The Helms Bakery complex dates to 1931 and is better known for furniture these days.
There is probably no Los Angeles restaurant as divisive as Father’s Office. Chef-owner Sang Yoon cultivated a dedicated following at his Santa Monica gastropub thanks to his unrivaled burger, compelling beer list and complete disregard for compromise. If you wanted a substitution or modification, don’t bother asking. You want table service? Forget it. You don’t enjoy shoving aside other diners to score a prized table? Tough shit. There’s something to be said for Yoon’s unwavering vision. There’s also something to be said for customer service. Then again, if you don’t like his approach, there are plenty of other restaurants in town.
Earlier this year, Sang Yoon opened a second Father’s Office in the Helms Bakery complex with an even sleeker design, patio seating, twice as many taps and full-on velvet rope treatment.
My initial visit yielded a hoppy beer and two excellent dishes: smoked eel salad and goat cheese gratinée. This time, my cousin and I decided went all out, and while we were rewarded with some good food, we also received a shameful pork belly and a liberal helping of ‘tude.
According to Yoon, “Beer makes you strong.” Given that, Father’s Office II hosts two walls, each with 36 matching taps and categories like Malty, Hoppy, Yeasty/Spicy and Fruity/Herbaceous.
The bartender said one of the beers that they cook pork belly with was Anderson Valley ESB, an “Extra Special Beer” from Boonville, California, so I ordered a pint as my pairing.
Sweet potato fries ($5) didn’t come in a miniature shopping cart, as they did in Santa Monica, but they were still stellar, crisp outside, tender within, sprinkled with salt and served with a pungent Cabrales blue cheese dip.
Steak au Poivre ($18) was a seared pepper steak topped with minced garlic, served with herb-strewn matchstick-cut frites that were crispy, but dry.
Pork Belly ($16) cooked in Russian River Imperial Stout & Anderson Valley ESB until brown and chewy on the outside, served with spicy slaw and black lentils.
Belly is the cut of pig used to make bacon, so it’s supposed to be fatty, but there was literally zero meat. These chunks contained nothing but white curds of hog fat. Every strip of bacon I’ve ever eaten (or seen) contains striations of meat and fat. The dish itself was the first failure, but the true problem arose when I returned the plate to the bar. The bartender said that pork belly is supposed to be pure fat. Not only was he wrong and condescending, but why would he bother to debate a customer’s dissatisfaction? Later, when my cousin paid the bill, a female bartender got similarly defensive about how pork belly “is supposed to be that way.”
Roasted Mission Figs ($9) were much better, wrapped in jamon Serrano and flavored with Cabrales blue cheese and Spanish chevre. Radicchio and walnut salad centered the plate. Which was ringed by walnut oil, sherry vinaigrette and balsamic vinegar. This dish was very good, a mash-up of sweetness, saltiness, creaminess from the cheese and crunch from the walnuts.
Crispy Maryland Soft-shell Crabs ($16) were another winner, segments of crispy crab seated upright, surrounding spicy white corn Thai basil relish. The base was sweet & spicy Vietnamese honey-chile vinaigrette.
Sang Yoon is an accomplished, creative chef, so we managed to eat some satisfying dishes, but the overall experience was a turn-off.