1800 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Dining date: 4/3/12
Plan Check opened just over a month ago, bringing a ‘modern American’ gastropub to the Japanese-centric Sawtelle area of West LA. It’s a combination of ex-Umami Corporate Chef Ernesto Uchimura’s grub with drinks masterminded by Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix (Harvard & Stone, La Descarga, Black Market, Pour Vous). It’s one of the latest in LA’s gastropub movement and follows a similar template to many others – hire a noted mixologist to craft a bar program and serve interesting upscale bar food. Early on, the place has been packed so it seemed like a spot worth checking out.
Wooden tables grace the space, including one large communal table and a long counter that stretches the length of the bar and kitchen area. It was a full house on a Tuesday night, but the three of us were able to secure three seats overlooking the kitchen.
The menu is made up of snacks, sides, sandwiches and composed plates (which were like small plates); we honed in on the latter two categories. We started with a little bit of charcuterie from the snacks section.
pickled chorizo sausage green garlic
The chorizo was interesting, with its subtle heat and a lightly sour flavor from the pickling. The prosciutto was pretty typical.
Two more snacks rounded out the first wave of courses.
oyster on the half yuzukosho cocktail sauce
These were huge. Plump and tasty with the lemon and a zesty cocktail sauce.
warm crab dip dynamite sauce, masago, blistered tomato, toast
The crab flavor came through on the dip with nice spreadable creaminess, but I wished the bread was toasted more for texture.
We also ordered a selection of the sandwiches and all three of the larger plates.
PCB (plan check burger) akaushi red wagyu beef, americanized cheese, ketchup leather, savory onions, mixed pickles, crunch bun
I thought the burger was cooked well but it wasn’t really memorable in any way. I’ve heard a lot of talk about the ketchup leather, a fruit roll-up type method of bringing a ketchup flavor without getting the bun soggy (as actual ketchup may). A novel idea, I suppose, but I didn’t notice a significant difference. It ended up being a fairly standard burger, executed just fine.
pork belly pimento grilled cheese twice cooked pork belly, spicy green pimento cheese, inverted crunch bun
The pork was pretty good on its own but I thought the dish as a whole was a bit on the bready side. The thick slides of bread did have some light texture, though I didn’t feel the pimento cheese was very assertive.
pastrami poutine pastrami bits, pastrami gravy, cucumber pickles, melted swiss
The smokey peppery flavor of the pastrami was good, but I was looking for more of a gravy here to bring it all together. Also, the fries were on the softer side – with a poutine I always prefer them crispier to hold up as they soak up any oil/juices.
smokey fried chicken jidori chicken, smoked milk gravy, yam preserves, spicy pickled okra
The chicken had a nice smokey flavor and was quite juicy. I think the top two pieces were fried crispy but the bottom one (the one I got) had a mushy, soggy exterior. Sweet yams were a nice pairing.
short rib pot roast red wine, bone marrow turnover pie, sweet n sour mirepoix
The pot roast itself was good, although fairly typical. Tender, fatty and pretty flavorful. The bone marrow turnover pie was fun, tasting very much like a beef pot pie.
grilled rockfish rock shrimp tempura, flaked wasabi, citron tartar sauce, grilled cucumber, bonito
I thought the fish was cooked well, imbued with a smoky flavor. I thought the bonito was an interesting addition, adding much more depth of flavor. The tempura shrimp was good too, but I think it added more for texture than flavor.
veggie chips yucca and plantain, avocado
I found the plantain and yuca chips to be fairly greasy and undersalted. The avocado spread was tasty though.
stuffed mushroom roasted portobello, swiss cheese fondue, crispy kale, steak sauce
The portobello was meaty and kind of juicy, while the swiss cheese fondue was a good accompaniment. Steak sauce added more savory depth to the bites. One of the better dishes.
We also sampled a couple of desserts.
cruller donuts cooked to order, cream, fruit
These were basically churros shaped like a cruller donut. I liked the churro, though it was slightly on the oily side, while a light whipped cream was a good pairing.
ice cream bars milk cereal
This was also one of the highlights of the night. From Milk on Beverly, the ice cream had a sweet milk flavor with crispy cereal on the exterior. Whimsical and addicting. Pricing was a 33% markup over the ones at Milk.
We tried a pretty good selection of cocktails as well as their housemade moonshine sodas. I found the cocktails to be much more interesting. This first one, Tropic Thunder, was my favorite with a good balance of spicy and fresh citrus between the jalapeño and lemon. Yummy.
Tropic Thunder jalapeno infused kanon vodka, mango, lemon juice, sugar
Fuji Apple yamazaki 12 yr, apple brandy, almond syrup, fresh lemon, peach bitters
Godzilla pisco porton, midori, orgeat, lemon, lime
Spaghetti Western vida mezcal, tapatio, red bell pepper, lime, agave, beer
Bento Box brugal rum, licor 43, nigori sake, bitters
Moonshine with Cherry Coke
Moonshine with Tangerine Soda
Plan Check was a letdown, especially considering our meal was almost $100pp all-inclusive (though to be fair, I’m sure we ordered more than the average customer). Were my expectations too high? Maybe, but they weren’t really that high to begin with. There were a few solid dishes (rockfish, stuffed mushrooms, cruller donut, ice cream bar) but they were outnumbered by the underwhelming ones. I think conceptually most of the dishes sounded good, for example the pork belly grilled cheese and pastrami poutine could’ve been big hits. However, something was lost in translation between the concept and plating since the end results didn’t come close to the heights they promised.