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Oct 22, 2008 01:51 PM

Nook Bistro review [w/pics]-nice neighborhood gem

Photos from this meal: http://tinyurl.com/6dewtf

The restaurant was not too crowded or loud - it is a good place to have a nice dinner and actually have conversation! Plus free parking.

Instead of bread or amuse bouche, Nook does something different: boiled peanuts. Not very friendly to the peanut-allergy folks out there, but this reminds me of my childhood when I used to buy boiled peanuts at the zoo (you're supposed to buy them and feed the elephants but I thought I deserved them more than the elephants!).

I ordered some "New Orleans style gumbo" and a portion of the proceed goes to the hurricane relief fund - good cause!
As far as the gumbo goes, though, I thought it was just okay. Good but I've had much better gumbo. Well, let me put it this way: It was a good soup - but if you ask me, it ain't gumbo! Can't compare to the one I had at Luke in NOLA.

Crispy Fried Calamari ($10
)Tossed with citrus-soy vinaigrette and wasabi dipping sauce.
This was a good calamari - not too greasy as it sometimes tends to be. The wasabi dipping sauce is interesting and is a delicious twist - it helps cut the grease of the fried calamari.

Shiitake and Gruyere Bread Pudding ($7)
Quite a flavorful and aromatic bread pudding! Liked this dish a lot (although it could use more shiitake for better texture) - it was better the next day when the bread has soaked up all the flavors :P

New Zealand green lip mussel pan roast ($12)
with linguisa sausage, oven-dried tomato, garlic, herbs and white wine saffron brot
Really loved the broth for this dish. The mussels are also big, plump and juicy. Probably my favorite dish of the night, and not bad for $12.

Sauteed Brown Rice Bowl ($12)
With tofu, carrots, broccoli, and egg white this is a very healthy dish. And tastes kinda healthy too :P It is much better the day after as a leftover, just like fried rice is much better when made with day-old rice.

For dessert we got the chocolate pot de creme, as it was recommended to us ($7)
It's a pretty small pot but definitely a delicious dessert. The current menu online lists chocolate pot de creme with fresh strawberries, but I believe the one we had were blueberries.

The prices are Nook Bistro were pretty reasonable and the food is delicious (even if they can't do gumbo, IMHO) with good quality ingredients. An excellent neighborhood bistro and a pretty casual dining place. Although nothing mindblowing, but it is definitely good comfort food! I'll definitely be back.

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  1. Glad to see you review Nook, one of my favorite restaurants in L.A. I'm glad you call it a "gem" and I'm pleased that you enjoyed most of your dishes. As one who often recommends the restaurant on this board, especially for its value, I'm pleased that you quoted prices and had enough food to take some home for the next day. Still, I'm left with the impression that you sort of damned Nook with faint praise.

    If you go again, and for those visiting the first time, there are a couple of dishes I think are standouts there: First, the mac & cheese, which is a generous oblong ramekin of creamy, cheesy goodness topped with crispy panko crumbs. Second, unless you are a vegan or vegetarian and order the rice bowl topped with tofu for health reasons, c'mon, spend the same $12 and splurge on the gourmet burger and fries. I agree with your thumbs up for the fried calamari, and after the shock of seeing your photo of the mussels ("My gosh, has Nook drastically cut their portions?!") I was relieved that you mentioned you shot it after they were half-eaten. Hard to beat a ribeye for $26 and steak frites, chicken, fish or pork entrees with sides and garnishes for $20 and less. I just wish they'd bring back their homey, comforting shortribs with mashed potatoes and rich gravy instead of the more frou-frou potroast with jus and horseradish gremolata that replaced it.

    Anyway, for those thinking of checking it out (and you should) it is in W.L.A., in the minimall of the S/E corner of Santa Monica Blvd. at Barry, one block east of Barrington. The restaurant is back in the S/E corner, tucked beside a little sidewalk. While they have become popular enough so last-minute weekend reservations during prime time are difficult, they accept only walk-ins after about 8:30.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nosh

      Hehe, yes it was my dining companion who ordered the tofu rice bowl - I was definitely hoping for the ribeye or something!

      I would definitely go back and try the mac & cheese and the other dishes you mentioned!


    2. Nook is an absolutely fantastic restaurant that executes its vision perfectly: a neighborhood restaurant that is the go-to place for so many dining situations (affordable mid-week meal, weekend date on a budget, out-of-the-office lunch, quick bite at the bar solo, etc. etc. etc.) at an extremely reasonable price (where else can you get an entree at a chic eatery for $10?!) - it's no wonder that it was awarded Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide this year.

      Being someone who lives within walking distance to Nook and has eaten there countless times, I wish that there were more restaurants like this in Los Angeles, although I probably wouldn't frequent them very often anyway since Nook completely scratches that itch for me. However I wish that people living in other neighborhoods were blessed with a place like Nook in their own stomping grounds!

      By the way, in response to nosh's reply ... while I too am a lover of the Nook burger, that brown rice bowl is awesome in its own way. I haven't tried it with a poached egg yet but that's definitely on my to-do list for next time.

      8 Replies
      1. re: donnival

        I had no idea Nook won the Bib Gourmand -- totally deserved!

        1. re: a_and_w

          Yeah, it was just announced earlier this week!

          1. re: a_and_w

            Yes, Bib Gourmand for Nook is totally deserved!

            The other, on the other hand ...
            Definition from the Michelin guide: "For $40 or less, you can enjoy two courses and a glass of wine or dessert"
            OK .. I have not been able to do this at Angelini Osteria .. is that my bad?


            1. re: burumun

              Haven't tried Angelini Osteria -- had a bad experience at the owner's other restaurant, La Terza.

              Incidentally, I noticed that Violet on Pico was also awarded the Bib. That's another place worth trying if you're a fan of Nook's upscale comfort food. The emphasis is on small plates at Violet.

                1. re: mollyomormon

                  Oh no! That's a real loss for the west side. Any word if they plan to reopen elsewhere?

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    I heard that they are thinking of opening more of a club/lounge type place .... this is just hearsay and a thirdhand story at best, so don't quote me on that.


                    1. re: burumun

                      I think it was Eater that posted Jared Simons (Violet chef/owner) consulted on the menu at Bardot (nee Spider Club) ... his whole rock-star vibe probably ties in nicely with the Hollywood set. Not sure if that was what you were referring to.

        2. Love this place! Sad that the gumbo was so underwhelming -- I usually find their southern dishes satisfying. In fact, the best food I ever tried there was the shrimp grits with andouille. I have mixed feelings about the boiled peanuts (another southern delicacy). I always attack them with gusto but usually conclude they're more trouble than they're worth. Next time, make sure to try the mac and cheese, which is awesome.

          3 Replies
          1. re: a_and_w

            I am also a big fan of the shrimp and grits ... although the same thing can be said for pretty much the entire menu (I've not had a single clunker there yet and I've basically had everything on the menu + their seasonally rotated dishes).

            1. re: donnival

              Another big fan of the shrimp and grits here. It's hard for me to order anything else from the menu because i enjoy this dish so much.

              1. re: mollyomormon

                Remember when they took it off the menu? So many people (including myself) were screaming bloody murder that I think they had no choice but to put it back ...

          2. We stopped in this past Tuesday night around 8pm and grabbed the only two seats at the bar. Having just relished Max's scrumptious Market Salad the week before we thought what could compare? Well, this version recommended by our outstanding server Stacy included slices of persimmon, pomegranite seeds, various greens perfectly dressed. Our two hamburgers for $12 each immediately removed any longing we might have to face those unwieldly crowds at the new Father's Office. And the strawberry rhubarb crisp with Ciao Bella's yogurt ice cream was a nice finish. $52 for two including a glass of Syrah but not including the tip.