April 7, 2010

Hatfield's (Los Angeles) - First Chef's Tasting Menu at Melrose Ave

On our recent visit to the reopened Hatfield’s a few weeks ago (last month's post) we had the chance to get a first glimpse at the new location and prix fixe menu. We were overall very satisfied with our first impressions of the new, bigger location and the first dishes we experienced from the kitchen. Since this first visit was just two weeks after the reopening the restaurant was still in the process of ironing out small kinks and didn’t offer a true chef’s tasting menu. Even though you can always choose from the regular menu of any good restaurant and have a good meal we also believe that often only a chef’s tasting menu tends to give you the chance to really experience the talent of a great chef.

Over the last few weeks the Quinn’s started slowly to perfect their vision of the new and “upgraded” Hatfield’s by first starting to offer lunch and very recently also a chef’s spontanée tasting menu. After hearing this news we knew it was time to go back to Hatfield’s and see if their chef’s tasting menu which was the highlight for us at their old location traveled over well to Melrose Ave.

The restaurant has an interesting large stone resembling an apple outside at the entrance which is a nice touch for a restaurant.

One of the new improvements of Hatfield’s is their new bar. This might be a great place for a late night drink and some upscale bar food. This picture was taken very late in the evening just before we left – this is the reason it does not look more busy at the bar.

When we made the reservation we mentioned that we were planning to go for the chef’s tasting menu and we are not sure if this “labeled” us as foodies but we were very happy that they gave us the best “foodie” table in the restaurant – directly next to the large window of the open kitchen. From here you have a great view of the whole back of the restaurant.

But most importantly you have a perfect view of the whole action in the kitchen. It was fascinating to see the different workflows in the kitchen throughout the night and how concentrated everybody was working starting from Chef Quinn to the Chef de Cuisine Brian Best and the 8-10 line cooks but also how, as the night progressed and less orders came in, the tension eased and quite a lot of talking and joking happened. A perfect table if you are interested in cooking and restaurants.

We started the night with some cocktails. Pimm’s Cup – Pimm’s, gin, cucmber, lemon, Bundaberg ginger beer. Classical approach to a Pimm’s cup with a strong ginger beer taste. Early Spring Bellini – Prosecco frizzante and rhubarb puree. A repeat from the last visit which shows how much we liked this cocktail.

Amuse Bouche: House-cured salmon with celery root slaw. Before we started with our 9-course tasting menu the kitchen started the evening with a nice amuse bouche which reminded us that celery root is often underappreciated and pairs good with the salmon.

1st Course: Sashimi Aji with marinated fennel, apple-shiso sauce and crispy duck cracklings.
The apple sauce was an interesting part of this dish but worked nicely with the delicate aji and the fennel. The crispy duck cracklings gave good textural contrast.

2nd Course: Foie Gras Terrine, Brioche and pineapple-muscat reduction
Unusual presentation by incorporating the foie gras in the cut out slice of brioche. The sweet pineapple sauce was a good counterbalance to the richness of the foie gras but close to being too sweet and overwhelming the dish. Since we didn’t plan to do a wine pairing this evening (we just had one extensive wine pairing the night before) we asked our excellent server Timothy for a recommendation and his choice was a very good Riesling which had some residual sugars to go with the foie gras.

3rd Course: Butternut squash custard, mushroom broth, coconut soup and crispy sweetbreads.
If you just see the cup with the coconut froth at the top one expects nothing unusual but this dish turned out to be very complex and one of the highlights of the evening. Here we have a three layered soup – at the bottom some earthiness from the butternut squash custard, the second layer full of umami from mushroom broth with small mushrooms and on the top some sweetness from the coconut soup. When eaten together all flavors work perfectly together and build a strong foundation for the sweetbreads. At this point Peter Birmingham, sommelier of Hatfield’s, came to our table with a bottle of Vinhas Velhas Luis Pato 07 Bieras and mentioned that he doesn’t think that this course would go well with our Riesling and that he had a little bit left in his bottle and we should try it. This was of course a very generous offer but more importantly it gave us the chance to strike up a conversation with him and it is rare to meet somebody with such passion, enthusiasm and knowledge for wines. His recommended very unusual wine was a perfect pairing for this complex dish and we decided spontaneously to not miss this chance and let him pair all our remaining courses – a decision we definitely didn’t regret.

4th Course: Salmon Roulade and salsify carbonara
Very interesting and successful idea of using salsify as replacement for pasta in this carbonara variation. Pairing: Maranges “Le Croix Moines” 06 Camile Giroud – supple with light raspberry and cherry.

5th Course: Roasted squab breast, oat grains, carrots, ginger, squab jus and oat chip.
Very tender meat with slight, favorable gaminess. The oat grains and carrots gave this dish a rustic foundation. Pairing: Pinot Noir Estate 05, Hallcrest Vineyards – some spicyness and herbal fruit having the right balance to not overwhelm the squab.

6th Course: Braised pork belly, Beluga lentils, Meyer Lemon confit, baby arugula salad.
In a tasting menu of many highlights this dish was still good but overall the weakest course. The pork belly could have been more tender and was quite dried out. The lentil and especially the lemon confit accompanied the meat nicely. Pairing: Cidre Greniers Brut Julien Fremont 08 – You don’t see cidre very often as part of wine pairings but here it really “saved” the dish for us. Not too sweet, subtle fruit, perfect pairing.

7th Course: Pan roasted NY Steak, crispy spaetzle, soy glazed longbeans, béarnaise.
This dish is a good example of the food at Hatfield’s where different cuisines, e.g German (spaetzle), French (béarnaise) and Chinese (soy glazed longbeans) are perfectly combined. Pairing: Clarendon Hills Baker’s Gully 04 – Very strong, rich wine with some blackberry fruit which holds up against the steak.

8th Course: Passionfruit Pavlova with pineapple
Very refreshing passionfruit ice to this meringue-based dessert.

9th Course A: Chocolate soufflé with mousse
The last dessert course was the only course where we each got a different dish. The chocolate soufflé was a good end to the tasting menu. Pairing: Brachetto d’Acqui Il Saulino 08 – light, delicate and raspberry flavored.

9th Course B: Chocolate Napoleon, “inverse” affogato
Very good napoleon (or mille-feuille) but the affogato was the surprising part of this dessert. Instead of having the vanilla flavor in the ice cream and the coffee taste in the liquid this dessert consisted of coffee granite and vanilla cream. Pairing: Dark Stout with Dawny Port – nice play on an Irish Car Bomb with Dawny Port instead of the whiskey.

Mignardies: Chocolate-hazelnut pralines
Reminded us on Kit-Kat but way better.

We came to Hatfield’s with great hopes to have a similar fantastic experience with their tasting menu as in their old location. At the same time we had just the night before an outstanding chef’s tasting menu at Bistro LQ and were wondering if Hatfield’s could hold up against it but we are happy to report that Hatfield’s didn’t disappoint and very fast starts to establish itself also in the new location as one of the top spots for creative high-end dining in LA. But it is also interesting to see how Laurent Quenioux at Bistro LQ and Quinn Hatfield at Hatfield’s are some of the most creative chefs in LA but have very different approaches. Bistro LQ uses often strongly contrasting flavors and ingredients to create dishes with a lot of culinary “tension” whereas Hatfield’s tends to create new dishes with “nearby” flavors which are unique and left you wondering afterwards why nobody else thought about it before, e.g. butternut squash custard with coconut soup or salsify carbonara.

It is great to have Hatfield’s (and their chef’s tasting menu) back on the culinary scene in LA and we will soon be back.

6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 935-2977


Exile Kiss said...

Hi Two Foodies,

Great review. :) Thanks for the report on their Tasting Menu. Glad to hear it's quite good and worth a visit for. Their take on an Irish Car Bomb sounds hilarious and nice. :) Bummer about the Pork Belly... IMHO, it's inexcusable to serve dried out Pork Belly. The Chef clearly should be able to tell when Pork Belly of all things is not worth serving, and yet it's still put out there.


Exile Kiss - are you planning on posting about Hatfields in the future. We would be interested to read your thoughts about them.

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