"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