Friday, October 29, 2010

Eveleigh Restaurant: Already "that" place

I've always wanted to be "that" girl. Not the "it" girl – the pristine princess who seems above her admirers, but the other girl. The one who everybody wants to call their best friend. The one who is liked not just because she has a pretty face, but because she is effortlessly charming, effortlessly chic, effortlessly together. She's cool – almost infuriatingly so – but she's so nice, it's impossible to hate her.

"How does she do it?" I think when I've encountered "that" girl in social situations. "And how can I do it too?"

There isn't an easy answer to my question, because she isn't doing anything. She's just being herself – being the person she was born to be. It can't be manufactured. It can't be taught.

Walking into Eveleigh restaurant on Wednesday evening for a special "Friends and Family" dinner before the restaurant officially opens for business on Monday, I immediately had the sense that I was in "that" spot – the spatial equivalent of the girl I'll never be.

The restaurant seems almost out of place on the trendy strip of West Sunset Boulevard where glitz and glamour are so often contrived commodities. It's cool without trying – cool because it's not trying. The space is neat and uncluttered by unnecessary decorative flourishes or Hollywood egos. The interior is dominated by the bar, a gargantuan island of alcoholic possibility. There are classic cocktails for those in the mood for something with bite, and a well-healed wine list featuring astute selections from California, France and Australia.

After drinks have been secured and appetites have been whetted, the place to be is outside on the intimate patio overlooking West Hollywood. The space is modest in size and unadorned aside from the picnic-style tables that are thoughtfully dotted with bright candles. The flames flicker at the slightest aggravation from a breeze, and the lights seem to dance through the night sky like fireflies. It feels exotic – like being on the deck of a patio in a small enclave of paradise rather than in the middle of a congested, landlocked stretch of Los Angeles.

The one-page seasonal and market-driven menu of classic American and European-inspired fare is divided into four sections – small plates, large plates, sides and desserts. Sharing seems inevitable at the communal restaurant that seems to be as much about having an experience as it is about the food. But Executive Chef Jordon Toft’s rustic cuisine isn’t to be dismissed. The items are familiar, but unique. Thoughtful, but not overly fussy.

On the small plates menu, the Roast Butternut Squash with meaty royal trumpet mushrooms, parsley and St. Agur blue cheese is not to be missed. The caramelized hunks of sweet squash sing with the addition of the tangy cheese, and the mushrooms add welcome heft and earthiness to the plate. The Fried Eggplant Salad with cilantro, scallions, and a rice wine, soy and cumin dressing is equally exciting to the palate – though is not as crispy as the title would suggest.

There are salads too – Butter Lettuce with warm egg yolk and garden herbs, and a Mache Salad that could almost double as a meat and cheese plate with it’s long ribbons of parma prosciutto and ricotta salata, and accents of fresh figs and walnuts. Crispy Seasoned Squid is brightened up with an appealingly potent preserved lemon mayonnaise, but the real stand-out on the small plates menu is the Pork Rilletes with sweet pickled zucchini, radishes and charred toast. The supple strands of juicy pork are addicting with the pickled relishes – it’s perfect for sharing.

The larger plates are no less inspiring. The Beef Rib-Eye Cap with beets, chanterelles, fresh tufts of grated horseradish, and Pinot Noir sauce is a highlight, appearing at the table a rosy shade of medium rare. A steak knife is hardly necessary to cut through the well-seasoned buttery flesh, and the accompaniments chime in with the appropriate flavor notes to compliment the beef. Tack on a side of the Orecchiette Mac & Cheese – the best gourmet version I’ve had in recent memory – to proceed directly to comfort food heaven.

Richer dishes include a massive slab of Crisp Pork Belly with soft polenta and a Braised Beef Cheek with buttered sunchokes and roasted carrots that plays pinch-hitter for the ubiquitous beef short rib dish. I prefer the lighter surf options – a fresh Grilled Ocean Salmon with avocado, warm heirloom baby tomatoes, watercress and herbed goat cheese that actually tastes like it’s from the ocean, and the robust Wild White Shrimp with sauce vierge, bacon, cauliflower puree, and peppered pecorino.

For dessert, the Poached Peach with coconut vanilla syrup, brown sugar ice cream, and almond praline is a study in complimentary textures and flavors. Designed as a sort of deconstructed peach crisp, it’s most potent on the palate when everything is swirled together on the plate and then eaten as one immensely satisfying bite. The Frozen Dark Chocolate Sandwich with warm rum caramel and banana ice cream is also nice, but the intensely banana-y ice cream is the most memorable part of the dish.

Eveleigh, however, doesn’t even need its fine food to be memorable with diners and the late-night revelers who will soon be flocking to the space in droves. One look around the patio, one look into the casually chic interior, one look at the trellis-lined walkway, and it’s clear that Eveleigh is already there.

It’s already “that” place.

8752 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069


Esi said...

Nice, this place is right by my office. Will need to go sometime!

Fritos and Foie Gras said...

What a very cool feeling! And rillettes are just the most delicious thing EVER, aren't they?!

Monet said...

What a lovely post...I too have always wanted to find these special "other girl places". Thank you for sharing, and I'm sorry if I've been a bit sparse here lately...we are going through such a trial. Thank you for all your kind words on my own blog. They mean a lot!

Anna A. said...

psh please woman you ARE that girl!

Diana said...

Esi - We should meet up for a drink at the bar! They have a great Syrah-Grenache blend.

Fritos and Foie - Oh my gosh, yes! Funny you should say that though, my mom said that was the only dish she didn't think looked good. Hah!

Monet - Please do not worry about being sparse -- you are amazing to be even commenting in the first place! You are where you need to be and with the people you need to be with right now and that's all that matters!

Anna - Aww shucks, TALF. You are a liar, but I love ya for it! :)

e*star said...

I heard really good things from a supper club neighbor I just happened to meet on Saturday! Thanks for the post. ;)

Aaron Tell said...

The beef and the mac & cheese look amazing. I love it when beef is cooked perfectly.

SinoSoul said...

pork rillete & fried calamari is the next red velvet cupcake?

that said, I do believe you scooped both Eater and Grub Street on the actual food itself. Kudos.

stuffycheaks said...

OMG! I've been watching this place build up (its on my drive to work) and I kept googling to figure out what it was going to be. Just two weeks ago, they finally put the # on the front door so i was able to find out that it was a restaurant called "Everleigh" I'm DEF gonna check this one out. that rillette has my name on it.

ChocoMeat said...

Mmm this looks great, def on my list. Though while I trust your "that" assessment, have to agree with Sino's "it" prescription of said menu items - and adding the deconstructed crisp. It's everywhere! But hey... like I'm ever gonna turn down pork rillettes or cream cheese frosting!

sarah j. gim said...

best patio ever... might even beat bastide ;)

tallgirl said...

Damnit, if I weren't so far, I'd go there now. Although, maybe they're not open for lunch.
Gorgeous post!

Nomsnotbombs said...

Yum! This place is on my to-eat list, and I was nice seeing pics and hearing your take!

Sanam said...

thanks so much for this description, the food looks and sounds delicious. A friend from out of town made a reservation for this weekend. I had never even heard of this place and I'm from here. Now I am SUPER excited to go!