Monday, February 20, 2017

Winsome Review: Subtle Style in Echo Park

Winsome, on the ground floor of the William Pereira-designed former Metropolitan Water Building that now houses apartments, is a terrific-looking restaurant. Imagine that your favorite Googie-style coffee shop grew up and sprouted a spacious patio and sleek pale wood details, with artisanal jams in place of the mint patties at the counter. Designed by Wendy Haworth, the interior gets a pop of color from wallpaper based on a charming 1930s Phil Dike watercolor of Echo Park.

The all-day restaurant that works just as well for breakfast and coffee as for a business lunch or cocktails and dinner with friends on the patio.

At breakfast, there’s La Colombe coffee starting as early as 7:30 a.m., with excellent pastries like a green tea concha, buckwheat ginger oat cookie or a caramel rye brownie from former Republique pastry chef Leslie Mialma. Rustic grains and exotic flourishes help keep things interesting on the contemporary California menu.

Some diners might need a dictionary to decode the ingredients that chef Jeremy Strubel, formerly of Rustic Canyon, likes to weave into the menu for a global feel. Potato chips leave a Thai impression dusted with chili and kaffir lime, while duck egg toast at brunch is topped with nduja -- the spreadable salami that’s seen all over town these days.

It’s fun to start with the giant crunchy rye pretzel, even though the accompanying fontina mousse doesn’t have much cheese flavor.

Entrees include rockfish with a bouillabaisse broth, which gets a slighty odd bitter taste from its mix of spices, and perfectly tender beef cheeks with a deeply flavored red wine sauce. Vegetarians can put together a dinner from a few sides or starters, like a winning mixture of maitake mushrooms and sauteed greens topped with buttery breadcrumbs. Shaved cauliflower salad is decorated with mustard frills along with lola rossa – a curly red lettuce – and trendy nutritional yeast.

The rich and savory dishes come in fairly small portions, so there’s likely to be room for dessert: a tres leches cake amped up with a bruleed banana, or Baked Japan, which melds umami-packed miso butterscotch sauce with housemade coffee semifreddo and a chocolate cake base.

If you must have a flaming cocktail, Winsome’s Tiki Novela, made with the Peruvian corn drink chicha morada, is probably a much better choice than the flaming margarita down the street at El Compadre. Organic wines, some unusual beers and housemade aguas frescas round out the drink selections.

L.A. can always use more patios, and the area between Chinatown and Echo Park is fast filling in with trendy spots. An evening at Winsome can be a fairly pricey outing, but brunch and lunch also offer chances to experience the restaurant’s vibrant flavors and stylish surroundings.

1115 Sunset Blvd., 213-415-1818

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