In Los Angeles, there are limits to just how fancy restaurateurs are able to push fine dining. There’s no longer demand for grand palaces like L’Orangerie. Instead, people flock to places like The Bazaar, which delivers just as much glitz as gastronomy. On Melrose, Karen and Quinn Hatfield seem to have struck just the right balance, offering inventive, high-value food in a refined setting.
The original Hatfield’s captured the imagination of bloggers and foodies in a small space on Beverly Boulevard that’s now occupied by Mark Gold’s Eva. However, such a small space couldn’t contain the Hatfields’ ambitions, so last year, the couple left Beverly for Melrose, occupying the former home of (most famously) Citrus and (most recently) Red Pearl Kitchen. Karen and Quinn Hatfield are no doubt looking to achieve the former’s lasting impact. The restaurant’s publicist recently invited me to experience the restaurant, which came as a surprise, since the Hatfields already had such a good track record and reputation. Of course, a larger venue brings larger expectations.
To transform the space, the Hatfields enlisted designer Alexis Readinger of Preen, who created a stately but approachable dining room. Prominent Hatfield’s features include a honeycomb like lantern, a horseshoe shaped bar and a versatile patio with a living wall that will no doubt grow popular in warmer months.
Hatfield’s features a compact menu of 7 appetizers and 6 entrees, with a four-course SEASONAL PRIX FIXE for $59 and a three-course VEGETARIAN PRIX FIXE for $49. Since almost every dish on the menu was tempting, we ordered the SEASONAL PRIX FIXE for variety and value’s sake, then added two supplements.
One new addition to Hatfield’s 2.0 is Peter Birmingham, an accomplished sommelier previously with restaurants like Norman’s, Il Grano, and most recently, Santa Monica’s Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar. Birmingham also regularly consults on cocktail menus, and he’s worked with the Hatfields to refine their cocktail program. The Hatfields already focused on cocktails in the old location, but on Melrose they have room to play. One current success is the Candied Kumquat Mojito ($11), a variation on the Cuban classic, made with 10 Cane Virgin Rum, pineapple, smashed kumquat, lime and mint. The mojito teetered on the edge of the sweetness cliff, but managed to find a tart, acidic balance. The Winter Bellini ($9) didn’t fare quite as well, with rhubarb puree muting the effervescent Prosecco frizzante.
The Hatfields’ Croque Madame ($14) is a knockout signature dish, with twin discs of buttery grilled brioche sandwiching prosciutto and silky yellowtail sashimi bathed in frothy Mornay sauce. Up top is a tiny sunny side up quail egg with a rich yolk that washed over the brioche with a light tap of the fork. Birmingham’s pairing was Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, which delivered an effervescence that helped cut the dish’s richness.
Celery Root Soup (normally $11) was the night’s only major letdown, an overly earthy soup accented by a central thatch of pork confit, masala spiced pumpkin and compressed cucumber. The soup could have used more of a textural contrast. Maybe if the pork was crispier.
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