this is not a pop-up: Evan Funke
4854 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Dining date: 2/6/13
this is not a pop-up, housed in Hollywood’s Square One Dining space, follows a similar concept to the now-defunct Test Kitchen, housing chefs for a short period of time to cook whatever they want. It’s a concept that I really liked then, and enjoy just as much now as it keeps things new and interesting. Evan Funke, of Rustic Canyon fame (and developed one of LA’s most notable burgers) stepped into the restaurant for one night to preview his menu for upcoming Bucato.
Bucato, developed in the old Beacon restaurant in the Helms Bakery complex (with Father’s Office and Lukshon), has faced a number of delays (first rumored to open in December). While working on the opening of his Italian restaurant and “pasta laboratorio,” Funke started up a food truck serving only one thing – porchetta sandwiches. I recently tried it and, while not exactly a traditional porchetta, it was delicious.
It convinced us to try more of Funke’s food, bringing us to his pop-up menu of eight courses priced at $65.
The meal began with housemade focaccia. Cubes of cheese, olive oil and rosemary sat at the bottom of the shallow bowl to add much of the flavor.
RICCI DI MARE “IN PORCHETTA” sea urchin, crackling, lemon, rosemary, wild fennel, lardo
This was a beautiful plate of small bites. Slivers of lardo were a delicious pairing with the cool sea urchin, but I found the crackling to be much too crunchy, taking attention away from the rest of the flavors.
CUORE DI AGNELLO ALLO SPIEDINO CON SALSA RUSTICA lamb’s heart, rustic sauce
The tender, tasty lamb heart was complemented by a zesty salsa verde. Crunchy root vegetables added some texture and freshness to the rich meat – a nice pairing.
CARCIOFI ALL GIUDIA CON BATTUTO E BOTTARGA fried artichokes, beaten sauce, mullet roe
I enjoyed the fried baby artichokes, with layers of crispy texture and tender artichoke flavor in the middle. Grated bottarga was a nice complement, providing a little bit of a sea flavor.
MACCHERONI ALLA CHITARRA CACIO E PEPE guitar pasta, black pepper, pecorino romano
Since Bucato is supposedly going to be pasta-centric, I was excited to get a preview taste here. The pasta was slightly gritty and a little undercooked for my liking, but I assume it’s exactly how Funke wanted to serve it. Pecorino romano and freshly cracked black pepper provided the flavor in the comforting sauce, but I wouldn’t say the pasta stood out in any way.
ANIMELLE SALTIMBOCA veal sweetbreads, proscuitto di parma, sage, brown butter
Tender sweetbreads were cooked well, having a luscious almost creamy texture. I found the proscuitto and sage to be tasty complementary flavors, though I wanted more of it (the proscuitto and sage only covered half of the sweetbreads).
POLPI IN PURGATORIO CON CECI E AGLIO VERDE octopus, chick peas, green garlic
Tender octopus was bathed in a mild garlicky olive oil while al dente chickpeas provided some texture and slight creaminess to the dish.
PORCHETTA DI BUCATO DISORDINATO
I’m not sure what the menu description means, but we were expecting some variation of a traditional porchetta here. Instead, we had a crispy pork belly and roasted pork loin. The pork belly showed off good flavor and texture, but the pork loin was cooked pretty inconsistently across plates from rare to medium-well (I’ll attribute this to unfamiliarity with the kitchen for a one-night gig, but the undercooked pork never should have left the kitchen). The fresh vegetables helped to balance the pork with some of its fresh, cool flavors.
FETTA DI NAPOLITANA Chocolate, raspberry, pistachio gelato, chiffon, honey pistachio tuile
The last dish featured a trio of ice creams for this variation on a baked Alaska. I enjoyed the ice creams, as well as the chocolate cake and creamy chiffon in the simple but satisfying dessert.
Evan Funke’s preview of Bucato was a good meal, though not without its ups-and-downs. Execution-wise, it’s always tricky with a one-night meal but some of the pork served was unacceptable. Given pasta is supposed to be a big focus of the restaurant, I kind of wanted to try more than one pasta dish. However, I thought Funke presented a nice variety of dishes among the 8 courses showing off much of what he can do in the kitchen. In the end, I would say the meal neither swayed me nor deterred me from trying Bucato when it opens. On the other hand, this won’t be my last visit to this is not a pop-up as long as it continues this model.