Scratch Bar (Los Angeles, CA)

Scratch Bar
111 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 3/15/14

scratch bar signage

Scratch Bar opened almost a year ago, a relatively young entrant to La Cienega’s Restaurant Row. The menu, created by chef Phillip Frankland Lee, has been described as modern American yet in a fun and whimsical manner. Something a bit different.

An a la carte menu is offered as well as a few different tasting menus (all the way up to a 14 course at the chef’s counter). We went somewhere in the middle with a 9 course tasting priced at $85pp, adding on a supplemental dish.

interior

No liquor is offered here; wine and beer are the only alcoholic options, though there is a creative cocktail list.

chablis

Lemon & Parm Kale Chips

Lemon & Parm Kale Chips

Garlic & Thyme Popcorn

Garlic & Thyme Popcorn

The meal started with a couple of small bites. Kale chips had a nice texture with cheese and lemon accents, though uneven seasoning created some very salty bites and some more bland ones. The popcorn brought some savory flavors to the mix, with the garlic and thyme both present but not overwhelming.

Green Mussel and Sea Urchin Sake Shooter

Green Mussel and Sea Urchin Sake Shooter

The shooter was a bit spicy, though offset by the sake, and had some nice textures. I thought the uni flavor was kind of lost in the mix though.

Pork Belly & Raw Oyster

Pork Belly & Raw Oyster

The pork belly had a decently crisp exterior and a good, rich flavor. It overshadowed the relative delicate flavor of the oyster though.

“Chicken” & Waffle

"Chicken" & Waffle

Loved the idea of this using fried sweetbreads, but the sweetbreads were overwhelmed by strong pickled onions. Even more off-putting, the waffle was thick and crunchy and way too much of a textural overload with the delicate sweetbreads.

Roasted Bone Marrow n’ Sourdough

Roasted Bone Marrow n’ Sourdough

This was one of the better dishes of the evening, featuring a rich, melting texture of the bone marrow with warm, crusty sourdough. The contrasts of textures was a highlight, while the pickled onion balanced the marrow well in this case.

Cured Pig’s Head

Cured Pig’s Head

There was lots of flavor in this head cheese and I thought the prune puree was a very welcome accompaniment.

Squid in a Box

Squid in a Box

Not part of the tasting menu, I requested this dish separately given its uniqueness as a signature item here. It was a fun concept and the crispy potato box was executed well. However, there were only about 5 rings of squid in the box otherwise filled with shimeji mushrooms and tomatoes; for $17, I really expected more.

Dry Aged Hanger Steak

Dry Aged Hanger Steak

Our last savory course centered around this dry aged steak. It was cooked well, juicy, and complemented by a potato puree, asparagus and marinated tomatoes. One of the simpler and more satisfying dishes of the evening.

Dark Chocolate & Cayenne Candy Bar

Dark Chocolate & Cayenne Candy Bar

The dense chocolate bar and raspberry sauce pairing was a classic one, accented by a little heat. The presentation looked a bit sloppy though.

There was a lot of creativity in the food at Scratch Bar, but I didn’t think everything came together as well as anticipated. Flavors and textures often clashed and it just seemed like a lot of the dishes weren’t fully thought through. The food, coming out to just about $100pp pre-tax/tip, was way too high for this level of cuisine. In addition, the nine course tasting menu appeared to just be split-plates of items on the a la carte menu with a significant upcharge from the a la carte price. The service department was also lacking; dishes came out without explanation (a problem since we ordered a “chef’s choice” tasting menu) and accompanied by long periods of inattentiveness. Needless to say, Scratch Bar is not on my list of places to return to.


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