Monday, March 26, 2018

Where to Drink: Tropical cocktails @ Accomplice Bar, Mar Vista

The Drinks: A remarkable array of cocktails bursting with lots of sass, tropical taste and colorful vibes

The Location: Mar Vista

The Vibes: Tiny, intimate, Westside

Good for: Alone, dates, very very small groups (not recommended for kids)

When-To-Go: Opens at 5 p.m. daily; closes at midnight, Sunday – Thursday and at 2 a.m. Friday & Saturday

The $$ Factor: Cocktails are $12 - $15

The Names behind the scenes: Owner David Kuo and Beverage Director Gaby Mlynarczyk

The 4-1-1: Although Accomplish Bar’s menu technically only comprises beverages, you can also order and eat “Taiwanese soul food” from the adjacent restaurant, Little Fatty

Parking Situation: Nearby metered street parking, which can be scarce

I’ll Be Back…: For the margarita! And the eastern standard! And the pearl diver!

Ten years ago, I never could’ve imagined that I’d utter the words “Let’s meet in Mar Vista!” to a friend on a Friday or Saturday night. But lo and behold, a lot could change in a decade, and a lot most certainly did. What used to be a sleepy, nondescript neighborhood wedged between Venice / Marina del Rey to the west and the 405 freeway to the east has laid down roots to become a trendy destination, with a burgeoning dining / social scene that has restaurants and bars sprouting up around Venice Blvd. and nearby side streets, in between Centinela Ave. and Inglewood Blvd.

One of these bars in particular that’s putting Mar Vista on the map is Accomplice Bar. This tiny rectangular-shaped establishment may only be one room, but it’s not surprising to find it packed to the brim with locals, couples on date nights and groups of friends on any given weekend. Dark greyish-navy blue walls, cork and blonde wood fixtures and stark white shapes floating from the ceiling all work together to create a cozy, enveloping atmosphere, as bartenders whip up creative cocktails that have as much flavor as they have flair.

Accomplice Bar offers its own upscale renditions of traditional cocktails such as margaritas, Mai Tais (pictured below), and pisco sours, that are organized into three categories: riffs, classics and specials. By no means have I tried all 20 drinks on the menu, but, I can say that the handful of ones that I've sampled have been excellent, from the presentation down to the taste. Each one seems to have its own little personality, too, whether it’s the type of glass it arrives in, the type of garnishes adorning the concoctions or how liqueurs get paired with certain ingredients, from allspice and pineapple in the margarita, to bourbon and egg whites in the "whiskey (sweet +) sour." 

Here are a few other libations that rank high on my list: 

I’d first recommend anyone to start off with one of the most popular orders, the “this is not a tiki drink,” pictured below. While it’s as pretty to look at as it is to sip, I think it’s a great introduction into all that Accomplice can offer — something sweet, something potent and most certainly, something well-crafted. It includes mescal and sherry, orgeat, pineapple and passionfruit.

I’ve kicked back quite a few margaritas in my lifetime, but Accomplice Bar’s version has to be by far one of my faves. Like any other margarita, it includes tequila...but, that’s where the similarities end. Thrown into the mix is pineapple, falernum (a type of syrup), blue majik (a derivative of the sea algae spirulina) and firewater, all mixed together and then topped off with allspice. It’s a tropical masterpiece indeed!

Keeping on the tropical trend, the pearl diver is one of two specials and it's made with two types of rum, guava and Gaby's gardenia mix, according to the menu. A server shared that it also has hints of vanilla, coconut and other flavors. Even though it’s packed with a lot of fruits and sweet ingredients, it’s definitely not overbearingly sugary. It’s been my favorite so far.

For my whiskey fans, the “whiskey (sweet +) sour” may be up your alley. It’s a light mixture of bourbon whiskey whipped together with amaretto ginger and either egg white (or aguafaba, an egg white substitute for vegans). As it name suggests, it’s on the sweeter side, but still has a nice little kick.

There's also about nine classic cocktails including mint juleps, negronis and pisco sours. The eastern standard, pictured below, falls into this category. While it only comprise four ingredients — vodka, cucumber, lime and mint — it has just the right balance of each element, so that there’s not one that’s overpowering any other. 

So the next time you’re in the mood for visiting a neighborhood bar with a vibe that’s super chill and laid back and serves up exemplary cocktails that are way above your standard well drinks, definitely consider heading over to Accomplice Bar in Mar Vista.

See you there soon!

For more information: 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Where to Eat: Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich @ Honor Bar, Beverly Hills

The Eats: Classic American fare including burgers, salads and of course, Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich

The Location: Beverly Hills

The Vibes: Upscale, casual, masculine

Good for: Alone, dates, small groups (but not ideal for small kids)

Opens daily at 11:30 a.m.; closes at 11 p.m. Sunday – Thursday and at midnight Friday & Saturday

The $$ Factor: Mains, $10 - $16; Sushi, $14 - $20; Sides $5 - $9; Cocktails, $15 - $16

The Names behind the scenes: Hillstone Restaurant Group, which runs other restaurants like its namesake in Santa Monica, Gulfstream and Houston’s

The 4-1-1: While I technically walked in wearing sports attire, there seems to be a dress code; you can read it here

Parking Situation: Nearby metered street parking and a few local parking garages

I’ll Be Back…:
For Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich!

A good friend of mine told me she had tasted one of the best fried chicken sandwiches — possibly of her life — at this teeny tiny bar in Beverly Hills, called Honor Bar. In fact, it was so good, that she had gone back twice in one weekend.

The best fried chicken sandwich was found … in Beverly Hills, out of all places?

I was dubious. 

So clearly, I did what any self-respecting foodie would do; I hopped right on over to see for myself. 

I arrived on a chill Saturday afternoon. As I walked up to the hostess stand, my skepticism was greeted with a warm smile. The one-room restaurant was packed to the brim, with patrons either perched up at the long rectangular bar to the left or crammed together in tables or booths hugging a brick wall to the right. And while the space itself was swanky and debonair, with muted earthy tones, nostalgic photos of L.A. and rich woods throughout, the vibe was laid-back and casual.

One of the first things I noticed — right from when I entered and until we said our goodbyes — was the impeccable customer service. Throughout our entire meal, servers politely and professionally checked in, never letting water glasses get too low and graciously assisting with each and every request (and trust me, as anyone who's dined with me knows, I had quite a few). The spectacular service was a tiny detail, but one that stood out and made a long-lasting, positive impression.

But alas, more about this fried chicken sandwich that had led me here in the first place. Officially known as Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich (pictured below), it’s piled high with golden brown fried chicken, tomatoes, Swiss cheese and kale, all balanced between two toasted buns. One bite into it, and I understood just exactly what my friend was talking about. That was a pretty damn good sandwich. It was the flavor and seasoning of the chicken, the right level of toast for the bun and the uber-fresh veggies, all working together to create a very filling, delightful sandwich to eat. Plus, paired with the lightly salted, crispy French fries, it turned out to be a very satisfying meal.

Another close contender is the Carnitas sandwich (pictured below), with slow roasted pork, pickled onions, sliced avocado and Monterey jack cheese. Smooshed between two toasted buns as well, the pork was so tender and the tangy onions gave it a nice bite. It was even better topped off with the house barbecue sauce, which had a slight kick to it.

Aside from these two sandwiches, Honor Bar serves up a few other burgers, daily pizzas, sides and interestingly enough, sushi (pictured below). The menu is by no means exhaustive — there are only seven main options, 10 sushi platters and a handful of sides — but what I’ve tasted so far makes it certain that I'll be returning. They also serve up classic cocktails, from hand-shaken daiquiris to margaritas and Manhattans.

In the end, I was drawn in by Ding’s sandwich and sold over by it, in addition to other tasty options and great service. I appreciate that even though it’s upscale and modern, it’s not pretentious and overly stuffy.

So the next time you just so happened to be in Beverly Hills, craving a fried chicken sandwich, you know where to turn.

See you there soon!

For more information: 

Website, Instagram, Tel: (310) 550-0292