Monday, July 23, 2012
Sycamore Kitchen: The neighborhood spot La Brea needed
In the 1990s, lunchers along La Brea were happy with spots like Rita Flora, Maison et Cafe and Sonora Cafe. After all, you can't always spend three hours at Campanile, and there's no place to eat items bought at the bakery.
So Sycamore Kitchen, the more casual spot from Hatfield's Karen and Quinn Hatfield, is a welcome update to the street. Right now the emphasis is on fresh and light sandwiches and salads at lunchtime, an ambitious array of homey baked goods and Portland's Stumptown Coffee, though full breakfasts are coming soon.
My lunching companion's turkey sandwich had a certain spare purity compared to the sauce-laden version over at Mendocino Farms: where everything there says FARM! FRESH! LOTSA MAYO! IN YOUR FACE, LOCAVORES!, the food at Sycamore Kitchen whispers "berry cream cookie...you know you want it...freshly roasted turkey with just the right amount of cherry mostarda spread...we're quiet but we're the real deal." Both approaches are fine, but Sycamore Kitchen clearly shows the sophistication that the Hatfields are known for. The turkey meat was thick and seemed recently-roasted, and it was served onb bread baked at the restaurant. (The bread's not available for purchase at the moment.) Some might call it too simple, like something you would prepare at home if you happened to have cherry mostarda, a turkey and a freshly-baked load of bread on hand, but I think that's kind of the point.
Mediterranean chicken salad was a well-balanced bowl of radicchio, kale, dates, hazelnuts, blue cheese and chicken, lightly dressed to let the assertive blue cheese and dates shine through. The afore-mentioned berries and cream cookie was a compelling idea for this berry-phile, but the "cream" part (white chocolate?) was way too sweet for me. My friend took a piece of the moist, restrained ale gingerbread home and I envied his afternoon teatime snack.The gooey pecan bun has drawn attention, but I fear it would be even sweeter than the cookie. Next time I'll try the sour cherry scone or fruit tartlets instead.
The ambiance is industrial and the patio's a tad stark, while those who want backs on their chairs should sit along the long brick wall to the side. Prices are what they are at all the stylish newer places -- $9-$12 for salads, sandwiches and open-faced toasts like cured salmon with capers, avocado and egg. Also on the menu are turkey chili, soup of the day, some veg sides and freshly made potato chips.
Sorry, Maison et Cafe, I've had some good times with you and your Eurotrash friends, but I'll be saying adieu to your tired, over-priced menu now that this sleek newcomer has moved in across the street.
143 S. La Brea