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

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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. :)