From East to West: Los Feliz ‘Vermont’ Restaurant Gets an Injection of Westside Sleek [CLOSED]

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Photo courtesy of Vermont Restaurant

Something is afoot in Los Feliz. Vermont, that neighborhood staple that has been the anchor of Los Feliz fine dining scene for around ten years, has a new chef, in the form of their old chef, Stephane Beaucamp. The change has come about as the result of a merger between the existing owners of Vermont, and the owners of the recently shuttered ‘Mark’s Restaurant’ on La Cienega Blvd., Wayne Elias and Chris Diamond. The new menu, according to Elias “pays homage to the experience that made Vermont great” while adding a decidedly seasonal, ‘market driven’ approach which seems to be the watchword of the times, and I have no complaints about that.

There have been some major changes to the interior, though the dining room will be recognizable to all. The bar to the south has had the banquettes removed, and in this area an intimate cabaret and entertainment space has been created, with a roster of intriguing events on the cards. Open mike nights, as well as cabaret evenings were mentioned to me, so keep an eye open for details.

The really astounding changes are taking place in the back of the building. Nestled behind ‘Vermont’ is what promises to be the go-to lounge/bar space on that side of town. Rockwell, VT as it will be known, is a sleek, smooth stack of architecture arranged like a multilevel pinwheel around a giant coral tree that was craned into the central courtyard by the building’s owner. A ground floor bar has a wall of floor to ceiling windows that will peel back, opening the space to the tree-shaded patio. Huge timber slabs are the steps that lead to the first floor with is views to the hills, and to yet another level, a VIP area that has head on views of Downtown. The design is elegant and warm, and with uber-promoters like Tom Whitman involved in the project, it promises to be the hub of the Los Feliz nightlife scene at least until someone else does something even more daring. If you don’t know who he is, you’ve probably never been out in West Hollywood.

Now, about the food. I was invited to try a tasting, designed to highlight some of the menu items. ‘Crab and Shitake Egg Rolls with Spicy Ponzu Sauce’ was crispy, rich, but not cloying, and totally fine. It went well with the ‘Hugel’ Pinot Blanc 2005 Alsace with which it had been paired. the wines lively fruit flavors of apple and pear were set off by a nice minerality, that really balanced the rich crabmeat in the spring roll. It’s not an expensive wine at $42 a bottle, which is fair by restaurant standards, for a wine this good.

An Heirloom Tomato Salad with Coriander Sauce was zingy and refreshing, avoiding the usual tomato ‘Caprese’ cliché. ‘Coriander’ is what ‘cilantro’ is called in most of Europe, and it was nice to see it take the place of its familiar friend, basil, for a change. I liked the Hamachi Sashimi with Wakame Daikon Radish, cucumber, and apple sesame dressing very much. Lovely clean flavors, and delicate silky fish.

A Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese and Truffle Ravioli was the star of the meal, for me. It might sound unspectacular, but the velvet texture of the perfectly yielding pasta, and the melting cheese took pasta to a new level, for me. I almost never order it in restaurants. I don’t know if I’m carb obsessed or it reminds me of years of student starvation diets, and so I find it hard to equate with fine dining. Which is of course, ridiculous. I’ll order it next time I go there, and suggest you do the same.

I ordered the Muscovy Duck Medaillon for my entrée, and wished I’d ordered the Fire-Roasted Angus Beef Filet instead, once I saw the beef on the plate adjacent to mine. It’s not that there was anything at all wrong with my duck. It was fine. The celery root puree, apples, and calvados sauce it came with worked beautifully. I just wasn’t overly enamored of the layers of bacon wrapping the duck. It was a personal moment. The diner sitting across from me was raving about the bacon, loudly, so ‘one man’s meat’, etc…

Interestingly, the steak came with heirloom tomato, seared sweet white corn, chanterelle mushrooms, blue cheese and roasted beef jus. The general concensus at the table was that it was spectacular, and better for the absence of the blob of potato that normally welds the meat to the ribs.

Dessert was a well-executed Panna Cotta with port blueberry reduction, and honey-dried fruit hazelnut sauce. Very good, and the late harvest Westerly Santa Ynez Viognier ’03 that went with it was a nice ending. Can’t wait to try that with a great cheese, too!

All in all, exciting things are happening. There are mutterings that diehard neighborhood locals are worried about the changes to what is, lets face it, an establishment. Well, it didn’t seem to have deterred a well-known actor that has been a fixture at ‘Vermont’ for many a year, and who was merrily sitting outside enjoying a balmy Los Feliz evening. Don’t tell TMZ.

Blog Comments

Interesting and informative. But will you write about this one more?

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