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Lot 1 - Echo Park, Review with photos

Photos here: http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot...

Certain things bring me great comfort. The sound of Ira Glass’ voice on a Sunday morning, typing the last word on an especially-trying article minutes before deadline, and a favorite neighborhood restaurant I can count on time and time again. The latter is hard to come by; there are very few restaurants that I go to on a regular basis, because a large majority of eateries just don’t deliver on the first or even fifth try.

One of my favorite regulars was Opus; that is, until Chef Josef Centeno left several months ago. So it was with great expectation and hope that I walked into Lot 1 last night, his brand-new (5-days-old to be exact) restaurant in the heart of Echo Park. About one-sixth the size and grandeur of Opus, the space is cheerful and inviting – the definition of “cozy.” Dark earth tones warm the walls and low-hanging burnt orange lights omit a soft glow on the molasses-colored tables and chairs.

The menu had changed slightly since I saw it a couple of weeks ago in the window of the yet-unopened restaurant. But from what I remember of Centeno’s tenure at Opus, he changes the menu frequently depending on what’s fresh, and I’ve always appreciated the sense of adventure it brings to the diner. We started off with a selection of cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, which included an utterly indulgent truffle cheese; we also had the charcuterie plate with it as well. I can’t recall the names of everything on the plate, but I loved the spicy chorizo, and the pickled green beans was a pleasant discovery for me. The plate also came with candied kumquats, olives almonds and toasted baguette slices (forgot to take a photo) and everything on the plate was delicious.

The Chef then sent out a plate of popovers (everyone in the restaurant received this). My friend Rachel, who has never tried popovers before, declared them to be her new favorite food. They came out hot, fluffy and with melted butter and a side of a chimichurri-like dipping sauce. Excellent.

Next up we had the sashimi of yellowtail with charred leek oil, pickled serrano chili and a radish salad. This was beautifully presented and the radish accompaniment really complimented the fresh flavor of the fish. I especially enjoyed the bite from the chili.

Along with the hamachi, we tried a bowl of the confit beet gazpacho with creme fraiche and chicharronnes. I am normally not a fan of gazpacho, as so many places make it chunky and to me, a chunky cold soup is just not an appealing texture. This, on the other hand, was smooth and rich in flavor, and the cool cream and salty bits of fried pork belly balanced out the natural sweetness of the beet soup. And the color! Just be careful not to splash while slurping this soup.

As I perused the menu trying to pick my main course, I mentioned to the waitress that I'd love to order the steak because it comes with bone marrow toast, but decided out loud that I had already ordered too much so I'd opt for the fish. She must have mentioned this to the Chef, as he sent out a plate of toasted bread with bone marrow butter. Just the idea of bone marrow butter fills me with a ridiculous and overwhelming sense of joy; eating it slathered on warm, toasted bread was, well, Heaven.

Rachel opted for the hand-torn pasta with brown butter, pecorino and herbs topped with a soft fried egg. It was delicate and really showcased the fresh herbs (I tasted parsley and tarragon). She enjoyed every bite and proclaimed it to be a great success.

I had the market fresh fish of the day, which happened to be halibut. It was topped with a mixture of herbs and toasted pine nuts, and sat atop a bed of sauteed cherry tomatoes and an infused oil of some sort. It was light and fresh and lovely.

For dessert, we shared the chocolate mousse with vanilla fleur de sel and olive oil. Yes, olive oil. The mousse was incredibly rich and chocolatey, with the salt adding a great balance to the flavor. The olive oil added a nice richness to the dish, though the mousse didn't really need it.

The consensus? That Lot 1 will no doubt become a regular hangout for me, a place to try new and inventive dishes all created with a great deal of thought, care and passion. The service was outstanding; quite a feat for a restaurant so young. I wish they had alcohol (they will be acquiring a wine/beer license soon), but very much enjoyed the house-made aqua fresca of watermelon, pineapple and cucumber. I look forward to many more meals here.

Clare K.

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    1. re: JeMange

      I couldn't tell you the total bill, as my friend treated, but the entrees were in the $20 range and the appetizers were around $8-$14ish from what I remember from the menu.

      1. re: JeMange

        Our meal - 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 1 dessert - came to $46 per person. The food is worth it, but the location and ambiance are not. I mean, the place is a bit of a hole in the wall cafe. I expect more comfort and style at those prices.

      2. Thanks Clare, great report, I hope to get there soon. Some of those dishes sound very reminiscent of ones at Opus, I remember torn pasta with egg and brown butter.

          1. I went to Lot 1 3 days after opening and had a pleasant experience as well. I feel there are some kinks to work out. There are no mentions on the menu pertaining to portion sizes, and last week there was skate sitting next to pot roast on the menu. While the beef was a towering altar of beauty, the skate was a delicate, beautifully cooked plate more suited for a tasting menu or sharing, not as a main entree. I was with 3 other diners and we shared, and portion size is not a general concern of ours, but I could see how it would be for someone expecting an entree portion. The pasta course was even smaller. The table next to us got it an actually laughed at its size. It was definitely delicious and again, perfect for sharing with other dishes, but someone expecting a full portion size would be disappointed. Also, prices are extremely reasonable here and I feel that portions correspond to that. All the food we had was delicious. I also had the gazpacho and sashimi, I'll have to return for that charcuterie plate. We had four desserts including that chocolate pudding, which was a favorite. We'll definitely be back, I feel like Lot 1 has major potential and hopefully it will establish itsself on the dining scene. I'd much rather frequent Lot 1 than the westside scenier restaurants like Lucques, AOC, etc.

            For an app, entree, and dessert each for four people we spent $160, I consider very reasonable (we tried to BYOB, but their wine license hadn't gone through, so no wine)

            6 Replies
            1. re: fooddude37

              odd, BYOB should be free if they have no license. the license means they can't sell it, but you can bring your own!

              1. re: Diana

                Restaurants have to have a license to either sell wine/beer and/or hard liquor or to offer BYOB. If they don't have a license they can't do BYOB (under the law here in California at least). That is, they can't offer it "legally". Many do it and few get turned in/caught.

                1. re: Servorg

                  oop, better keep my mouth shut on those that do!

                  1. re: Diana

                    I remember when this happened with Sawtelle Kitchen, (before they remodeled / enlarged). They got turned in by someone and the ABC came out and they got fined.

              2. re: fooddude37

                Went that same night --- my friend was the one who laughed.... Food was awesome. Dishes were all very nice, from the appetizer to desert, including a free plate of cheesy popovers. I think it is serving some of the best food in the S-lake EP area. Between Lot One and Elf I can satisfy my internal foodie within the limits of my EP hood. Wasn't cheap, but the quality was excellent and the dishes original and thoughtfully prepared.

                Couple notes though: the ravioli dish is a very small portion and is served on a laughable small plate -- we actually laughed. Great, but but my large and hungry friend could have used a heads up that it was essentially an appetizer size. This may be a bit of culture shock for EP patrons used to Barrigans and El Compadre. Portions, in general, are a bit small -- an entree alone is not enough food. Also, IMHO they needed to dim the lights a little bit and personally, I was not a fan of the Rothko knockoffs on the wall. Service was fine, though a little less precise than what you would expect for the price and quality of food. They do not allow BYOB in order to fast track their liquor license.

                I think this place is going to take off! Congratz to the chef, etc.

                1. re: aufsess

                  Well, fast-tracking their liquor license is not going to be a fast event.
                  They have not even FILED for a license, meaning they have at least 3-4 months before they will actually be able to sell wine or beer on premises. They are probably still in their Conditional Use Permit process, meaning they have to get it before they can go to ABC for the license itself.
                  Hence, the 3-4 month comment.
                  But getting caught by ABC ahead of approval-time slows the process, so they, and you, must have patience.

              3. Great, great review! Thanks.

                Can't wait to try it this weekend. :)

                1. Forgot to post hours, phone:

                  Lot 1, 1533 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

                  Open Tuesday - Sunday.

                  Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.

                  Dinner - 6:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. (walk in only, no reservations)

                  Sunday brunch - 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. starts in a couple of weeks.

                  Tasting menu on Tuesdays, by reservations only, starts in a few weeks.

                  Phone: 213.481.4800

                  1. awesome. glad to hear that lot 1 is up and running. i really missed josef's cooking.

                    1. I went last night and have to say, your experience was ENTIRELY different than my dinner. First off, I know the space is small and intended to be cozy, but the chairs were super uncomfortable and the color palette and harsh lighting didn't express warmth and felt a little makeshift to me - and not in a good way.

                      The service, albeit nice and sincere, was off the mark too. We had to get additional silverware placements from a nearby table. When we ordered the cheese plate, he quickly plopped down the plate without an explanation of any of the cheeses (we had to ask him back to explain). I know they just opened and have to get their kinks sorted out, but this was basic waiting etiquette 101. Our waiter was very sweet and to be fair, seemed a touch nervous. I can give him a break.

                      Ok now the food. Now, we started with the forementioned cheese plate, and this was excellent. I really enjoyed the sheep and goat selections and the candied kumquats were a nice sweet companion. Next, we shared the sashimi of yellowtail and the arugula salad. The arugula salad was a joy - fresh, crisp, with a wonderful crispy eggplant and toasted hazelnuts. A glass of pinot grigio or a clean vosip would have been a delicious accompaniment - the salad was a winner. Now the sashimi…this was universally claimed at our table of four as a misstep. The jalapeno sliced atop completely overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the fish. I tasted ONLY the chili and it killed the fish. This was a disappointment.

                      They brought us popovers with the chimichurri-like sauce too. I guess after having the popovers at BLT Steak, these paled in comparison. They were doughier and oilier than what I'm used to, but the sauce they provided was tasty.

                      For our entrees we all shared two bowls of the torn pasta with brown butter and fried egg, along with the rib eye with fries and toast with bone marrow on top. Now let me explain - I love pasta. And I love butter. Fried eggs are a dream to me. So this was the plate I was looking forward to the most. It's the plate that makes me dream of Osteria Mozza over and over (that ravioli is to die for). Had this plate been executed properly, all would have been forgiven - but it was not. The texture of the pasta was great, the egg was fresh and beautiful looking, but all this doesn't matter when it's not seasoned properly. No salt - not a pinch. The pecorino was so minute, it immediately disappeared once we dug in and broke the yolk - didn't really get a taste of the cheese at all nor did it provide the salt and bite that it was probably intended to provide. Overall the dish was bland and blah and this was truly the biggest disappointment of the night. All four of us, foodies along with one professional chef, declared this a failure and all agreed that if this had been a success, we all would have gladly returned even with the NO BYOB policy.

                      The rib eye was fine in my opinion - properly cooked and tasty. The fries were decent but nothing special. The bone marrow toast was cold when we got it, although it was delicious. I really wish it had been warm. At $25, I don't really know if it was worth it. I'd rather have the steak at Comme Ca where the fries are perfect and the garlic aioli is to die for.

                      On to dessert. We ordered the strawberry and rhubarb "crumble" along with the chocolate mousse with olive oil. Again, I need to express that I love dessert and really am the biggest sweet tooth person on the planet. The crumble wasn't crumble-y. The top crusty part was completely soggy and the strawberry/rhubarb was very watery within. The chocolate mousse was more like a fudge - dense and heavy, although the flavor was rich and complex. I don't think the olive oil added to the dish, rather gave it an herbal slickness that didn't provide any depth.

                      The bill overall was $138, before tip.

                      So as you can see, it was a mediocre meal overall. Let me explain that I really loved Centeno's work at Opus and was super excited that he was cooking nearby again ( I still am). Now, will I go back to Lot 1? Although this review was a lukewarm, disappointed one, I'd have to say that yes, only because I'm well aware that it's BRAND NEW and the kitchen is still finding it's voice and personality. However, it would be a good couple of months before I do. I really hope the dishes become more consistent as I really am a fan of his culinary work.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: LuluBleu

                        Great review LuluBleu. I'd really like to check this place out but might wait until they've (hopefully) worked out the kinks. I've been wary of this place, simply because of the "name" chef - talented though he may be - and the fawning reviews that seem more like PR than critical assessments of the restaurant's food and service. One would hope that conscientious owners and chefs would check these boards to see what they're doing wrong... and right.

                      2. I was there last weekend, and had the breakfast baco. Ohhhhhh. Mexican chorizo, guanciale, fried egg, salmorejo. I was so happy. :)
                        The "carte" menu, the regular dinner menu I picked up, has the two share plates, cured meats and cowgirl creamery cheeses, $13 and $15.
                        There are five "firsts" ranging from $7 to $11. There are 5 seconds ranging from $12 to $25, and a good variety: the pasta, fish, chicken, pork, and rib eye.

                        I'm going there again tonight. Can't wait! When I called yesterday to double check on things, the proprietor (--tress) said sure they'll take a reservation, why not. Also, the dinner hours she told me was 6:00-10:30, but when I was there on the weekend, Chef Centeno said 6:30. The restaurant came together so quickly, things are evolving.
                        Bacos served for lunch only for now. And no byob so they can expedite getting the liquor license.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: slacker

                          yes, i heard josef and his partners pulled the project together in two weeks! can't wait to try.

                          1. re: revets2

                            Yes, he had told me he was walking around his hood and this all came together so quickly.
                            I was there last night, they opened around 6:30. It was FABULOUS. They have slight change ups on the menu sometimes, like last night there was an addition of an English pea soup (mmmmmmm) which was new since the menu I picked up last weekend.
                            Can't wait for the tasting menu!

                            Chef Centeno has one person helping in the kitchen. There was a waiter who was taking care of most of the tables. As a diner, you never would have known how hard they were all working (except that the space is small and you can see all), because the entire experience was exceptional.

                            1. re: slacker

                              We were there on the 13th (Tue) and found the several dishes we ordered to be very good (better than Opus) and are looking forward to the TM and a Liq license in the near future. It is really premature to rate or judge this restaurant. Anyone trying any restaurant should always give it a few months before any review should be taken seriously. Needless to say we agree with Slacker based on our preliminary experience.

                              1. re: russkar

                                I was thinking this morning about why I like his cooking so much. Aside from the great ingredients, prep = great food; creativity, flavors... What I realized, for me, is that his love and passion for cooking comes through in the dishes he sends to the tables. I can taste it. :)

                          2. re: slacker

                            Oh my god, that breakfast baco sounds amazing. Going to try to swing by there this weekend for sure.

                            1. re: mollyomormon

                              I, probably stupidly, didn't realize they aren't yet serving brunch and drove all the way from Santa Monica this morning to find it closed. Hopefully someone will post when they actually start serving since the brunch menu posted looked amazing. We ended up driving over to Comme Ca instead where I had an absolutely delicious croque madame and some macarons from Boule for dessert.

                              1. re: mollyomormon

                                Sorry about that, that baco was from the Mother's Day brunch menu. I should have been more clear. Glad you enjoyed brunch at Comme Ca.

                          3. The food was good but the ambiance was awful. The restaurant is a brightly lit, somewhat rundown cafe with uncomfortable chairs and small tables. All of this would be fine except that the food is quite serious and expensive. It's meant to be lingered over and enjoyed which we didn't want to do at this restaurant. Plus, what's up with opening a serious restaurant without some type of liquor license? That's just lame. I bet lunch is the best time to go, when you don't want to spend a long time and the menu is more casual.

                            1. Any update on their TM/liquor license status? I called them twice but they never answered the phone. I want to go around the end of this month.

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: slacker

                                  213 481 8400
                                  I called a few minutes ago. Lot 1 is open.

                                2. re: mrhooks

                                  It won't be obtained for 3-4 months, at a minimum.
                                  Plan accordingly.

                                3. i loved Opus when centano was there, was so excited when he moved closer to our neck of the woods and told a lot of people about his cuisine....but we find it very aggravating that Lot 1 is never open when we go, they don't answer or return phone calls. do they know how to run a business and take advantage of a following, or do they not?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: luswei

                                    I visited Lot 1 a few weeks ago. We just noticed it in passing, had no idea about the chef's status. I agree about the ambiance, but it didn't bother me too much because I found the prices totally reasonable and there is room to improve. Our food was really good. I had the pea soup, creamy and delicious with raisen bread croutons. My friend had the roast chicken. It took quite a while, but it was truly delicious. I really can't wait to go back when I am more hungry. I hear the bacos are wonderful too. I think if we give this place a little room to grow and figure themselves out we will finally have another great place to eat on the east side!

                                  2. Went tonight for a last minute late bite and the place was packed at 10pm. Great service, we split the onion soup, the arugula salad with eggplant, the torn pasta and the pot roast. Way too much food for us but we couldn't decide! The portion sizes are a little bizarre -- huge salad, small midi. Also there is a split plate fee of $2 per plate that should be on the menu. The meal was $54 before tip.

                                    But the food was lovely, especially the salty and crunchy salad and the fried egg on torn noodles. The service was fast and informed and we had no issues with the chairs. We'll go back, hungrier and with friends!