Monday, August 16, 2010

The Village Idiot

Deciding to get the hell out of the west side every now again used to seem like an insurmountable task... but my adventures downtown at The Must, Golden Gopher, Seven Grand have proven that the west side night life is getting old. Renee's is still the best bar around in my opinion, but other than that fine establishment you'll be hard pressed to find a little, can I call it culture?

Alright, I'm drifting. The point is... there are a lot of great spots in this city and some of them have gone far too long without a visit. Place number one, The Village Idiot, definitely proves that I've been one for not heading east down Wilshire more often. This restaurant/bar has an English pub heart with a little Southern California soul. Black and white photos of the LA riots and framed soccer t-shirts are all that cover the walls. Both let your focus drift to the beautiful people and amazing food and drink, they really make this place special.

Headed here first for lunch with a couple friends on a Friday. Steve asked me to mention that he came along, so there Mr. Sanchez is your name drop. Bitch. Gorgeous weather outside, and like the drunks we are, we head to a gastropub. But, it did not disappoint. Sat at the bar and got to meet Julie the bartender, who according to a foursquare tip has magical powers. She may not have magical powers, but she is quite fetching... what did that taco bell commercial say about girls with dragon tattoos? Unlike some less refined places, we got some nice towels to eat on instead of a sticky bar. Subtle, but I like it. We ordered some apps and a manhattan each, three kinds of hummus with pita bread, and breaded shrimp. All three were excellent, smallish portions for the price but with an open kitchen where you can actually see the cooks prepare your food I didn't mind. For an entree I got the pulled pork tacos, and my two friends the pub burger and fish and chips. The tacos were excellent, and large enough to fill me up. The burger looked amazing... but not huge. Somewhere between your normal sized in n' out burger and a slider. Overall, completely satisfied and the service was fantastic. Enjoyed it so much, I had to go back.

Second round, birthday dinner on a Wednesday night. Showed up at 8pm and the place was packed. Name on the waiting list for a good half hour, but with a full bar at our disposal and again some very beautiful people around... the time flew. My friend Chris was with me for the wait and we ran into the owner who he happened to know, so free birthday Manhattan for me! First time meeting a restaurant owner before a meal, really makes you feel like a rockstar. Eventually our other friends showed and we sat down. Got stuck at a crappy table on the side right by the kitchen. Anybody who complains about their table is a complete jackass and will probably get their food spat in, so we stayed, and crabcakes and goat cheese for the table with really great hef made up for it anyway. That goat cheese with field greens and dates alone would have made the meal, but the cornmeal crusted catfish was fantastic. But, here comes the main knock on the place. Everything you order comes with some sort of "side," but none of them make any sense. The main part of each dish was delicious at both visits, but each order came with something on the side that didn't satisfy. The catfish was served with black-eyed peas and diced tomatoes... when all you really needed was the thin marinara whatever it was sauce underneath. The crab cakes came with some really unappetizing cole slaw that was just bland and really unnecessary. If I order catfish, I just want the catfish. Don't fudge it all up with crap on the side. Probably something about the way english food is served that calls for these sides, but they could really go without them. They didn't detract form the meal though, but when I go back I'll be sure to look at each individual thing listed with the entree before selecting.

Overall, love this place. Great for a date, a drink after work, power lunch, or at the very least some good conversation. I could spend my nights trying to find a sloppy hookup on the westside, but places like this are steadily convincing me to take the drive east instead. Plus, you don't have to pay a $40 cover to meet a girl in some nice heels anyway... but why didn't somebody tell me sooner damn it!?

The Village Idiot
7383 Melrose Ave. (corner or melrose and martel)

4 and a half out of 5

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nook Bistro

Nook Bistro on Santa Monica (no the) sits in the back corner of one of the many crappy corner strip malls on Santa Monica Blvd. between Bundy and Sepulveda. Most of the strip malls contain your random pizza place, or a taco shop owned by a Russian. You know the sort. The only standouts until Nook would be a decent froyo shop, or a cheap cash only sushi joint. Nook however, is a rare breed. The unassuming location only has a bright blue arrow pointing you in the direction of some ridiculously good food.

It's known for it's burger, which frankly is not the true main attraction. They have a rotating seasonal menu, which was unfortunate because their open face pulled pork sandwich sounded great on that particular Friday night. Went with my roommate and we each got an appetizer, a beer, a glass of wine, and the burger. The calamari was damn good, and as is ALWAYS necessary came with some delicious sauce. Any place that doesn't present calamari, fries, chicken tenders, or any other dip-able food with something good to dip in, automatically gets a veto on a re-visit. My friend got the crab cakes, which were a decent size, not jumbo by any reach of the imagination, but damn good. Washed them down with some of their Hawaiian Blonde beer... which came with a complimentary freaking Nook beer koozie! Amazing!

Then came the burger. The waitress was great and recommended a good Cab to drink with it, but i'm sorry to say that the Nook burger kinda disappointed. Online I had read some great reviews about it, but honestly the onion jam or whatever they called it was really overpowering. The meat was juicy as it should be, and not overcooked, but it was almost too juicy and you're left holding a floppy artisan bread bun. The fries were good, but really just something to fill you up. Honestly, every other option on the menu was probably much more fulfilling and probably tasted better as could be seen by the Calamari. But, being the predictable eater I am, I went with the burger. I will be back here to try the other options though because the service, beer, wine, and appetizers were damn good.

Oh, and many other places in LA could learn from them... you do not need valet parking to be a good restaurant. It's a huge burden and will probably turn away repeat customers.

Overall 4 out of 5.