Breadbar co-owner Ali Chalabi hosted Ludobites at his West Hollywood café in December, showcasing Chef Ludovic Lefebvre’s cutting edge cuisine. In a continued effort to give inventive chefs a stage during transition periods, Chalabi invited Noriyuki Sugie, late of Asiate in Manhattan and Tetsuya in Sydney, to craft Spanish-Japanese small plates at Breadbar Century City. Sugie and Ludo have completely different styles, but for my tastes, Sugie’s cooking was more consistently impressive.
Ana Henton of MASS Architecture was so successful with Breadbar’s design that I almost forgot we were eating in a mall. There were clean wood lines, shelves of decorative bread loaves and lanterns that looked like clusters of lobster traps. The airy covered patio was too cool, so we ate indoors at one of the banquettes.
It was no surprise that Breadbar supplied us with an impressive bread selection. The wooden box contained three event-driven flatbreads – shichimi, nori and white sesame – plus slices of Breadbar raisin walnut, black olive-rosemary and yellow-hued hazelnut curcuma. The box came with a plate of high-grade olive oil, for dipping.
Certified Master Sommelier Brian Cronin wrote a sake, beer and wine menu to complement “the most pristine fish ever,” including 2-ounce and 4-ounce pours. We all ordered from Cronin’s menu.
I ordered Hitori Musume Nigori Sake, Ibaragi ($5 for 2 ounces), an unfiltered sake that was a little too dry and strong. Dr. Loosen Riesling “Dr. L” Germany 2006 ($4 for 2 ounces) was clean and crisp.
Chef Sugie’s menu featured 18 selections, eight plates from the “RAW BAR//inventive sashimi” column and 10 from “LITTLE BAIT//raw+cooked=creative.” We wanted to try as many tastes as possible, so we ordered every LITTLE BAIT. Our waitress said there was a better option: omakase, with a taste of each dish for $75 per person. 18 dishes for $75 per person? That sounded like a deal that was too good to be true, but our waitress confirmed her offer. We went all-in.
Our meal began with a chilled shot of watermelon gazpacho with red pepper flakes, a nice palate starter. Unfortunately, it was the last food we saw for a long time.
One factor we didn’t count on was an adjacent table of ten people, headed by Chef Urasawa, from his revered Beverly Hills sushi restaurant. For some reason, Sugie focused all his attention on Urasawa, to the detriment of every other table. Once Urasawa and his crew finally cleared out, we finally got the attention we deserved, but the half hour lapse was inexcusable.
A purse of white paper was unfolded to reveal tender cuts of grilled squid, black olive tapenade, chorizo, pimento, hickory salt and artichoke hearts. Baguettes helped to sop up the gumbo-like juices. The broth could have used more kick.
Sadly, our meal didn’t live up to our waitress’ promise of all 18 dishes, but at least 12 of the 13 different tastes we did receive ranged from good to great.
Chef Sugie joined us near the end of the meal. He said he’s about to open a B&D (bed & dinner) in the former San Francisco home of Spencer House. He’s also getting set to open The Imperial in Reno, a 5000-square-foot space serving “bar food with a twist.” He and Mr. Chalabi began discussing the Crudobar concept three months ago. Three weeks ago, Breadbar got their beer and wine license and the idea was fast tracked.
I also spoke with Ali Chalabi, who plans to extend Sugie’s stay and host another chef in September, which he will announce via the Breadbar newsletter. Glad to hear it. Breadbar’s guest chef series makes the L.A. dining scene more interesting.
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