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Opening Night at the New Hatfield's

kevin h Feb 2, 2010 09:11 PM

On August 8, 2009, Hatfield's served up its last Croque Madame. Fortunately for us Angelinos, the shutter was only temporary. Indeed, this bastion of contemporary Cal/French cuisine was merely relocating to a new address: 6703 Melrose, the site previously occupied by Tim and Liza Goodell's pan-Asian eatery Red Pearl Kitchen. The rationale behind the move was that the Hatfields simply wanted a bigger space, in order to take the restaurant to the next step, with a larger menu, lunch and dinner, seven days a week--in other words, the new spot is designed to be permanent. The transition was initially slated to be completed by November 2009, but as usual, the schedule slipped, and a new opening date of February 1st was announced in January. Given my positive experience at the old restaurant, it was a foregone conclusion that I would give the new Hatfield's a whirl, opening night, of course.

Hatfield's was arguably best known for its seven-course, tandem tasting menus. Unfortunately, that format wasn't quite ready yet, so we were given a choice between à la carte and four-course Seasonal Prix-Fixe options; we went with the latter, at $58 per person (adding on supplements, naturally). More exciting perhaps is the new beverage program, designed by new GM-cum-sommelier/mixologist Peter Birmingham (of Pourtal fame). There is, naturally, a strong wine list, but what piqued my interest was the cocktail selection, featuring both classic and modern libations. And apparently, with the new bar comes a separate bar menu--oh my!

Here's what we had:

Frisée and Smoked Trout Salad [$12.00] | Apple, avocado, warm fingerling potatoes in grainy mustard butter
All our supplemental courses came out at once, and first up was this frisée salad. The actual bits of trout were somewhat difficult to pick out, but the fish's smoky, briny essence was apparent in spades. I quite enjoyed the unabashed saltiness at play here, perked up by the salad's tangy dressing, as well as the fantastic moderating effect of the potato. The tuber also added an interesting textural element, and I likewise appreciated the crisp sweetness of the apple.

Agnolotti [$9.00] | Mustard greens and ricotta agnolotti, parsnip, cinnamon banyuls
The agnolotti looked appealing on the menu, but wasn't nearly as successful as I'd hoped for. Though texturally, the pasta was almost spot on, the dish was overwhelmed by the intense spicy-sweet sapor of the cinnamon banyuls. The ricotta was almost completely masked, and was only slightly apparent on the finish.

Beet Cured Japanese Fluke [$11.00] | Herbed yogurt, pickled shallots, buckwheat crisps
How do you make fluke look like tuna? Give it a beet bath! Besides adding a dash of amaranth to the fish, the beet also contributed a very soft sweetness that went quite well with the fluke's naturally delicate flavor. I appreciated the fish's soft, supple consistency, and the great crunchiness provided by the buckwheat.

Warm Cuttlefish Salad [$10.00] | Maitake mushrooms, sunchoke purée, baby arugula, artichoke chips
Here we have a dish that I had on my last Hatfield's visit. On that occasion, I wrote that "the cuttlefish itself could've been a bit more apparent." Fortunately, the subtle brine of the cephalopod was indeed much more conspicuous this time around, and I quite liked its interaction with the earthy gravity of the maitakes.

1a: Charred Japanese Mackerel | Oven dried pineapple, avocado, fried shallots, nori infused salsa verde
The fishiness often associated with mackerel can be overbearing at times, so it's interesting to see what chef's do to moderate the power of the fish. Here, the key was the pineapple. Its sweetness was a critical part of the dish, while I also enjoyed the lush creaminess of the avocado bits. The fried shallots, meanwhile, gave things a nice crunch.

1b: Pan Roasted Diver Scallops | Braised celery, salsify, apple froth
I despise celery, so things were not looking good here. Fortunately, the veggie wasn't as offensive as I'd feared here, adding a pronounced, but not unpleasant backbone to the dish. The scallops themselves were a bit too thin for me (I couldn't really enjoy their texture), but I did appreciate the interplay between the savoriness of the bivalve, the tang of the celery, and the sugariness provided by the apple.

2a: Prawns a la Plancha Espelette | Creamy crab rice, roasted peanuts, preserved lemon, mint
The kitchen was definitely channeling the flavors of Asia here. The prawns had a delectable, almost Thai-style spicy kick to them, and were beautifully complemented by the bits of peanut. The coconut savor of the rice, heightened by hints of mint, definitely moved the dish even more in that direction. Very nice.

2b: Olive Oil Poached Alaskan Halibut | Orange scented beets, horseradish crème fraîche, herbed pepita crust
The halibut was probably my favorite dish of the night. The fish was cooked to a ridiculously tender and juicy consistency, with a delightfully salty, yet delicate sapor. The crux of the dish, though, were the pepitas (pumpkin seeds). They added a perfect smoky nuttiness to the halibut that really took this dish to the next level.

3a: Long Island Duck Breast | Whisky prune smear, butternut squash, porcini quinoa porridge
Taken alone, the duck was very flavorful, and very good. With the prune smear and quinoa, it developed an almost Chinese roast duck-like character that I absolutely loved. Unfortunately, the squash was completely unnecessary, with an overt sweetness that detracted from the bird.

3b: Horseradish Dusted Short Ribs and Hanger Steak | Spring onion confit, smoked potato puree
This was another dish that I'd had at the old Hatfield's. Again, I started with the short rib, delightfully tender, but still with a bit of bite. My dining companion described it as having an almost "hot dog" flavor, while I enjoyed its mild earthy smokiness when paired with the potatoes. The steak had a more forceful flavor, with a tender, yet "toothsome" texture. I did have to be careful with the included onion confit though, which could dominate the beef if taken in large amounts.

4a: Lime Cream "Pie" [$10.00] | Gingersnap crust, oatmeal crumble, citrus chamomile ice cream
The key here for me was the interaction between sweet and sour. The lime cream gave the dessert a tangy base on which the various accoutrements could work; I especially liked the refreshing apple-like flavor of the ice cream. And the gingersnap crust? Crisp, crumbly, fantastic.

4b: Coconut Custard "Macaroon" [$10.00] | Marinated pineapple, vanilla tapioca, passion fruit-elderflower sorbet
Here, we had a core of coconut custard intermixed with vanilla tapioca pearls. The saccharine pineapple and tartish sorbet then added layers of flavor on top. The best part of this dessert, though, was the admixture of disparate textures.

4c: Chocolate "Nutella" [$10.00] | Ganache cake, butterscotch rosemary ice cream, hazelnut toffee
Here we have a fairly classic pairing of chocolate cake with ice cream, with the added wrinkle of rosemary, which gave the dessert a beautiful astringency. At the same time, I loved the crunch added by the hazelnuts, but I wish that their flavor would've been a bit more apparent.

4d: Cinnamon Swirl Brioche Pudding [$10.00] | Pear confit, maple syrup ice cream, cinnamon toast chip
Finally, we have here the kitchen's version of a bread pudding, a marvelous one at that. I adored the soft, yielding texture of the pudding, as well as its creamy-spicy-sweet flavor, tarted up by the application of pear.

Reflecting on my last Hatfield's visit, I expressed concern that Quinn and Karen might not be able to translate the old restaurant's intimacy, honesty, and vision to a larger venue. I'm happy to report that Hatfield's is back with a vengeance. With the addition of new menus, new libations, new dining options, methinks that Hatfield's is well-poised to outdo its former self.

Full review with photos: http://www.kevineats.com/2010/02/hatf...

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  1. n
    Nicole RE: kevin h Feb 3, 2010 07:10 PM

    Thanks for the great review, I'm glad to hear that Hatfield's has maintained its high quality in its new location.

    1. b
      BHAppeal RE: kevin h Feb 3, 2010 08:48 PM

      I absolutely agree. We went tonight and the food was excellent, the cocktails well made and the new room beautiful. Had the angnolotti, and they must have heeded your comments because there was just a note of cinnamon and the ricotta more pronounced -- a nicely balance dish. We also had the celery root soup with pork confit, masala spiced pumpkin and compressed cucumber . Sweet, smokey and clean flavor all at once. For mains we had the Loup de Mer with haricot vert, red onion soubise, fried caper, almond dried apricot crunch and the buttermilk steamed chicken breast with Japanese pearl barley, chanterelles mushrooms, charred pea tendrils, and a tarragon. The fish was delicious, with a jumble of textures and a nice combination of flavors. The chicken was firm, but moist, almost melting in your mouth, with a very subtle flavor. For dessert we had the Lime Pie and Nutella Ganache Cake, with the Butterscotch Rosemary ice cream really blowing us away. With a perfectly made Jack Rose and glass of Gewurtztraminer, the whole thing set us back about $125, not including tip. Well worth it. The new space is very elegant and even as the room filled it was easy to hold a conversation. The service was spot on as well. We will definitely be going back.

      1. n
        Nicole RE: kevin h Feb 21, 2010 11:27 AM

        We went to Hatfield's last night and found it outstanding. Like Kevin, we got the four-course seasonal prix fixe ($59), with 2 different dishes comprising each course (total of 8 dishes). There was quite a bit of overlap with the menu Kevin described above. Standouts included the mackerel, the duck breast, and the short ribs and hanger steak. Of the 8 courses, the only one we didn't find exciting was the prawns, which were okay but nothing special. Everything else was excellent, from the tuna poke amuse with yellow curry that started the meal to the kit-kat like hazelnut praline candy with sea salt that finished the meal. Also enjoyed the "dark and stormy" cocktail and a seasonal kumquat mojito that was very fresh and delicious. Total after tax and before tip was $153 including 2 cocktails, 2 prix-fixes menus, sparkling water, and 2 cappuccinos. We felt this was a reasonable price for a very well-executed meal. Hooray for a triumphant return for Hatfield's!

        1. k
          khc RE: kevin h Feb 24, 2010 07:03 PM

          I write this with heavy heart. The old Hatfield's was my #1 favorite "nice" restaurant in LA. Therefore as soon as I found out the new location was open we made reservations. Unfortunately, we were so disappointed!

          Drinks were good, nothing to complain about and fortunately so, since no food arrived at our table for a substantial amount of time. When we realized how long it was taking, we looked around and NOT A SINGLE TABLE in the restaurant had food (other than bread) on it. Wow, the kitchen is definitely in trouble. My beloved Croque Madame was heavy and overly browned, not ethereal and a mix of textures as I remembered. When our mains finally arrived, my dining mate's spaetzle was ice cold. Shockingly unacceptable. I have never passed up an offer for dessert, but by the time our server returned for our dessert order, the coffee cup was empty and the opportunity had passed. I accepted not ordering dessert since I'd seen petit fours delivered with the check, but we had to ask for our sweets.

          Overall, a totally disappointing evening. I'd like to say I'll give Hatfield's another try, but not any time soon.

          2 Replies
          1. re: khc
            soniabegonia RE: khc Feb 24, 2010 07:24 PM

            Definitely give it another shot. Sounds like it was an off night in the kitchen. Karen's desserts are outstanding - on par w/ Adrian Vasquez's and that's saying a lot. I've always thought their Croque was overrated - it's ok but not so amazing as others seem to think. I find it kind of boring and often underseasoned. I think Quinn Hatfield does a nice job w/ duck and fish and sauces in general. But i think the desserts outshine the app's and mains by a long shot.

            1. re: khc
              n
              Nicole RE: khc Feb 25, 2010 03:36 PM

              I know it's hard to want to go back to a place that has disappointed you, but agree with sonia that it's worth trying again....it seems like the kitchen was just backed up the night you went. Not at all acceptable, but the problems you describe are not necessarily a reflection on the Hatfields' talent for creating innovative and delicious food. Did you express your displeasure to the manager when you were there? If not, it may be worth shooting them an email.

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