Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hatfield's: A worry-free dining experience

I was worried that my absurdly thick raspberry white chocolate macadamia nut blondies wouldn’t be edible.

I was worried that my older brother would judge me for my kitchen cabinets that refuse to close no matter how hard I slam them, or wiggle his nose in disgust at my bathroom sink that is impossible to get sparkling clean.

And I was worried about my bacon-wrapped dates – were they too big? Too crispy? Had I stuffed them with too much cheese? Not enough cheese?

It was a lot of pressure having my parents and older brother over to my apartment on Friday night for wine and appetizers. I wanted everything to be perfect for my perfect sibling’s birthday celebration -- I wanted it to be the type of evening that becomes an instant memory in the scrapbook of our minds.

Yet even with all my excessive fretting about the occasion – my hemming and hawing about what cheese to buy at Whole Foods, and my neurotic cleaning session with the Swiffer – there was one thing I wasn’t concerned about.


We were going to Hatfield’s, Quinn and Karen Hatfield’s critically acclaimed Cal-French restaurant that reopened at its new location on Melrose Avenue in February. There was no reason for me to worry about that part of the evening. I knew everything would be lovely – just as it was when my mother and I visited the first location on Beverly Blvd. four years ago. I also knew everything would be good – maybe not awe-inspiring or transformative, but perfectly satisfying with a thoughtful preparation and precise execution.

An amuse bouche of house-cured salmon over celery root slaw was a pleasant way to begin the meal. Even my mother who doesn’t eat raw fish found the salty salmon juxtaposed against the tangy slaw to be an enjoyable combination. My brother, father and I were all a little disappointed when she scooped up her last bite – none of us would be calling dibs on her leftovers.

The salted warm bread roll was just as addictive to our palates. Despite massacring three bacon-wrapped dates, Midnight Moon goat cheese and lemon almonds prior to our arrival at the at-capacity restaurant, I couldn’t stop myself from finishing my roll. And then requesting another when the bread server came by our table again.
The beloved “Croque Madame” – perhaps Hatfield’s most famous dish – was nothing like how I imagined it when I read the description, but was nonetheless utterly satisfying with its familiar flavors. While the croque ($16) flips the classic sandwich on its head with the inclusion of yellowtail sashimi, prosciutto, a sunny side up quail egg on grilled brioche, my overall impression was that it tasted exactly like grilled cheese. I did find myself wishing that quail eggs could be closer to the size of chicken eggs (that buttery brioche was begging for more yolk), but I was still inclined to believe that it was one of the tastiest “grilled cheese” sandwiches I’d ever had – a coup considering the dish does not actually contain any cheese.
Entrees were, as expected, also very well-executed. My Pistachio & Mint Crusted Lamb with roasted heirloom root vegetables, fava beans, and potato chive puree ($36) was sous vide to the perfect rosy shade of pink. The tender slivers of farmers market fresh carrots added a welcome earthiness to the plate and paired well with the velvety potato chive puree. The flavor profiles were all lovely, but I did find myself craving a more pronounced application of the mint and pistachio. In my mind it was still a successful dish, but I was slightly more enamored by the more colorful flavors in my mom’s Loup De Mer ($26) with haricot vert, red onion soubise, fried caper, and almond dried apricot crunch.

To finish, we all opted to take advantage of Pastry Chef Karen Hatfield’s impeccable desserts. I selected the Cinnamon Swirl Brioche Pudding with pear confit, maple syrup ice cream and a cinnamon toast chip ($11) – essentially a cinnamon roll in bread pudding form, and my brother and mother chose the Chocolate Souffle ($11). Our prim and attentive server was also kind enough to bring out an order of the Banana Cream Dacquoise ($11) with pecan toffee and bitter chocolate sorbet ($11) because she knew I’d had trouble deciding between the bread pudding and the cream puff-esque offering. While our server cited the Banana Cream Dacquoise as her favorite dessert on the menu, my heart could not be budged away from the bread pudding. I had trouble letting my brother try a bite.

As is custom at Hatfield’s, a tray of chocolate-hazelnut pralines appeared with our bill – a final sweet note to our special evening. It was a nice touch and a casual reminder that even in its hipper location, the restaurant is the ideal place to go for a reliably enjoyable fine dining experience.

But truth be told, sometimes I like working myself up into a neurotic frenzy about things like my faulty kitchen cabinets, the contents of my bacon-wrapped dates and a suspect batch of blondies. It makes is all the more fun and exciting when something turns out to be amazingly delicious – just like the absurdly thick blondies that actually weren’t all that absurd at all.

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


Esi said...


bagnatic said...

that sounds like such a good dinner! that croque sounds and look amazing. can't wait to buy some of your baked goods during "eat my blog" bake sale.

Ashley said...

I'd take that plate of chocolate hazelnut pralines as my dessert! And maybe a plate for the road as well.

weezermonkey said...

I really loved my dinner here, but I still haven't had the famed Croque Madame!

Clearly, a return visit is in order. Hopefully, I get to sit next to Andy Samberg again, too.

Diana said...

Esi - You would DIE over the croque monsieur.

Amy - I'm so glad you are going to come! I'll be sure to tuck something under the table for ya! ;)

Ashley - I think you need to get in on the bread pudding plate action too.

Weez - I'm sort of bumming I didn't remember that you really liked the duck there! Was debating between the lamb and the Donald. Oh well, guess this just gives me another reason to go back. Darn! ;)

Anna A. said...

TALF - but you just ate smoked salmon! hah, I caught you red handed, missy ;) I'm dying for a croque madam and that sexy lamb chop you had yourself a party with.

FS said...

That egg is so cute! I wish I had a sister that did awesome fun family foodie things like you! :D

The Duo Dishes said...

You said croque madame, and that was it. Say nothing further!

Gastronomer said...

Hatfields is such a special place. I need to pay them a visit in their new location. Hmmm, Vern's birthday is coming up!

Kung Food Panda said...

Hatfield's, a place I definitely need to visit!

Diana said...

Anna - If you read my comment closely (ahem!) you would have seen that I don't necessarily have a problem with smoked salmon -- I just don't like it on my bagels! ;)

Meg - Aw shucks! We'll have to do something fun and foodie together when your finals are over!

Chrystal & Amir - Get thee to Hatfield's immediately!

Cathy - I think that would be a wise decision. PS Get the bread pudding!!

Danny - I can't believe you haven't been! Hit me up if you decide to go.

Kung Food Panda said...

Let's do a tasting there sometime! After Providence of course :)