I’ll Have One of Everything, Please
Claim to fame: An owner-duo with a pedigree from Animal, LA’s seminal temple to creative, meat-based cuisine
Reason to go: Vegetables and seafood with subtly layered flavors and textures. This is not a total meat-fest
To look out for: Tunes and tipples; the Spotify barcode on the cocktail menu allows you to discover new music
There’s a blowfish eyeing you from up high on a shelf behind the bar, yes, a prickly orb of taxidermied poison. Ignore his judgmental stare and order another cocktail, you want it, because it’s concocted by super drinks-duo Allan Katz and Danielle Crouch, and it comes from a seasonal menu that reads like a playlist of songs about LA, there’s even a Spotify barcode to scan if you’d like to get audiophile-nerdy. The summertime, pineapple-zippy Hollywood Hawaiian is inspired by Warren Zevon’s melodramatic Desperados Under the Eaves; a heady mix of tequila, mezcal and bacanora, cranked up with clove-spiced orgeat and a dash of absinth, it might just make you follow Zevon’s lead: “All the salty margaritas in Los Angeles, I’m gonna drink ‘em up”. Just please don’t, you need to focus on the other reason you’re here, Dinner. Say adios to the blowfish and take a seat under the twin stuffed oryx trophies on the other side of the dining room.
A head-turner on a nondescript stretch of Koreatown, Here’s Looking at You beckons with laid-back charm and a menu that’ll make you do a double take. Is it totally wrong to order one of everything? Perhaps just skip the shrimp, you have to peel those yourself. Whatever you do, save room for dessert. Specifically the strawberry shortcake riff with brown sugar and fennel.
HLAY is a collaboration between Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener, former Manager and Chef de Cuisine at legendary Animal, an unapologetically meat-centric Fairfax restaurant whose telltale traces can be found on Whitener’s repertoire; market priced ribeye, hamachi collar, sweetbreads, punchy acidity and umami galore. So what makes HLAY different? While Animal beats its he-man-chest in a most delightful way, Whitener is less in you face with his muscle-flexing machismo, textures are nuanced, aromas are poetically layered. Rustic bread from Bub and Grandma’s is a blackened elegy whose deliberate char adds unexpected seasoning to the must-have beef tartar, an egg yolk-glistening, refreshing ode to the K-town staple galbi. Whitener likes to hard-sear things, his shishito peppers are properly blistered, and though we’ve seen shishitos on every other menu in town, his are a true haiku, paired with tonnato sauce and sour plum powder. Crispy butter-fried rye crumbs add texture to sumac-dusted golden beets, a trick that might seem old to veterans of Nordic cuisine, but is innovative in this context. Whitener’s dry-aged, bone-in Colorado Holstein ribeye is expertly wood-grilled, albeit not the most adventurous thing on the menu.
Don’t kid yourself and order just one dessert for the table, that would be a terrible mistake.