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Jul 17, 2008 10:56 PM

R&D Kitchen debuts on Montana Ave.

A fellow Hound let me know that a small report on Eater L.A. indicated that the Hillstone Restaurant Group (Houston's, Gulf Stream, Bandera) were opening their newest concept, R&D Kitchen tonight but a follow up call provided only a gracious, "by Sunday". Driving home from work the crowd in front indicated they had changed their mind or were throwing one helluva party. No. They opened at 5pm with one of the company heads advising that they might only do 25 dinners tonight. They must have done that many in the first 15 minutes.

With a Frank Lloyd Wright like setting with stunning open windows to the street and the usual state of the art Hillstone attention to detail and service this may be the most exciting neighborhood restaurant to open in some time. Comments overheard included, "We'll be back." "We'll be back." "We'll be back." "Even Puck couldn't make this site work. Now it does." The menu is a single 5" wide 10" long card beautifully set in a leather frame with wine selections on the back.

We started with the most flavorful heirloom tomato and burrata salad for $14 enough for two, went to the special tagliatelle with country ham, atichoke, peas for $16 and the seared Ahi salad with fresh vegetables including beets and a tasty deviled egg to boot for $17. Wine selections included a glass of a light Luli chardonnay for $9 and the ever rich Mer du Soleil chardonnay for $12. Fresh made lemonade for $4 included the refill. A cup of good coffee for $3, and their two desserts: a luscious marscapone cheese frosted carrot cake and an oversized chocolate pot du creme at $8 each brought the bill to a surprising $98 for two. It seems very reasonable. They ran out of the meatloaf and the "Reubenesque" sandwich and at 9:20pm when we left they were still on a wait.

Easy, stylish and if we can be unPC for a moment, this group should get Beard nominations for service and design.

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  1. My husband snagged a front table at the bar at 5:30 last night and we enjoyed the meatloaf and the "Reubenesque" sandwich - both were to die for. We are neighborhood locals who love all the Hillstone Restaurant Group properties but are ecstatic that we now have R&D Kitchen in our backyard. The word is that they will eventually open for breakfast too!! Can't wait!! Also cvc, did you check out the "to go" column on the wine list. R&D is selling their bottles at wholesale for carryout. Some of the Central Coast gems they are able to get are worth taking home.

    1 Reply
    1. re: catcaper

      I missed that actually. Thanks for the tip. Glad you enjoyed it as we did.

    2. thanks, any menu online yet? Did this go in the old Montana Lounge space?

      6 Replies
        1. re: catcaper

          My mom and I were strolling Montana today in search of lunch and we were happy to find that they started lunch service today. They were running a few minutes behind, but offered to call us when the restaurant was ready. After a few minutes of shopping, we received a call and headed back to the restaurant. The service was accomodating, gracious and incredibly attentive. For example, everytime I used a Splenda packet for my iced tea, someone came around and not only took the packet away, but wiped the table where the smallest amount of Splenda might still be lingering.

          We had both the Mediteranean Salad and another salad whose name escapes me. The Mediteranean had seared tuna, beets, goat cheese, tomotoes and olives. The tomotoes were a bit weak, especially considering it is the height of summer, but maybe the samonella issue is to blame. The tuna was seared perfectly and well seasoned. The beets were lovely as was the goat cheese.

          The other salad had poached chicken, which might have been the best chicken I've had...ever. The rest of the ingredients were forgettable. I really enjoyed both dishes, however they were both a bit light on the lettuce. I know this sounds odd, but I felt like they both needed more greens.

          Overall, I am so happy that this restaurant is in walking distance of my house. I checked out the wine list and very much wished it wasn't lunch, oh, and that my 4 month old daughter were safe at home, instead of breastfeeding with me. I will definitely go back for dinner to sample some of the wines, I liked that several of them were not the usual bottles that I see for $20 at Whole Foods and then appear on a wine list for $18 a glass. (this just happened to me at Rustic Canyon last week). I'm not sure that I would drive here from another part of town, but if you are a local, I highly reccomend this restaurant.

          1. re: catcaper

            Thanks CatCaper!

            I've got to say, that is one perplexing menu. I just lost interest. Hillstone restaurants usually have great menus, but this one has me scratching my head.

            1. re: ElJeffe

              The menu may seem slim but the food is actually quite tasty. With two visits under our belt we have tried the meatloaf, the "Reubenesque" sandwich, the burger (which is actually very good traditional burger - I would not try to compare it to the FO burger), and their sandwich special - French dip (like the one at Bandera and Houston's). Also we have had the Dip Duo twice now and we actually love the guac/queso combo. To each their own.
              Last but not least - drinks can be had at the bar without purchasing any food. The three separate tables close to the bar window they are trying to save for patrons who wish to eat and drink in the bar. Like cvc we are very excited to have R&D Kitchen in the neighborhood.

              1. re: catcaper

                Only the 5 or 6 seats at the bar, on the Montana Side (not in the restaurant area of the bar), are you able to drink without eating. So that means your chances of getting one of those few seats are slim to none. People seem to arrive (maybe because it's new) at 5 and stay put. I was there twice in a night, and those who were there at 6, were there, in those same 6 seats, at 9. At about 10, the window tables opened up, no need to order food (well, the kitchen was closed).

                Again, maybe this will die down in time.

              2. re: ElJeffe

                Worth noting they have specials (at least at dinner) -- today was the french dip, salmon, and fettucine -- so maybe the extra dishes will entice you to try it.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. Yuck. I really did not like R&D. But I'm not one for corporate, overpriced, starched shirt-type places. The food is so-so (had the burger, the one down the street is much better), one of the sides was truly AWFUL - the duo dip which had some sort of velveeta cheese melted with jarred jalapenos, oh man was it horrible. I couldn't drink enough water to get that taste out of my mouth.

              Drinks are the only thing of interest, to me, here. And they won't let you sit at the bar tables without ordering food, so that's out. Can you imagine? Can't sit in the bar, unless you're eating.

              3 Replies
              1. re: yogachik

                That stinks...I had no idea you couldn't just have a drink. That totally destroys my idea of having a drink here and going to FO for food. Like I said earlier, I would not actually get in my car to come to this restaurant, but for a place within walking distance, it is nice to have.

                1. re: paigeharrison

                  Was there again last night (what can I say, the walking distance thing is appealing), and they seem to have changed the bar rules. But they've taken away the bar stools at the little bar tables, so you stand, but you can have a drink at those tables, without eating. Wait service in that area is also gone. However, they hit capacity quickly, so you literally have to wait outside until someone leaves - no fun without a drink in hand.

                  Now to the food. And service.

                  After a 45 minute wait (we managed a spot at the bar, didn't have to do it all outside), we were finally seated about 9PM. We ordered French Dip (a special last night), a Burger, Deviled Eggs, Cauliflower.

                  Deviled eggs - made with sugar? Cauliflower, made with raisins and capers? Yuck.

                  But the burger is very good (better than the one I tried last week), the French Dip first came without the dip, then was cold-cut cold, then was replaced with something fantastic, but today I am suffering from terrible sodium overload. Eyes swollen, can't get rings on, feet incredibly swollen. Don't know what they used in that au jus for the sandwich, but I'll never have it again.

                  They have lots of bugs to iron out, but I don't think I can eat there. If you're not in a booth, you're in the most slippery chair that is super uncomfortable, nowhere to put your arms. There is so much wait staff per table that your meal is constantly interrupted (not necessarily because of your table, but the neighbors -- at one point, I had 3 butts in my face, those chairs make your head hit an unfortunate height). We didn't know who our server actually was (although when he straightened out the sandwich problem he was sooo nice), because so many different people helped us (and not in the way Anisette does, this was intrusive, because they all talk to you). I still don't know what the first wait person does, the one who took notes while they chatted us up - that chit chat is something I can do without, thanks. And, for women - wear shoes with rubber soles. I skated my way to the bathroom. Sooo dangerous.

                2. re: yogachik

                  This is true at all Hillstone restaurants. When the restaurant is busy and people are waiting, they don't allow people to hold up tables just to drink.

                  They're known for their long wait times, so they try to minimize it. Also, the reason service is so good is that Hillstone servers only get 3 tables each. They own their section. So, if they have 2 tables just sitting and nursing a couple drinks, it can really ruin their night.

                  I imagine that if you go during a non-peak time (after the novelty has worn off) you will be able to sit at the bar. They wont turn away customers when others aren't waiting.

                3. This place is really busy now, but looks good. It just shows how we need better places to eat on Montana.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: NaniD

                    so true: slim pickings (if any)