For What’s Gaby Cooking’s birthday last night, we decided to check out Tavern in Brentwood. I don’t claim to be an expert restaurant critic, but since I quit smoking and learned to cook a year ago, I’ve found I really love trying new places and things (you should see me in the Red Light District in Amsterdam).
Tavern wasn’t going to be any old place. Suzanne Goin is my favorite chef in the universe. Her other restaurants are favorites for Emily and I. AOC is a great place to try a bunch of Goin’s creations and drink some amazing wine. Small plates and great tastes everywhere, knowledgable and laid back servers pointing you in the right direction without trying to impress you. AOC is on 3rd between La Cienega and Fairfax and worth your business.
Goin’s other restaurant is the crown jewel of this city’s culinary world. Lucques is set in a cottage off Melrose at La Cienega and serves up a blend of French and Spanish cuisine through Goin’s unique sensibility. The more of a “foodie” I become, although I hate that term, the more I learn that you don’t need to worry about what you order at a Goin establishment. She knows what she is doing.
Tavern is supposedly a gastropub, but for me, it is just an extension of what she has already been a wild success at. As usual, a deep wine menu and I had a great pinot noir that felt super orangey. It was amazing how strong it was while remaining citrusy. I know that sounds like wine bullshit, and a lot of it is, ultimately good wine is wine you enjoy drinking. The thing is, with Goin, everything in her restaurants is a conscious decision. It’s a joy to pay attention.
Although there is so much more to explore here from lunch menus to a bar menu to a bakery and so forth, we had dinner so I’ll run you through a little of it so you can decide if you want to check it out.
For a starter I got down with the roasted asparagus with polenta, fried egg and pecorino. It was “fuck you” good. You know what I mean? Like when Johnny Depp kills the chef in “The Mexican” because his tacos were that good. The asparagus, which are in season, were thick gauge and nicely charred. It was like eating steak almost with the fried egg (breaded and fried like a mozzarella stick in a sports bar) dripping everywhere and getting protein in every bite. The polenta was cheesy and a pleasing consistancy, made more soft by the runniness of the egg yolk. It was fun to eat.
The girls had the green goddess salad with avocado and dungeness crab. I have had her green goddess dressing at Lucques before on a beet salad and from what the girls said, it was consistent and equally charming.
For dinner, we all tasted what each other ordered. I went strong with the pork chop with cornbread, chorizo and spiced maple syrup. Easily one of the best pork chops I’ve ever had. It was like a t-bone steak almost, like a ribeye in it’s marbelling and complexity. If nothing else, I am a protein machine and I know it when I see it. This pork chop played like a steak, to one side of the bone a rich and marbelled treat, to the other side some lean and fulfilling “filet” grade pork. The cornbread/chorizo/maple syrup device was purely lethal. It all came together wonderfully.
Gaby had the beef daube with carrot puree and tomato confit. I have had Goin’s braised beef at Lucques once in a dish with egg noodles and she continually nails it. You could eat this beef with a spoon. In fact, next time I plan to just to be all “indie”.
Emily had the lamb (skewered on a long sprig of rosemary) over white fava beans and feta salsa verde. It was amazing. The lamb was cooked just to the temperature where it took all it’s resolve not to fall apart. That is Goin’s triumph. She does not reinvent the wheel, rather is playful with her training and relies on impeccably fresh ingredients and rustic, but methodical preparation and execution.
In short, nothing will be over-cooked or out of place. You can rest easy.
We sat in the bar at a table with comfortable chairs opposite the big bartop. It was incredibly loud, but had a cool New York City vibe to it. The outdoor garden was beautiful and I think we’ll sit there next time to get the full experience. Got a cool glimpse of super Twitter star Food Woolfe, who is a server at Tavern fresh off her run at Mozza. More exciting, we saw Suzanne Goin walking around with extreme focus. You can tell she cares, as if the food and decor didn’t already suggest as much.
Unlike the Batalis and Pucks of the world, who have restaurants around the globe, Goin is Los Angeles’ culinary heroine. She is our triumph. In a city constantly derailed for being too dependent on sushi and too caught up in “fusion” experiments, Goin boldly continues preparing rustic Mediterranean dishes winning acclaim as she goes.
I know the original thought about Tavern was that it would be a local bakery, a great Brentwood restaurant to relax at, a fancy gastropub, if you will, but that concept is dead.
Goin is just too good. Tavern is an incredible treat and worth your business. I am already looking forward to a return sometime soon.