Sycamore Kitchen is everything Short Order isn’t. It’s exactly like Huckleberry for Hollywood-adjacent and it’s so damn good. It’s a lil bit Jewy, which makes it passively endearing in the way most pastry shops in LA simply can’t be — there is a “babka”, but it’s really just a cinnamon sticky bun along the lines of a Tartine morning bun. Sycamore is not Chaumont Bakery, which is also lovely, but in a completely different manner. With the departure of Parish’s pastry chef, Sycamore Kitchen has become the pastry driven restaurant champion of Los Angeles.
Can you imagine being married to a James Beard-nominated pastry chef ? Even if this round is just the semi-finals? No wonder Mr. Hatfield races crits. I’ve rooted for Chicago’s Mindy Segal since 2007, and she finally won last year. This year, Karen Hatfield all the way. She may not win until 2015, especially with the rockstar-cum-pastry-chef at Del Posto, and those $10 pastries at the red hot Craftman and Wolves, but hopefully Sycamore Kitchen will be around as long as “Hot Chocolate“.
Last summer, Tar & Roses positive blew the hell up. You couldn’t get a reservation without contacting the PR rep, even on a Wednesday. It was nuts. Chef Andrew was errrrrrwhere, and the restaurant’s PR machine was humming along, offering ordering tips to anyone who was visiting, or planned to visit. Naturally, all the dishes that were thoroughly enjoyable were all the ones that the public tended to ignore:
The smoke trout rillettes were the highlights of the meal (top left above) and signaled all the pickled fish that was to follow Tar & Roses (witness The Parish, withness the Hart & and Hunter, and the Gorge, etc.). If three’s a trend, LA’s positively on the smoked/pickled fish bandwagon. And hellulah as it fits the ’13 foodstuff resolutions nicely. Silver, sustainable, local fishes done in a Jewish tradition? Everybody sign up.
The charred octopus was also delightly, reeking of smoked, wood, and double kudos to Tar & Roses for not chasing the pulpitos trend. Let’s not eat the babies first, let’s eat the grown cephalopods.
The bacon popcorn was sent on the house, and while the table was thankful, and slightly obsessed with the corn, it remains, much like all of Black Hogg’s pork porn, but a nostalgic novelty. Instead, a dish like baby carrots with currants and chermoula creme fraiche is where one really wants to be, especially when it’s summer. Ditto to the simple wood roasted corn topped with goat cheese and lime. It was clearly evocative of the various Mexican street corn found alongside LA barrios.
There were two lamb dishes on that night, and both were better choices than the more fashionable pork tenderloin. The only dish that offered nothing but ennui during the night was the soft shell crab. While the presentation was entertaining (see above, middle right), it was just a deep fried soft shell crab, with none of the nuances and complexity of the smoked trout.
To sum Tar & Roses up in one sentences: it’s MB Post in Santa Monica. And MB Post is nominated for a Beard, as is Tar & Roses. Two peas in a (cast iron) pod, then?
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