Thursday, July 18, 2013

L&E Oyster Bar: Don't Miss the Cozy Upstairs Bar

Some people were dubious when L&E Oyster Bar opened, unsure of what Silver Lake needed was a somewhat pricey place for slurping bivalves. But with the folks behind Bar Covell backing L&E, it seemed like a winner. Now that the upstairs bar has been open for a while, how's the menu faring at this still-jumping spot? Here's my Los Feliz Ledger review:
Lox and eels? Lake and Eastside? Who knows what L&E Oyster Bar stands for, but in just over a year the little Silver Lake Blvd. spot has become known for the freshest of seafood and the buzziest of scenes.
On warmer nights the patio is bursting with diners braving the no-reservations policy for a glass of wine and a tray of oysters, and on colder evenings the patio is enclosed so the fun can continue. And now, if just oysters and drinks are on the agenda, you can proceed straight upstairs to the quieter bar area, where a smattering of other appetizers are also available. (The balcony overlooking the street is a choice spot for an intimate evening.)
It’s awfully pleasant to chat with the bartender about the flavor profiles of various bivalves and which wines would best accompany them (dry whites like a Picpoul or Gruner Veltliner are perfect). But delve farther into the menu and it turns out the cooked dishes even more compelling.
Like at the Hungry Cat, non seafood-lovers must content themselves with just one meat dish -- a steak sandwich -- and a few salads. But it would be a shame to not love sea creatures at L&E, because chef Spencer Bezaire (formerly of Cafe Stella) has a light but very flavorful touch with just about everything on the compact menu.
An early review of L&E called the clam chowder “floury.” Clearly this has been remedied and then some; the thin broth is intensely flavored with must be a 50/50 ratio of clam broth and heavy cream, studded with a few meaty whole clams, then doused with a salty shower of Nueske bacon bits. Try not to give in to licking the bowl, lest the fashionable diners be offended. Often the trendier the restaurant, the less apparent is the bread, but here the chowder comes with two thick pieces of Village Bakery’s sourdough served with a crock of gently-flavored garlic butter.
The chef riffs on a hearty choucroute with the seafood boudin noir, in which lobster and shrimp are combined with cuttlefish ink to create a black sausage, served on sweet and sour braised cabbage.
Even for those who started the evening slurping up half a dozen raw oysters, the knife ‘n fork fried oyster roll still appeals. The oysters become dense and meaty when coated in cornmeal and paired with pickled onion, and the generous pile of well-browned fries on the side is enough for the whole table to share. Rounding out the menu are a whole roasted fish; shrimp ‘n grits; fried or grilled oysters and smoked mussels.
Since L&E is an offshoot of super-popular Los Feliz wine bar Covell, it’s not surprising that both the beer and wine lists feature a number of interesting selections leaning towards France. The beer list isn’t long, but Apicius French cider, Brouwerij west Quadrupel and of course Flying Dog oyster stout, brewed with oysters, are on the menu.
1637 Silver Lake Blvd.

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