a lot of places mess up basic fizz drinks in terms of texture). Plus, cocktails are all $12. Almost anywhere else doing similar quality drinks is charging $14-$16 in LA at this point.
Their disc-ocube wine cocktail drinks are so popular they couldn’t serve us one as people had stolen all of their disco-cubes lol
A lot of people might be pissed off about their wine list, or their complete irreverence to taking drinking super seriously, but I don’t know if there’s anywhere else I enjoy drinking more in this city (well, maybe The Walker Inn I guess, fine).
We sat next to Evan Funke, and Dunsmoor was talking to him a lot near the end of the night. So here’s hoping we see some kind of crazy collaboration between them soon. =P
I wish I had photos of this food, and I do, but they look horrible because of the ridiculously low levels of light in the place (it’s actually impossible to even read in the Old Man Bar, prompting me to order a fizz, as opposed to something off the menu).
Still, I have been eating around a lot, and have not had a meal this enjoyable in far too long. For me, Hatchet Hall is easily the best place to eat in LA right now. Just something about the cooking, the ingredient sourcing, the atmosphere, the way things are done…it feels like magic, that kind of special magic that we’re all secretly searching for as food lovers. I really hope it lasts, part of me almost feels like it’s too good to be true, and Dunsmoor has a bad habit of leaving his projects… but it’s like being lucky enough to have a one-night stand with the most beautiful person in the world… you don’t think about that, you just imagine the night will last forever.
Admission Fee: about $80/person including tip/tax/drinks whenever I’ve been. But plan to spend more if you really like drinking (more than 3 cocktails + expensive wine, etc…)