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The Tar Pit: Has Anyone Eaten There?

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The Tar Pit (Mark Peel's new lounge on La Brea) is getting a lot of great buzz and their menu looks fantastic, so I'm interested in trying it out this weekend. Has anyone been? If so, can you give me any pointers as to what to order? Thanks!

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  1. I drive by there at least once a day and the menu board is empty and there are valet signs but they're not out. They don't seem to be open yet but I'd imagine close. Maybe the buzz is from critics only nights or something?

    3 Replies
    1. re: PinotPlease

      they have been open and running since before christmas. i have been but only for drinks so not able to answer the op's posting.

      1. re: PinotPlease

        They've been open for a full 3 weeks now.

        1. re: wutzizname

          My bad, sorry about that. Maybe they're not open for lunch, hence the not-so-open-looking vibe. Glad to hear it's good, Mark Peel's a great culinary contributor to this 'hood!

      2. The menu is interesting, lots of reinterpreted classics, and the design is swank--reminiscent of an old time supper club. We enjoyed the crab cakes, clams casino and the fried oysters with drinks; nothing revelatory but all quite tasty. The cocktails (mostly $12) were different than the norm and good and the bar menu reasonably priced. You can also order the full menu at the bar and I am tempted to come back to try the steak & kidney pie with yorkshire pudding, the coq au vin blanc and the lobster bisque.

        1. I ate there New Years Eve and all the food was quite excellent, but the unique and amazing cocktails still stole the spotlight. Between my friends and I we tried 9 or 10 different ones. They were all varying degrees of great, but our favorites seemed to be the ones listed under the heading "Tributes."

          For dinner we had the Crab Cakes, the White Bean & Pecorino Salad, the Shrimp Louie, and the Wild Boar Meatballs, which were all very good. But it was the Lobster & Scallop Newberg that blew me away. The flavor and richness of the sauce combined with the substantial portions of perfectly cooked sea scallops and lobster made for one of the best dishes I've had in a very long time. Looking forward to going back for it again soon.

          N.B. By the time we were ready for it, they had run out of Bananas Foster, but that seemed to be the dessert everyone was raving about.

          http://www.tarpitbar.com/tpb_menu.pdf

          1. We ate at the bar over the weekend and were really disappointed with the food and service.

            We had the following --
            Saffron-Scented Shrimp Cocktail - Seville Orange Remoulade
            Calamari - Lemon Wheels, Shallot Rings, Fried Parsley Rouille
            Duck Slider - Crisp Duck Confit, Buttered Soft Roll, Cointreau Sauce
            Lobster Bisque - Scented with Cognac

            Nothing was horrible, but everything we tried was tasteless and bland. The cocktail shrimp were fresh but the accompanying sauce was basically mayonnaise. The calamari batter needed salt and again the sauce was overwhelmingly mayonnaise. The duck slider meat was tender but could have been mistaken for a pulled pork sandwich any day and desperately needed some seasoning. Finally the lobster bisque tasted so overwhelmingly of cognac we could not finish it.

            It took our food over an hour to come out and it seemed overall that they were severely understaffed. There was a single bartender working the entire bar, so we often had to flag the barback/busboy for things (to check on our order, to bring a spoon for the bisque). The host was rather unwelcoming and kept disappearing from his post. Since we were seated on the bar corner right by the front door, we observed a ton of people waiting confusedly for someone to show up and some people leaving when one didn't.

            Of the cocktails, we tried the Gin Gin Mule, Lemon-Thyme Daiquiri, and something off the menu called Little something-i-can't-remember. The Gin Gin Mule was very good - the flavors well-balanced and the hint of ginger spicy and not overwhelming. The other drinks were nice to watch being made but not remarkable. All cocktails are $12 each so these add up quickly.

            We'll probably only be back again for drinks in future.

            1 Reply
            1. re: TracyS

              Bummer. My experience on NYE was almost the opposite. Loved the food. And under the circumstances (it being New Years Eve and only open a week and a half) I thought service was pretty impressive, including the hiccups. Specifically...

              Though we had a reservation for bar seats, we had to wait about 5 minutes to get seated. But the hostess and manager were very attentive to the delay and very appropriately apologetic for what was really just a minor wait.

              Also...when we realized that one of our entrees seemed to be lagging a good while behind the others, we mentioned it to the bartender who immediately looked into it and then sent over a complimentary cold dish while we waited for the kitchen to prepare the errant hot one.

              Again, given the circumstances and otherwise stellar service, I thought they handled everything with the utmost class. Of course, it was NYE and I know Mark Peel was in the kitchen because he came out in his apron with a cocktail as the midnight hour approached. Based on your experience though, Tracy, maybe they've already moved on to the second team. But I hope and trust that Mark will bring things back up to the level we saw on New Year's. It was a really great night and meal, minor hiccups and all.

            2. I went last Thurday for drinks and food. Sat at the bar and ordered from the bar and dinner menu. I really enjoyed it. Liked the food, drinks and the ambiance. Classy and sophisticated crowd. It got crowded when I left at 9ish.

              1) duck confit sliders
              The duck was excellent, with a mixture of thin tender slices and crispy skin. The duck juices dripped all over the salad and was scrumptious. The slider bun was buttery

              2) fried oysters, with preserved lemon remoulade and crisp ginger
              Delicious, perfectly fried oysters. I really enjoyed this dish: sometimes fried oysters can be dry but these were plump

              3) pork cheek and ear with orecchiette pasta, salsa verde, braised beet greens and dandelion greens, served in a cast iron skillet
              This was from the dinner menu. The pork cheek was tender and the ears were sliced thin and chewy. The pasta dish was a bit soupy and thus was on the lighter side, however I thought it needed a bit more salt.

              2 Replies
              1. re: stuffycheaks

                Stuffycheaks, I was there on the same night and also thought the duck sliders were excellent. They had a divine taste of butter and sugar that I am still craving. I also had the orecchiette which was nice, but not interesting or satisfying enough to order again.

                Additionally we ordered the following:
                -leek salad: nice, refreshing but a little boring
                -steak and kidney pie: fabulously rich and complex, would definitely get again
                -bananas foster: absolutely amazing; homemade marshmallow whip lightly toasted with this fabulous buttery caramel sauce; only complaints were that the ice cream was a bit grainy with ice and overall the dessert was a bit too sweet but really, those complaints are so minor because overall it was delicious

                We had a couple of cocktails as well which were all great, though it would be nice if the menu would expand to add some more whiskey based drinks as almost all of the drinks are gin based.

                As others have mentioned service was slow probably because they only had a single bartender mixing drinks for the entire place, which is absurd. However everyone from the hosts to the waiter and busboys were all very friendly and helpful. Lastly the décor is just gorgeous old Hollywood. Very romantic.

                Overall I would go back for drinks and maybe a few small bites, but not necessarily for dinner as I expected a little more from Mark Peel (yes it was good, but I want awesome).

                1. re: stuffycheaks

                  I was there a few weeks ago with some friends for dinner. We had a reservation at 9 and we were seated at 9:05 so that is not bad. The place was PACKED!

                  Cocktails seemed like the best thing the entire night, EXCEPT the bartender had to look up my friends drink request in a book. It is a bog bar given the size of the resturant and there were only 2 bartenders, so drinks took a while to get.

                  what we ate:

                  duck sliders - great. i mean PERFECT great.
                  steak tartare - below average
                  tuna tartare - not good at all
                  shrimp cocktail - avg.
                  cobb salad - good
                  green salad with green goddess dressing - avg
                  roasted chicken - good
                  cheese/meat plate - avg.

                  They kept bring our table duplicate orders of thing that we did and did not order. Which was frustrating only when we went to order other things and told that they were out of them. Out of something only because you brought four orders of it to table 3.

                  Not in any hurry to return. The menu will not stand up in the long run. Maybe a cocktail or two.

                2. Since others have gone into the menu details I would just say I ate there last weekend, the food was good but not amazing (we ordered a lot so got a good sampling of the dishes). They actually were out of about 20% of everything on the menu which was incredibly frustrating, they do not have a full bar, and they do not have the capability to make espresso. I won't be going back.

                  1. A friend and I went to Tar Pit last night. We enjoyed it very much, with a few reservations.

                    As everyone notes, the room was terrific. While we sat at a table, the bar itself is beautiful and would be a wonderful place to sit, have cocktails, and eat. The cocktails were excellent, as everyone has noted. I had a very good martini and then their riff on a Manhattan, which was just wonderful. My friend does not drink and they made her two non-alcoholic concoctions that were very tasty.

                    The food: some great, some good, one not. The starters were all terrific. The fried oysters were outstanding, and different than the norm. They are huge and served in the shell, with the remoulade underneath. As opposed to typical fried oysters, which can be very crispy and cooked all the way through, these were almost raw oysters in a wonderful breading. That is the best way I can describe them. So they have a little bit of both the raw oyster feel and a fried oyster. I loved them and the portion was large. My companion loved the crab cakes. And the duck sliders are decadent and wonderful. These sliders are an amazing dish.

                    My friend then had the shrimp cocktail, which was good. A little above standard. Frankly, we should have tried the shrimp louie. The Green Goddess butter lettuce salad was just what it should be, an excellent green goddess salad. She then had the Steak Diane which was good… not great but very good. And I had the steak and kidney pie, which I had two bites of and quit. I did not like it at all. Perhaps it was because of the taste of the kidney, I do not know. I did not much like the Yorkshire pudding that topped it, either. It had a very ‘off’ taste… it just did not work for me. Beautiful presentation, though. As were all the dishes.

                    We then had the bananas foster. We liked this very much but I take issue with the name. This is actually a baked banana pudding, similar to an amazing one in the recipes on this site:

                    http://www.chow.com/recipes/18745

                    It was tasty and will be a huge hit. But bananas foster should be warm, even if not prepared tableside. This had much more in common with banana pudding. The marshmallow on top was awesome.

                    Our server was wonderful, btw, and when she saw I was not going to eat the steak and kidney pie, she took it off the menu. Service was a bit slow, as noted, but we were happy to sit and talk and the waitress otherwise was very, very good.

                    My two other issues: on the weekend, there is no one to answer the phone. I left messages Sunday, to come in Sunday at 11 PM (after a play) and never was called back until this morning. The woman who does reservations is there from 10-6, M-F. She was very nice when returning my call but it is odd that you only get voicemail on the weekends.

                    My other issue was the music, which is a general problem in restaurants right now. Like at CUT and others, the music was not only way too loud but it was a terrible, weird mix of rock and roll and house music. While I like Led Zeppelin, I don’t want that blaring at me at CUT while eating a 50-dollar steak. Here, the mix was much worse, and it is at odds with the atmosphere, an Art Deco supper club. They could easily do Sinatra or jazz or the like, keep it very upbeat and happening and it would not be so incongruous or annoying. Just my preference in general but particularly with the room, the music was just silly. And you could tell everyone in the room was having to yell to be heard by anyone at their tables.

                    Anyway, even with my reservations, we had a good time. I would go back to try other dishes. They were out of the Lobster and Scallop Newberg, which I would like to try.

                    1. I've been several times and think the drinks are wonderful the food not so much.

                      Tuna tartare - a winner. Spicy and delicious. Different than the version you have had 100 times.
                      Steak tartare - way too saucy. Couldn't taste the meat flavor. a little less worcestshire please
                      Duck Sliders - very sweet and the bun is so soft. so so, not something I'd recommend.
                      Vitello Tonato - not too shabby. way better than the steak tartare or the duck sliders but not as good as the tuna tartare.

                      1. A group of 10 went a few weeks back and had TERRIBLE service, took 30 minutes to get overpriced cocktails and thought the food was average at best. VERY disappointed and entire group of foodies decided that we would never return...As someone who worked in fine dining for many years it is a real let down to be SUPER underwhelmed....