For our friend E’s birthday, we took him and H out on a double date to The Tripel, a popular gastropub in the heart of Playa del Rey. All four of us are big fans of Top Chef so we were excited to check out Brooke Williamson’s pride and joy so close to home. We ordered nearly 1/3 of the dishes on the menu to share, though admittedly, it was a lot of food for four people, especially paired with beer. Everything arrived as it was ready, so there wasn’t really a rhyme or reason for the sequence of dishes. Rest assured, we happily devoured every single bite, but we did have to (reluctantly) forgo dessert.
First, the libations: Martin went with the Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue), one of his favorite brews to indulge in on special occasions. E ordered the Black Velvet (stout, cava, and cassis) from the Cocktails menu, and H and I each had the Fox Barrel Pear Cider (my favorite cider, especially on draft). The chalkboard featured over a dozen varieties of brews on draught, something for everyone!
And now for the food…
Sweet Potato Tots with Horseradish Honey Mustard and Spiced Aioli: crispy, piping hot, sweet and savory, these little orange nuggets were delectable! The sauces were good; I liked the mustard most, as it was tangy and a touch spicy. The spiced aioli reminded me of a chipotle aioli, so fans of that will enjoy it for dipping their tots and frites.
Spicy Coconut and Red Curry Biscuits – Orange Blossom Honey and Clotted Cream: the dense, scone-like biscuits were perfect for slathering with the refreshingly cooling clotted cream drizzled in sweet fragrant honey. Great flavor combination.
Crispy Pig Ear Salad — Treviso, Poached Egg, Apricot: this was one of the dishes i was especially looking forward to – a bed of frisée and treviso (a mild radicchio) dressed in a light citrus-y vinaigrette, a beautiful poached egg in the center, and a crown of crispy strips of pig ear on top, this bowl was an impressive presentation. E did the honors of cutting through the egg, letting the yolk ooze over the salad and mellowing out the acidic vinaigrette with its creaminess. All four of us, having grown up eating pig ear (usually braised and sold by the pound in Chinese barbecue places), were excited to see more and more chefs in LA choosing to serve this and other offal in a high-end setting. A must try.
Steamed Mussels & Clams — Serrano Pesto Broth, Grilled Bread: we almost skipped this dish with the reasoning that we could get moules frites in just about any reputable gastropub. However, I’m SO glad we went for it because this turned out to be (dare I say it?) my favorite dish of the night. The mussels and clams abounded, always a good sign for one of these dishes, but the highlight was the broth. Oh, the broth. Fragrant with the expected notes of lemon and white wine, packing an incredibly flavorful kick from the serrano pesto. After we had dunked all of our grilled bread to sop up the broth, H and I shamelessly picked up our discarded clam shells and re-purposed them as spoons. No regrets.
Garlic Shoe String Frites with Horseradish Honey Mustard and Spiced Aioli: crispy thin frites reminiscent of those at Father’s Office. They were served with the same sauces as the sweet potato tots, and again, I personally preferred the honey mustard.
Squid Ink Spaghetti — Ground Shrimp, Lemon, Chili Oil, Herbs, Salmon Roe: another dish I was really looking forward to, especially since the menu description brought back memories of the black pasta aglio olio from The Daily Catch in Boston. The al dente pasta carried the briny, citrus-y flavor of the squid ink well, and I enjoyed the variety of textures that the ground shrimp and ikura offered. The lemon flavor was a tad overwhelming though – I love lemon with seafood, but this pasta tasted like someone squeezed lemon in it, then someone else came along and unknowingly added more lemon, and possibly a third hypothetical person after that. That said, it definitely didn’t stop me (and especially H who adores lemon) from polishing off the whole plate.
Grilled Umami Butter Drenched Quail — Black Figs, Fingerling Potatoes, Sorrel, Chive Blossoms: tender and juicy boneless quail nestled over roasted fingerling potatoes and caramelized figs, this was a bit difficult to share, at first in logistics (though we ended up splitting it into quarters) but then after taking a nibble, I just wanted to claim the entire dish for myself. Umami indeed!
With no reservations and only communal tables, we had quite a wait ahead of us when we arrived on a Sunday night. Thankfully, on busy nights there is a friendly hostess who will take our names and keep track of seating so we aren’t tasked with awkwardly hovering over tables and practicing our Jedi mind tricks to urge diners to leave so we could swoop in. Everything was peachy once we were finally seated and could join in on the joyous merrymaking that seemed to be the theme throughout the venue (always great to dine with happy people). The kitchen paced our dishes well so that nothing grew cold (except maybe the tots and fries but they were perpetual side dishes throughout the meal) and so that our piece of table didn’t get overly crowded. We are already looking forward to a few return visits to try the remaining 2/3 of the menu!
Check out The Tripel: thetripel.com
333 Culver Blvd
Playa Del Rey, CA 90293
See their Yelp reviews here!