Alien space pods land on La Brea for fine, tasty dining

| October 27, 2022 | 0 Comments

WORKSHOP KITCHEN & BAR blends sci-fi cool with high-end cooking.        Photo by Audrey Ma

Behind a faceless all-black façade at the former Odys + Penelope lies a science fiction fantasy of a dining room. A white trussed ceiling soars over the white tables and black chairs which neatly run down the center of the restaurant. Counter seating overlooks the bustling kitchen at one end; a bar backed by colorful bottles of booze — the one pop of color in the room — holds court at the other end. The open mezzanine above the kitchen holds a long private table. The coolness of the room, both in hipness and in emotion, is best exemplified by the rows of poured concrete alien space pods, otherwise known as private booths, hugging the long walls, which is where one wants to sit. Los Angeles, meet Workshop Kitchen & Bar, an ambitious transplant from Palm Springs and Los Angeles-born chef Michael Beckman.

As at so many restaurants in town, Japanese flavors and techniques infuse Chef Beckman’s menu. Unusual flavor combinations abound, including in the cocktails. I prefer a classic Negroni to their sumac and mezcal version, but the “kitchen sink martini” with olive oil washed Islay gin and a side of pickled vegetables is delicious.

At the bar and kitchen counter a diner may order off a short à la carte menu, which will eventually expand and be available throughout the restaurant. For now, pod people and table-sitters must order one of two five-course tasting menus: vegan for $85 or the $100 menu, which my husband and I both ordered, which includes meat and fish. There are several choices for each, and one can swap items from either tasting menu. One or two items change every week.

The parade of plates began with a refreshing and scrumptious crudo of dry-aged kampachi in a slightly sweet and citrusy dashi broth. Soul-satisfying!

The second course offered three choices. We passed on the honey nut squash with caviar (for a supplemental $35) and ordered the other two. The bouillabaisse pot de crème resembled a Japanese tofu custard with lobster mushrooms and sliced apples, subtly perfumed with makrut (like kaffir lime) and lemongrass.

The heirloom tomato salad was brilliant with bright flavor. Tiny tomatoes floated in a pistachio-and-melon gazpacho with compressed cucumber, watermelon radish and basil flowers. This was the best dish of the night.

Pan seared amberjack with artichokes on a mound of truffled French lentils came next. This, too, was a beautiful dish with balanced flavors of sweet fish and earthy legumes.

There were three choices again for the fourth plate: dry aged strip loin, Iberian pork chop for an additional $20 and A5 wagyu strip (A5 is the highest quality beef rating given by the Japanese government) for $100 extra. It’s wonderful to have choices. It’s not as wonderful to have so many supplemental charges.

The Masami Ranch dry aged strip loin had a good beefy taste, but the star of the plate was the accompanying sunchokes. The koji-marinated Campo Grande Iberian pork chop is a newly available, highly marbled, deeply flavored pork from prized Spanish pigs. It was served with a tangy green kimchi gremolata and accompanied by pommes aligot (silky potatoes mashed with cream and stretchy French or Swiss cheese) that was disappointingly overdone.

We ended our meal with two different desserts; torte medovik, a honey sponge cake, was topped by huitlacoche ice cream (flavored with corn fungus for an interesting umami taste that won’t be for everyone), and the mille feuille. Similar to a Napolean, crispy dough is layered with stone fruit, passionfruit cream and full spoons of fresh passionfruit.

We loved the knowledgeable and friendly servers. We enjoyed sitting in the creatively designed pods. Some of the dishes were over-the-top delicious, but I look forward to curating our own selection of à la carte items when they become available throughout the restaurant so we can luxuriate in a private pod without having to commit to a five-course tasting menu.

Workshop Kitchen & Bar, 127 S. La Brea Ave., 323-413-2255.


Category: Entertainment

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