Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Where to Eat: The Present and Past Merging @ Faith & Flower

The Eats + Drinks: California rustic cuisine + turn-of-the-century cocktails

The Location: Downtown

The Vibes: Renaissance meets modern; upscale, eye-catching, intimate

Good for: Groups of friends, dates, solo dining and/or drinking

When-To-Go: Open evenings, after 5:30pm every day

The $ Factor: $$ - Prices range from $6 to $85

The 4-1-1: The restaurant derives its name from the street that it’s on: Flower is the current name of the street and Faith was the street’s alleged name in the 1920s. Also, the menu is in the form of a book. Don't just read the beginning; read it in its entirety!

I’ll Be Back…: For the Chicory & Asian Pear Salad!

Last week, I was invited to a pre-opening dinner for one of the latest additions to downtown, a swanky new restaurant, Faith & Flower.

The night before its official opening, a friend and I joined hundreds of industry guests—the owners, other bloggers, magazine editors, hotel execs and others—in the beautifully decorated restaurant, which features high ceilings and a handmade sunburst wall installation in the main dining area; a long black, sleek communal table and an intriguing wall mural by Robert Vargas in the bar area (pictured below); and other eye-catching accents scattered throughout. Its d├ęcor is most certainly a nod to a more regal time period of Los Angeles, with a sense of glam that thrived in the Old Hollywood Era.

Faith & Flower is the first SoCal brick-and-mortar venue for Coastal Luxury Management, a Central California company that produces the Pebble Beach and the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festivals. There’s a ton of well-known names attached to the restaurant: Executive Chef Michael Hung (Michelin-starred La Folie), Lead Mixologist Michael Lay (Restaurant 1833 and Rose.Rabbit.Lie.), Executive Pastry Chef Ben Spungin (Bernardus Lodge) and restaurateur Stephane Bombet (Picca, Mo-Chica and Paiche).

From the pre-opening night, two things stood out to me:

First and most importantly, the food was absolutely impeccable. Plates are family-style—to be shared amongst your group—and out of all of the dishes we tried, there wasn't one that I didn't like. The cuisine is coined as California rustic, but appears to have less of a focus on one specific region and instead incorporates global themes into everything.

The Deviled Jidori Eggs had an Asian flair, with kimchee and Korean chili adding a rich and bold flavor to the traditional recipe of deviled eggs.

I’m convinced someone from the South came up with The Black Eyed Peas. Hidden below the flavorful black eyed peas are a bed of tender, braised greens, with small pieces of delightful smoked bacon nestled inside.

The Chicory & Asian Pear Salad reminded me of the gastronomy of Spain, with its thinly sliced Serrano ham. Hazelnuts added a surprisingly pleasant crunchy affect to the salad and the Malvarosa cheese and pears added a fun play on tart and sweet. It was all tossed in a very faint hint of a tangy dressing—so faint it almost didn't seem like it was there—which was nice, because you really got to taste and appreciate all of the ingredients of the salad itself.

Since I don't eat beef, I didn't try the Oxtail Agnolotti, but my friend and the couple dining next to us raved about it all night and asserted that it was the best item on the menu. The waiter explained to me its genesis—that it was heavily influenced by both African and Caribbean cuisines that frequently incorporate oxtail into their dishes.

Last to note, the cocktails are most certainly what you'd call hand-crafted cocktails. Intricate and rare ingredients are featured in many, making them quite complex and curious. As someone who is easily pleased with a basic two-ingredient drink (i.e., a Jack & Coke), initially reading the menu, I was slightly intimidated by all of the ingredients that I simply didn’t know (i.e., Bigalette China-China Amer). Fortunately, my waiter provided guidance and surprised me with this great blend of gin, Mandarin Napoleon, lemon and a spray of absinthe, called the Dutch Gin Crusta.

If you're looking for a place to grab a simple, standard martini, this might not be the place; even my friend’s Jameson and ginger ale featured ginger ale made in-house, with fresh ginger (although yes, there are wines, beers, absinthes and amaros by the glass). But, if you’re looking for 19th and 20th century cocktails that Faith & Flower claims were widely popular in L.A.’s former speakeasies, then this is definitely the place to check out.

In closing, Faith & Flower’s price point is very competitive for what you get, which is top notch dining, drinks and presentation. Cocktails are $10-$14. The smaller plates range from $6-$10; larger plates are around the $20 mark. One of the only extravagantly priced option I saw on the menu was the $52 Whole Tai Snapper. We didn't get that, but we saw it delivered and it looked like it could easily feed at least five people. In all, we ordered about three small plates, two entrees and two desserts and were thoroughly and satisfactorily filled afterwards.

All in all, I think this is a fantastic upscale addition to the downtown neighborhood. Centered right in the middle of downtown and walking distance from The Staples Center and other landmarks and entertainment, it's easily accessible and an ideal location for drinks after work, a dinner date or shareable bites before a night out.

See you there soon!

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