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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Steak House Burger

The Steak House Burger

I feel bad even bringing this up, but what can you do? The Black Sheep is doomed. No reprieve, just flat out doomed. There’s nothing to be done about it. It’s a matter of location. Why in the name of all that is holy would you put a burger place next to Cole’s famous French dip? Why? You can’t compete with that. Cole’s is a beloved institution with a secret speakeasy in the back. Their lamb dip with goat cheese is something that people would wait in line endlessly for. Their bourbon pecan pie is the stuff dreams are made of. And to top that all off, the Black Sheep closes an hour earlier than Coles. It’s just a mess.

If this burger joint had been placed pretty much anywhere else in the city (except for maybe next to Philippe’s or Golden State) it would have been fine. They have stunning array of gourmet burgers, sliders, and hotdogs. They’ve got drunk food down. They serve fancy beers, ciders, sake bombs and elaborate lemonades. Man, they even have cheesy truffle tater tots. Their buns are fluffy, their burgers are luscious, their toppings are unoriginal, but delicious, the prices are reasonable, but they are screwed.

Cheese fries!

Cheese fries!

We didn’t have the appetite to try all of their six burgers, so forgive me if I’ve missed something crucial. We managed to try three of their burgers. The Black Sheep which came with arugula, Gouda, caramelized onions and garlic aioli, which would please those who don’t like their cheese burgers too fancy. The Steak House Burger was for those who like their burgers really fancy. It came with spinach, fontina cheese, bacon and onion compote, mushrooms, and house steak sauce. The effect was sloppy and overwrought. The winner, however, was the Western burger was the clear winner with had spring mix, American cheese, onion rings, and chipotle BBQ sauce which had the exact right amount of sass. They were all quite delicious, a little small, and came out really fast. Did they beat the French dip next door? No, not even close.

Western Burger by Inna L.

Western Burger by Inna L.

Could the untimely demise of the Black Sheep be avoided? Sure. Here are five simple ways that could happen. One, hire a bouncer. If homeless men can wander into your restaurant and beg for change, it’s going to be a damper on the whole meal. Two, if your patrons request a lemonade and sake together, oblige them. Charge them extra if you have to, but answering “We don’t do that.” is insane when you’ve already served them a lemonade and a sake separately. Three, hire a wait staff. Having your customers order at the bar just leads to resentment and chaos. Your burgers aren’t good enough for that kind of nonsense behavior. That’s reserved for the major leaguers, like Father’s Office and Golden State. Four, stay open later than Cole’s. Like those birds that live on cleaning alligator teeth, you could eke out a living by pick up their leftovers. Five, hire someone who makes homemade pie. You might have a prayer if you serve really excellent dessert.

Oh who am I kidding? You can’t be saved. You’ve got a couple years, five at most. Enjoy your time while you can. 

 

– Molly Bergen

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Looks not terrible.

Looks not terrible.

Is it possible for everyone to be wrong about something? Are we, as a populace, so gullible that we can follow a false prophet as one virtually unbroken unit? Or perhaps even worse, know that we are willfully accepting something that we should not? If so, HOW did we arrive at this place? How is it possible that no one is lifting the veil, speaking the truth, and shouting at the top of their lungs that the Emperor has no clothes?!? Well, allow me to be the break in the chain, and quite possibly the first person you’ve ever heard say this: Little Dom’s SUCKS.

If you were to go there on a Saturday night at meal-time and did not make a reservation your wait will be roughly 60 minutes. It could be more. It’s always crowded. You will find yourself packed into a bar that serves Moscow Mules in copper mugs that might taste like mildewy bar rag, depending on who makes it. You’ll be surrounded by attractive, well-dressed, mid/late 30’s creative (looking) types, who at a glance, one might assume know a thing or two about food. (Spoiler: they don’t). Order a straight pour of good rye or the butternut infused Eagle Rare (it’s intended for Old Fashioned’s, but far better on it’s own [and it’s just lovely]) instead of a fancy drink. The bartenders are heavy handed when there’s no filler. Silver lining. Once you’ve spent an hour shouting at your date over the 60 other people in the room who are shouting at their dates over you, you’ll be lead to a paper topped table by a designer/actress/model/hostess who is a sweet as can be and will (though you won’t know it at the time) be a highlight of the experience. Next, your writer/producer/actor/director/server will be out with a stale sub roll in a paper bag for you to enjoy. Then comes the really fun part. Food.

I started with an arugula salad that was totally unremarkable but everything you need it to be, and the absolute best grilled octopus I have ever had in my entire life. Loads of lemon, smoked paprika and salt make this small plate that is not that small explode with flavor. I went back for it the following week, and it’s not a fluke: their grilled octopus is a perfect dish. Hence, the rest of their offerings being deplorable is even more confounding.

Little Dom’s has a burger that I obviously have to discuss because that’s what this blog is about, but in that the total experience of dining here is what I feel obligated to share, it’s going to be brief. According to the menu, it has burratta, speck, and roasted tomato mostarda. It’s served on focaccia, though the menu doesn’t say that, and mine had greens on it too. Innovative kind of? Yes. Burratta and cured pork, gloriously united? Yes again. Seems like it would have been hard to blow it, right? The bread was so stale I can’t imagine how anyone sent it out of the kitchen. Whoever cut it had to have been drunk or really hate the job, because no one could have not noticed how old that bread was. Inedible. Additionally, the heaping glop of tomato stuff was cold. As in, 33 degrees, cold. Hurt your teeth kind of cold. Frozen 30 seconds ago, cold. So the patty and the two ingredients that one can’t screw up, were far less attention grabbing. Ultimately the burger just got disected while I wished I had ordered more octopus.

Little Dom’s presents itself as an Italian restaurant, so perhaps their burger’s lack is due to the fact that their energy and skill went to more traditional dishes, right? Like, spaghetti and meatballs, for example. Well I ordered that too. Pasta: huge. Looked like udon noodles. Sauce: whatever. Meatballs: so impossibly bland that I think there has to have been a mistake. I truly believe that whoever made that batch of meatballs forgot to put salt in it. It was not as if there wasn’t enough, there was NONE. ZERO. They tasted more like newspaper than food. I hope that the person who forgets to salt meatballs is the same person who serves 3 month old focaccia and that s/he has since been fired.

Naturally, I felt that some credit must be given to the masses. As mentioned, this place is always packed, so I began to ask around as to whether I am the only one who is unimpressed by the food. I tweeted “Hurry somebody tell me something that doesn’t suck from Lil Dom’s.” Responses: “Beer.” “Prosecco.” “Ye Old Rustic” (which is a sports bar across the street). So I asked strangers at surrounding tables to rate their meals. Mediocrity at best was all that anyone had to report. A young woman at the table to my left sent her spaghetti back only to be presented with a new dish that was incorrect in the exact same way as the first. She confessed her disappointment but resigned to cope. The guys to my right had oyster po-boy’s and said that while the quality and freshness of the oysters was superb, every other single thing about the dish was a bummer. Then, myself and my new friends all started eavesdropping on the conversations of more surrounding tables as THEY complained about how their dinners were shitty too. Not a single person I talked to had exemplary things to say about anything they ordered. So I ask you, all of you Little Dom’s patrons: WHY THE FUCK DO YOU GO THERE? If your response is anything other than the words “grilled octopus,” then I urge you to reevaluate your experience and/or goals. I think you have been fooled, or are accepting sub-par cuisine for reasons I can’t understand. Fun fact though, if you image search “Little Dom’s” it’s not food, it’s famous people. TMZ style pics of actors leaving brunch. So perhaps I’m the odd man out of the clientele, and to enjoy such cardboard meatballs requires the palate of someone with a script for sale. I’ll never know. If you do find yourself roped into a meal there though, I beg you, do not stray from that octopus. It’s the only thing worth eating.

-Geoff Sawyer

January Jones likes shitty food.

January Jones likes shitty food.

Katherine Heigl and this baby like shitty food.

Katherine Heigl and this baby like shitty food.

K dunst and trash burger

Kirsten Dunst is high. (and also likes shitty food).

Megan Fox likes smoothies and shitty food.

Megan Fox likes smoothies and shitty food.

Zachary Quinto likes shitty food.

Zachary Quinto likes shitty food.

Alexander Skarsgard likes hugs and shitty food.

Alexander Skarsgard likes hugs and shitty food.

Photo by Michael S.

Photo by Michael S.

If you drive down Culver Blvd until it reaches the sea, you end up at Dockweiler Beach. Dockweiler is one of the only places in Los Angeles where you can still have a bonfire on the beach. Fire pits have been built into the sand, and on most nights the sand is lit up like some very organized post-apocalyptic refugee camp. It is one of my favorite spots in the whole city. You can drive down there and roast marshmallows and hot dogs while the sun sets over the waves. It’s like a little piece of wilderness at the edge of the city.

All of this is to explain why after years of driving down this stretch of road, I never noticed The Tripel. Right before Culver Blvd curves and is reborn as Vista Del Mar, there’s the tiny beach town (suburb?) of Playa del Rey. The size of a shoe box, this gastro pub is warm and inviting. Candle light glowed off the wood paneled walls and an impressive row of beer taps above which the word “lubrication” was written in red.

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Even though it was a Tuesday, I had to fight for a seat at the bar at 7pm.  It wasn’t hard to figure out why after perusing the menu. Spicy coconut and red curry biscuits with clotted cream? Crispy pig ear salad with poached egg? Melted brebirousse d’argental with soaked wild mushroom toast? These dudes were not messing around. Why the hell had I been roasting hot dogs on the beach when I could have been in here dining on charred baby octopus? Ah well.

They had two beef burgers on the menu and one lamb, and I regret to inform you that I had only brought one buddy along. There was not enough appetite to demolish all three. So we stuck to the beef. (Of course, this meant that all of the other diners scolded us for choosing incorrectly AFTER we had ordered. Apparently the lamb burger is something of a legend. Figures.) The hand ground beef patties were luscious and came in two varieties the Pretzel Burger and the Tripel. The Pretzel Burger (shockingly) came on a pretzel bun and was draped in aged cheddar, poppy seed coleslaw, and carmelized onions. It was a thing of beauty, reminding me very strongly of Langer’s Deli’s famous #19, which features hot pastrami on rye bread with coleslaw and cheese. The sweetness of the coleslaw and onions contrasted with the sharpness of the cheddar, but didn’t overwhelm the burger or the pretzel bun. There was something very comforting about the whole thing, like a hug from your Bubbe.

If you squint, there's a pretzel burger. I swear.

If you squint, there’s a pretzel burger. I swear.

The Tripel burger on the other hand was kind of a mess. It wasn’t bad, but it reminded me a bit of a date trying too hard to impress you. It’s listed as duck confit, pork, and aged beef patty on an onion brioche bun with truffle pecorino, arugula, and house made apricot jam. Sounds hot, right? That’s why you would agree to go out on this date in the first place, but when you get close to your beau your nostrils are assaulted with cologne or in this case apricot jam. Now I am not opposed to apricot jam in theory. It’s very nice on biscuits or cookies or with cheese. I’m even open minded enough to admit that it might be nice with a piece of meat, in the right proportion, but I’m telling you this thing was covered in it. All of those complex flavors were drowned in the sweetness. Like Axe bodyspray, it overpowered everything it touched. It was such a shame. No amount of scraping could rectify the situation. So if you find yourself in that part of town, do yourself a favor and get yourself a pretzel burger. It’s lovely.

-Molly Bergen