Sunset Plaza -mainly for nostalgic reasons is still one of my favourite places in LA. It is rather like the Kings Road had its grooviness in the sixties, Sunset Plaza had its grooviness in the nineties but it’s still a beautiful street, café’s, boutiques, a few exquisite pieces in the designer stores, my favourite shoe shop Calleen Cordero.
It’s one of the few places you can walk about in LA plus it has my much loved Jessica Nail Clinic. In between the shoes and the nails was the first restaurant I ever ate in in LA. It was called Cravings. The food wasn’t brilliant and the name was ridiculous but it was quite the hot spot with its lovely outdoor patio dining under the trees. Anyway, food trends moved on and almost every restaurant on the strip has undergone a radical change. I hear that the famous Café Med on the corner is soon to be taken over by Mark Wahlberg and his burgers. Cravings disappeared. It couldn’t keep up with the trendy new organic Mexican and the mozzarella bar chain that opened opposite.
I suppose it was really old fashioned. It was gone for some time while a new café/restaurant/all day dining extravaganza was being built by the owners of the Chin Chin chain – mid price Chinese restaurants that are all over LA.
There was to be a major overhaul and when I passed by Butcher, Baker and the Cappuccino Maker as it’s now called did look gorgeously elegant. Inside the grey hardwood floors, brass fixtures and fittings and yellow leather banquettes, white marble table tops. The first time I passed by I asked for a coffee. I’d been doing some exhausting shoe shopping and really needed one and despite the fact there were people inside for the soft opening I was denied coffee. This made me hate them. My pedicurist had asked for a menu to give her clients. She was refused too. So I was beginning to think that this place was either going to be the most crowded restaurant since the invention of the student canteen or it was just up itself. And here’s the curious thing. It turned out to be neither.
To bring me round from the brink of anger does take the best sweet potato fries in California. No, probably the world and they are there in this restaurant. They sort of have some east European flourish to them which sounds weird but they are the fattest, fluffiest, crispiest creatures ever. OK a sweet potato fry isn’t really a creature but I love them like they are my pets.
The restaurant isn’t really about fries. It’s about what it calls Californian cuisine with fresh local ingredients and a European twist. But that makes it sound ordinary and it’s not because that twist is pretty quirky. The brunch menu is part Ottolenghi inspired, part the best end of Melbourne. Executive chef Craig Hopson is actually from Perth but I brunched there with some Melbournites who said that the smashed avocado with scrambled eggs and black beans was as good as their favourite Melbourne bruncheries.
They have soft poached eggs with rustic polenta and truffled croutons which did look rather amazing. I had a galette of butternut squash, sage, maple syrup, mustard seeds and it’s very addictive. I love the sweetness of the squash, the crispiness of the sage and the lift of the mustard seeds. And the galette pastry is light, crispy but fluffy in the mouth.
Me and the Aussies bemoaned how Los Angeles isn’t really a brunch city but then we heard that the chef came from Perth and we thought maybe this was the place that would change it.
Since my initial fallout I’ve been there for dinner too. That’s where I discovered a delicious Watermelon cocktail and a very interesting cocktail menu.
My friend had pasta with a duck and mushroom ragout but the pasta itself was a chestnut pappardelle which seemed to add depth and warmth and richness. I had a grain bowl.
Bowls are everywhere these days and they’re supposed to be heathy and satisfying. Win Win. Marinated Tofu, avocado, alfalfa, Oro Blanco grapefruit and carrot. Despite the fact I don’t eat carrot I loved this bowl. The avocado, alfalfa and grapefruit is an inspired combination. The menu is full of these inspired combinations and the executive chef has a high pedigree of working in Australia, Europe and very fancy places in New York like Le Cirque and One if by Land, Two if by Sea. I’m not sure where the other executive chef Ren Nisenboum has worked. What they have delivered is interesting and I mean that in an innovative way not in a ‘I’m not really sure what this is’ way. My fears are as I see it’s not crowded every night, that other people don’t really know what it is. For instance it looks too fancy to have the best sweet potato fries in the world. It looks too casual to have such inspired cuisine. Together they have brought old world and new world flavours, chicness and elegance. But for now I’m going there as much as I can and trying everything on the menu. Even the Brussel sprouts which are the most overdone vegetable in the world right now manage to seem fresh and interesting. When everyone is sick of roasted Brussel sprouts, the Brussel sprout salad with apple and sesame will still be the go to.
By Chrissy Iley