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Hungry Cat: Disappointment #1

My girlfriend was in town, so we went to two places that we go to almost every time she is here: The Hungry Cat and the Alcove (in Los Feliz). Now, I know there is some split amongst 'hounds about the food and price at these two places, but my girl and I have always found these two places to be reliable and worth the overhype and price. To keep things short, I have a separate post on our experience at the Alcove.

The Hungry Cat. I have been here at least 5 times and never had a problem. This last visit, however, was ... difficult. It was a Saturday night and we were a party of four. I will qualify the foregoing laundry list by saying that when we arrived, the restaurant was slammed and everyone appeared to be very busy.

- Had reservations for 8:15, seated at 8:55. In the meantime, the hostess apologized for the wait (which was nice), and offered to take our order for drinks while we waited. She took our order around 8:30.
- Said drinks did not arrive until 10 minutes after we sat down. The drinks, as always, were fantastic. I do love the drinks here.
- The waiter got around to our table a few minutes after our drinks arrived. We asked him questions about the entrees and the specials, and he non-answered every question by saying, "Oh, it's totally awesome. You should get it."
- The first two entrees came out 25 minutes after our initial order.
- The second two entrees arrived 10 minutes after the first two, and after we shared and finished off that first set.
- The waiter came by once to ask if anyone wanted a second drink. My friend ordered another cocktail. Cocktail #2 arrived just as we were finishing up dessert.
- The bill took 15 minutes to arrive, after asking for it twice.

All in all, we arrived at the restaurant at 8:10 and didn't leave until 11:45ish. I had the barramundi, which was delicious albeit salty. My girlfriend had the crab soup (very tasty!) and the squid stuffed with chorizo (I don't like squid, so I can't comment. My girlfriend thought it was good, but worth only 12 out of the 16 dollars it cost). Our friends had a crab salad (pretty good, but also overpriced) and the special, a salmon riellete (not so great - tasted like bologna). We also had chocolate bread pudding for dessert (their only one), which was great according to everyone who likes bread pudding (not me).

As I said, I have been here several times and understand that there are off-nights. Just lucky that we didn't make plans for after dinner, because after all that waiting, we were all really tired.

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  1. You know, chef/owner David Lentz and his wife Suzanne Goin are opening a second HC outpost in Santa Barbara, and soon, from what I understand. The sense I immediately got was that there is NO WAY the Hollywood Hungry Cat will be able to run smoothly without his utmost attention; because to me, it's always been on shakey ground. Never perfect, always fun, expensive, but a treat. Suzanne has two very successful, busy restaurants. I'm all for chefs expanding their reach, but it's one thing to open a restaurant near the other so you can pop into both while the new one's getting off the ground; it's another thing entirely to open a second outpost in a city 90 miles away, that on a good day, takes 90 minutes to get to.

    Not saying it's an excuse, but it could be a possibility for inconsistencies. Personally, I'll steer clear of HOllywood HC until that SB one is up and running.

    1. I had a recent disappointing outing there as well. I've been there for dinner and always had a good experience. Decided to do a quick lunch before an Arclight film. I was anxious to try the Pug Burger, which I'd read good things about. It wasn't crowded; I was seated immmediately at a table in the front with my back to the window. I glanced over at the (empty) table next to me and saw a roach crawling into the fold of the napkin. I told the host about it; he removed the napkin. I moved to another table. (which I'd already requested because the sun was streaming in and it was too hot there.) I suppose I should have left, but didn't. Ordered the burger, medium rare. It came fifteen minutes later (maybe twenty), well done. Before I left, the host came over and apologized. Said since the place next door had closed, they'd had problems. I'm thinking it will be a while before I go back. Magnolia will be my next pre-Arclight lunch destination.

      1. The Hungry Cat wasn't all that hot even when it was uber-hot...

        Eventually the truth comes out...

        1 Reply
        1. re: jcwla

          Our sediments exactly. After trying everything on the menu with a small group in one visit I realized there was no reason to return.

        2. I don't know if I can stomach the wait. We went down on a Monday at 8:00 knowing that we didn't have a reservation, but the hostess on the phone said to come for the bar and didn't try to dissuade us at all. We waited for a full hour and all the hostess would say is "getting closer." By the end of the hour, we saw people having cocktails on the side patio and felt a bit snubbed. Who gets to have cocktails on the patio? When the hostess stopped wouldn't make eye contact anymore, we just left. It would have been better is she had said on the phone "We're so busy, there's very little chance of getting in." I never would have waited an hour. Soooooooo annoyed. Is the food that incredible?

          1. I offer an opposing view. Depite reading the negative comments, curiosity killed this cat and my and one of my primo foodies headed over for lunch today. We had great service. Our server was attentive, informative, and engaging. My fresh squeezed orangeade was really nice and my pal's mint lemondade looked just as fine.

            The moules frites were not the best ever, but very good indeed. As a matter of fact, the best part of the whole meal was the mess of these really great fries swimming in the brine/aoli combo at the bottom of the dish.

            The pug burger was very good. My friend wanted it cooked medium. I relented, although I would always default to at least a medium rare. The meat was nice and red inside nonetheless. The beef, blue cheese, and red onion were in perfect proportion. I was gazing at the uneaten bun portion he left on his plate, soaked up with juices, but did not want to be a base cow and snatch it up. The bacon was a bit much (I can still smell it on my fingers) but I was able to doctor it to the right level.

            And fresh beignets with blueberry compote with very strong coffee to complete. And at all came out at a very reasonable price, relatively speaking. Even inspired the charming table next to us to indulge themselves in this nice treat.

            I will go back and I will bring more along for the ride. I'm very sorry that other peeps have had such a miserable time with it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: djquinnc

              I've never had less than a splendid meal there, myself.

            2. me too, i have always had a great meal, drinks, and wine there. however they did make me wait for 30 minutes one time......i have never had the pug burger, which seems like a slamdunk.

              1. i've experienced it as overpriced and nothing special, on every front, except the large bill at the end.

                1. We have been to the Hungry Cat several times since their opening and always enjoyed the innovative food and cocktails and hip but not unbearably hip atmosphere. We went recently without a reservation hoping to sit at the counter which we had done many times before. We waited at the long table outside and our drinks arrived after a 10 minute wait. OK, I tend to be impatient but this got things off to a bad start. The hostess, Cinderella seemed very friendly at first. But when after 35 minutes and we still weren't seated (20 minute wait was what we were told) I felt like we might have to leave. Finally after we were seated outside between 2 tables of 2 smokers each and I saw an empty table inside I asked to change. The hostess told us 5 minutes later that it was impossible and that we could always go elsewhere, which we did. My wife wants to go back but I don't think I could face Cinderella again.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CharlotteMichele

                    I'm sure I would have been unhappy too, but I can't actually find much unreasonable here. You came without a reservation hoping to be able to be seated quickly and they were busy, and their estimation of a 20 minute wait was 15 minutes off. About the table inside -- perhaps it was waiting for someone who did have a reservation.

                  2. I've been twice, and both times have been well satisfied. But let's be clear folks, the Hungry Cat ain't AOC or Lucques, which are two stars in the LA firmament (and I allow for my crush on Suzanne Goin).

                    It seems that the funky, jam 'em in, concept of HC is always going to be a high wire act, particularly when compared to the smooth professionalism of the other two places.

                    - Sean

                    1. Yes I know I sound like I'm whining. It's just I don't like being told to go elsewhere when there is a problem

                      1 Reply
                      1. if i want seafood i'll go to the Water Grill, a japanese restaurant or to a different city. Hungry Cat is as mediocre as mediocre gets, for me.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: epop

                          I completely agree with epop. After having 3 mediocre meals in a row at The Hungry Cat, I am going back to the Water Grill. Still love Cat's Clam chowder, but Water Grill's is better. It's easier to get into A.O.C. these days and the food there is far superior, i'll stick with his wife if I'm in the neighbourhood.

                        2. My last two visit were disapointing. HC is off my list for a while.

                          1. Went here for the first time last night. Was totally dead. I dig the beer selection, PBR and Tecate by can. (but 5 bucks for PBR?!)

                            Got fried oyster app, clam chowder, and chocolate bread pudding.

                            Fried oysters were mushy and heavy, very little crispness.

                            Clam chowder broth was very nice, but almost all of the seafood detritus settled at the bottom was rubbery. I dunno, maybe better earlier in the day. Manila clams cooked to order in the soup were nice.

                            Chocolate bread pudding was...weird. Arrived piping hot at the table with what looked like a brulee on top. Once we dug in, the texture was like...a weird broken custard, with all of the melted chocolate resting at the bottom. I was expecting, well, chocolate bread pudding. To me that means a homogenous mass of soft, fluffy, chocolate-y goodness. Not brulee on top of weird broken custard stuff on top of melted chocolate.

                            2 beers each, tax and tip, over 60 bucks. Eh...