For my birthday this year, my dear boyfriend treated me to dinner at Hatfield’s, a restaurant that had earned one coveted Michelin star back when the Guide was still in LA. He knew that I love tasting menus, although it proved surprisingly difficult to find one with availability on a Sunday night. (As I am constantly reminded, I work the same nights that normal people want to go out!)
The first thing I noticed that the odd sense of familiarity when we walked into the dining room. And that’s when it hit me — this is the dining room from the movie Chef! So our date night started out with plenty of jokes involving “He’s NOT getting to me!” “I’m NOT needy!” “It’s f*cking molten!” (If you still haven’t seen the movie, stop reading right now and go track it down!)
We sat in the center of the dining room and got an amazing view of the open kitchen. I was mesmerized by the brigade and how calmly and deliberately everyone seemed to move; it was almost unreal, especially compared to my experience in a closed kitchen where organized chaos breaks loose every night.
We opted for the chef’s 7-course tasting menu (priced at $110 per person). We were told that it would be served “in tandem,” which was described to mean that each of us would receive a different dish each course. Long story short, we got to try a total of 14 dishes! I defined the dishes that I received first as (a) and the ones Martin received first as (m). Please forgive me if I missed any details; there’s quite a bit going on in every dish and by the end, I was really feeling the gin in my cocktail! (Also, the photos aren’t too stellar thanks to my camera phone and low lighting.)
Speaking of cocktails, I had The Hendrix Experience: Hendrick’s Gin, Thai basil syrup, lemon, prosecco. It was a lovely bright green color and tasted as refreshing as it looked. Martin mentioned that his usual libation of choice is the sazerac and our server suggested The Innsbruck. I remember nothing about it other than that it is rye whiskey based, garnished with a sprig of rosemary, and went down oh so smoothly.
Amuse Bouche: Cured Fluke, Egg Salad Remoulade, Potato Chip. A delightful first bite of cured white fish to whet our appetites for more.
Course 1(a): Croque Madame: Yellowtail Sashimi, Prosciutto, Sunny Side Up Quail Egg, Grilled Brioche. One of their signature dishes, we were thrilled to see this as part of our tasting menu. The “grilled” brioche reminded me of this one time when we fried brioche croutons in clarified butter. Butter + butter = love. The combination of cured jamon and fresh hamachi doesn’t sound like it would work out but somehow it does in this adorable little sandwich.
Course 1(m): Kanpachi Sashimi, Persian Cucumbers, Mango. A refreshing and light starter, this is the way I generally like to begin my dining adventures.
Course 2(a): Butternut Squash Flan, Coconut Froth, Maitake Mushrooms, Curried Sweetbreads Croquette. I loved this dish. I may even go so far as to say it was my favorite of the night. Hidden beneath the froth of fragrant coconut and Thai-inspired flavor is a delicate butternut squash flan. The silky texture and the smooth broth paired wonderfully while the croquette added an extra level with its crunch. The maitake mushrooms were just the icing on the cake to remind you that, indeed, Winter is Coming.
Course 2(m): Squid Ink Garganelli, Dungeness Crab, English Peas, Pea Tendrils, Pearl Onions. We are both huge fans of squid ink pasta; there’s just something about the gorgeous black color hiding away a surprising burst of citrus and briny flavor that we can’t get enough of. The pea tendrils were fried as a crispy garnish and the crab added a lightness to an otherwise creamy sauce.
Course 3(a): Slow Cooked Salmon (Sous Vide), Eggplant, Charred Scallions, Salmon Roe. I had never had sous vide salmon before and I’ve got to say, I’m just not a fan. The peculiar cube of gorgeous medium-rare salmon looked beautiful but had a soft texture that I could not get past. I did enjoy how the roe added a finishing touch of saltiness to the dish the way a sprinkling of fleur de sel would have.
Course 3(m): Red Wine Braised Octopus, Charred Shishito Peppers, Orange Rind Gastrique. The octopus was pleasantly tender, and as I am a huge fan of shishito peppers, I much preferred this dish over the salmon.
Course 4(a): Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Strawberry Sambal Gastrique, Braised Radicchio & Hibiscus, Fennel & Gold Beet Salad, Cashews. I felt that this dish really embodied the time of year — the transition between summer and fall. I actually really enjoyed the radicchio and hibiscus, which I found to be extra bitter (Martin was not a fan but loved the duck).
Course 4(m): Buttermilk Chicken, Arugula Pistou, Mushroom Duxelle, Crispy Shallot. The chicken was incredibly succulent and completely changed my view on ordering the poultry at a fine dining establishment. The crispy shallots were a fun garnish, making me think of fried chicken, while the sauces underneath melded well with one another.
Course 5(a): 36 Hour Slow Cooked “Pastrami-Style” Short Rib, Shimeji Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes, Frisee Salad. The short rib was incredibly tender and paired with the mustard vinaigrette that dressed the salad beneath it, I was transported to a very high-end version of a Jewish deli. I just have to say though — I’ve never been able to look at a plate of frisee without feeling a lot of appreciation and a little bit of guilt, because I know what a pain in the butt it is for the person who has to pick the yellow leaves from the bitter white stems.
Course 5(m): Braised Short Rib, Celery Root Puree, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Red Wine Jus. A second preparation of the short rib, this was almost lacquered in red wine and tasted wonderful for it. I’d say this dish was the most no-frills one of the bunch, and I appreciated that. Nothing beats a good plate of beef, brussels, celery root puree, and red wine sauce.
Course 6(a): Pavlova, Freshly Whipped Cream, Strawberry Chamomile Sorbet. The paylova was crispy and airy, the whipped cream was delicate, and the sorbet was the star of the show. It was fruity yet fragrant and not-too-sweet, just the way I like it.
Course 6(m): Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Watermelon Granita, Blackberry Banyuls Sorbet. I usually dislike tangy dairy, but the buttermilk panna cotta was the perfect counter to the sweet fruit. I was also really looking forward to tasting the blackberry banyuls sorbet (banyuls is an expensive French vinegar made from Grenache grapes) and it exceeded my expectations.
Course 7(a): Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Crunchy Chocolate-Peanut Tuille, Bitter Chocolate Ice Cream. I don’t know how they knew. Martin said he didn’t tell them. I didn’t mention anything. It’s like they’re mind readers, but our server placed this plate down right in front of me and I was thrilled. (What can I say? I love to feel special.) The semifreddo was delicious and if you managed to take a bite with a little bit of everything on it, it was like the world’s best candy bar.
Course 7(m): Sugar & Spice Beignet, Venezuelan Chocolate Fondue, Vanilla Malted Milkshake. I love beignets and I love even more that this one is dusted in cinnamon-sugar rather than confectioner’s. The chocolate fondue was incredible — super velvety and bittersweet, perfect for someone who loves the darkest of dark chocolate (like me!). I really liked the playfulness of the vanilla milkshake, although I couldn’t help but make the comparison to Michael Mina’s root beer float (which, with its edible chocolate straw, wins by a slight edge).
Bon Bons: Homemade Mallomar, Dark Chocolate, Marshmallow, Graham Cracker, Sea Salt. I will be perfectly honest — the first thing I did was poke it. It feels squishy. How do they get it coated in chocolate that is malleable enough to squish with the marshmallow enrobed inside? It was mind boggling, and I pondered it as I devoured the last, satisfying bite of our meal.
It’s no wonder that Hatfield’s still holds strong on Jonathan Gold’s list of 101 Best Restaurants in LA. This husband and wife team (Chef and Pastry Chef, respectively) creates intricate dishes that highlight so many seasonal ingredients, often combining a multitude of flavors in new and exciting ways. Some dishes were more amazing than others, and a few just had a bit too much going on for my taste, but overall, I had no complaints about our meal at Hatfield’s. Keep it on your list for a romantic date, special occasion, or cause for celebration!
Check out Hatfield’s: hatfieldsrestaurant.com
6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
See their Yelp reviews here!