Friday, June 27, 2008

An Enjoyable Evening in L.A.: Hatfield's

Hatfield's is one of those restaurants that's garnered a lot of positive comments amongst food lovers. It's generally consisted of good recommendations without the hyperbole, almost "understated praise" in a way. And after our visit last night to Hatfield's, I think "understated" is one of the best descriptions (in a good way).

From the moment I exited my car and looked up at the sign, I could already sense the relaxed, simple, but classy atmosphere exuding from Hatfield's.

I began the evening, sitting in their outdoor lounge chair, waiting for our table, and sipping on one of their house cocktails, a Cucumber-Mint Gimlet, made up of Organic Cucumber infused with 360 Vodka, Fresh Mint Leaves, and Lime. It was a near perfect cocktail, with a good essence of Cucumber and Mint Leaves shining through the Vodka and Lime. Lightly sweet, with nothing overpowering in the drink.

The interior of Hatfield's is a charming, small space, with a simple elegance and decor, without being fancy or complicated. It was only as the evening continued that I started realizing that their ambiance was a perfect extension of Chef Quinn Hatfield's food.

They have a simple menu that changes every few weeks or so, depending on what's in season. They had a nice variety of Appetizers and Entrees, as well as a Pre-fixe Market Menu, as well as the Chef's Tasting Menu Spontanee, which is what we opted for.

We began with an amuse bouche of Deviled Quail Eggs with a Corn and Melon Soup. The Deviled Quail Egg was straightforward, but when paired with a bit of the Corn and Melon Soup at the same time, and it was delicious! The Corn and Melon Soup was very fresh and light, naturally sweet, but not cloying, and a nice start to our evening.

They also brought out some Cheese Bread Rolls at the same time, which were tasty, but a bit heavy considering our many other courses.

When our first course arrived, we were surprised to hear that Hatfield's Chef Tasting Menu is a Tandem Tasting Menu, meaning that during each course, one of the dishes is a different dish, while the other people are served the planned dish. It was to "encourage sharing and better showcase the cuisine" according to our server.

Our first course was Chef Hatfield's take on the classic Croque Madame, with Grilled Brioche, Hamachi (Yellowtail), Prosciutto, and topped with a Quail Egg in a Beurre Blanc Sauce. It was absolutely delicious! The buttery goodness of the Brioche, with the Yellowtail and saltiness of the Prosciutto, with the creamy yolk from the Quail Egg was the perfect combination!

The alternate first course dish was Cuttlefish in a Celery Root Puree with Maitake Mushrooms. This was surprisingly good: Cuttlefish can be easily overcooked and chewy, but Chef Hatfield's execution was spot-on, and the Celery Root Puree was truly an integral part of the dish, probably the driving flavor in this dish, to bring a certain refreshing angle, with a nice earthiness from the Maitake Mushrooms.

Our next course was a Warm Octopus Salad, Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, Nettle Puree, Asparagus, with Buckwheat Crisps. This was another surprising dish, with the pairing of the Warm Octopus (tender, lightly chewy) with the Nettle Puree, which was so herbal and lightly bitter. This was another example of using the puree to drive the direction of the dish, here with Nettle Puree of all things, focusing the rest of the ingredients, while not completely overpowering anything else. This was a complex dish, and definitely interesting to the palate.

The alternate dish for this course was the Agnelotti stuffed with Dungeness Crab topped with Summer Truffles. The pasta was cooked just right, supple, yet still firm, and the Dungeness Crab within was amazingly sweet and fresh! The only downside was that the Summer Truffle was almost lost in the dish compared to the Crab stuffing, but still added a slight earthiness in the end.

Our next course began with the Olive Oil Poached Halibut, Herbed Asparagus, Hon Shimeji Mushrooms, Pickled Ramp Vinaigrette. This was just outstanding! The Olive Oil Poached Halibut was amazingly tender (even for fish), and was a nice complement to the Herbed Asparagus, Shimeji Mushrooms, and the garlicky tartness of the Ramp Vinaigrette.

The alternate dish for this course was the Hamachi (Yellowtail) Collar encrusted with Hemp Seeds, with Gingered Summer Beans and Chanterelle Mushrooms. I've had my fair share of Hamachi Kama, Japanese style, over the years, so I was excited to see how this interpretation of Yellowtail Collar would turn out. In a nutshell, it was a disappointment. The Yellowtail Collar was extremely fishy - beyond the most heavy / oily fishiness of Mackerel even - and didn't taste very fresh. The Hemp Seed crust was nice, but everything in the dish was overpowered by the Hamachi Collar. Probably the only major misstep of the night.

Our next course started with Foie Gras and Chicken Breast, with Sunchokes, Pattypan Squash, and Zucchini Basil Coulis. It was a beautiful, yet simple plating, almost like a work of art. The Chicken Breast was just a little too salty for my tastes, but when eaten with the Foie Gras and the Sunchokes and Pattypan Squash, it helped to dilute the sodium a bit, making the whole dish more enjoyable. It was more visually pleasing than it was for taste.

The alternate dish here was the Foie Gras with Squab Breast, Lentil Puree, Royal Trumpet Mushrooms and Roasted Artichokes. The Foie Gras was a little too overcooked in this dish, but still matched well with the Squab Breast and other ingredients. I couldn't taste any of the Roasted Artichokes in this dish, being overpowered by the overcooked Foie Gras and Squab Breast.

Our final savory course of the evening began with the Slow Cooked Beef Rib, Crispy Spaetzle, Chinese Broccoli, Mustard Infused Garnet Yam Puree. The Beef Rib was cooked sous-vide style, and it was apparent from the very first bite: Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, and very rich, in a beautiful decadent sort of way. :) I think I prefer Grace's version, but this was still very good. The Spaetzle tasted freshly made, and was a nice pairing.

The final alternate savory dish was the Braised Pork Belly, Turnip Puree, Heirloom Spinach and Baby Carrots. You can never go wrong with Pork Belly (^_~), but the Pork Belly here was rather tough and firm, despite it being "braised," and with all the decadent, wonderful ways that Pork Belly is being used throughout the city currently, Hatfield's version was only "good," but nothing outstanding.

At this point, we were surprisingly very full, but now came the desserts! :) We began with a Lemon Custard Tartlet with Lemon Verbena Ice Cream, Blueberry Compote. Intensely flavored Lemon, and still surprisingly tart, this was a decent dessert paired with the Blueberry Compote.

The alternate dessert for this course was the Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Lemon Sorbet, Fresh Raspberries, Meringue Chip. This was wonderfully airy and *so* delicious! I'm not too much of a dessert fan, but this dessert made me want to almost ask our server to bring another serving. (^_~) My favorite dessert of the night!

Our final dessert course began with Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffle Cake with a Salted Caramel Ice Cream. I love Peanut Butter and this dessert was really standout with the wonderful gooey goodness of warm Peanut Butter surrounded by the Chocolate Truffle Cake, and then combined with a bite of the Salted Caramel Crunch and Ice Cream and O-M-G! This was divine! (^_^) Although after a few bites, it was just too rich and decadent for me. :)

The final alternate dish of the evening was the Beignet "Sugar & Spice", Chocolate Fondue, Vanilla Malted Milk Shake. This was nicely done, with the spices being Cardamom and Cinnamon, giving a light fragrance, and pairing nicely with the Vanilla Malted Shake. The Chocolate Fondue was very rich and too much chocolate, but that could depend on how much you love chocolate in general.

Our server brought out complementary Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Meringue. By this point we were beyond full, but how can you turn down free dessert? (^_~) This was a little too dry for my tastes, and the Espresso Meringue was an insane, caffeine-infused shot of coffee in creamy form!

Like the food and ambiance, Hatfield's service was very simple and understated. It was nothing amazing, but not intrusive, either. Our total came out to be about ~$110 per person (including tax and tip).

Thinking back over the dishes we had that evening, while each individual dish seemed to be innocuous, petite and simple, it turned out to be one of the most filling meals I've had in a while in Los Angeles. While each individual dish was expertly prepared and beautifully presented, the combination of all of the dishes ended up being a tad too rich and heavy: My dining companions and I all felt extremely full and bogged down after the meal, perhaps it was just the combination of all the rich foods and butter, or wonderful overdose of sugary goodness from the dessert onslaught. :) But overall, as we sat at our table, looking out onto the quiet stretch of Beverly Boulevard, with a nice 65 degrees Fahrenheit outside, I could only smile as I thought to myself, "What an enjoyable evening in L.A." Hatfield's is straightforward, understated and charming.

(Note: For 2008, Hatfield's was awarded One Michelin Star. Well-deserved.)

Rating: 8.0 (out of 10.0)

7458 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tel: (323) 935-2977

Hours: Mon-Thurs, 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Fri-Sat, 6:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Closed Sundays.


Tangbro1 said...

Glad to see you enjoyed your experience too. The food looks great. Lots of the dishes are similar to what I enjoyed during my trip.

I liked the panna cotta too and my girlfriend is a huge dessert fan and shes been asking to head back to Hatfields.

Esteban said...

I completely agree--the food was very good, except there was significant downtime in between courses. Great blog, btw.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Esteban,

Thanks! :) Nice to hear you had a similar experience (except the downtime part).

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