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Apr 7, 2010 09:47 PM

Hatfield's - First Chef's Tasting Menu at Melrose Ave

Full review with photos: http://twofoodiesonejourney.blogspot....

On our recent visit to the reopened Hatfield’s a few weeks (link) ago we had the chance to get a first glimpse at the new location and prix fixe menu. We were overall very satisfied with our first impressions of the new, bigger location and the first dishes we experienced from the kitchen. Since this first visit was just two weeks after the reopening the restaurant was still in the process of ironing out small kinks and didn’t offer a true chef’s tasting menu. Even though you can always choose from the regular menu of any good restaurant and have a good meal we also believe that often only a chef’s tasting menu tends to give you the chance to really experience the talent of a great chef.
Over the last few weeks the Quinn’s started slowly to perfect their vision of the new and “upgraded” Hatfield’s by first starting to offer lunch and very recently also a chef’s spontanée tasting menu. After hearing this news we knew it was time to go back to Hatfield’s and see if their chef’s tasting menu which was the highlight for us at their old location traveled over well to Melrose Ave.

The restaurant has an interesting large stone resembling an apple outside at the entrance which is a nice touch for a restaurant.

One of the new improvements of Hatfield’s is their new bar. This might be a great place for a late night drink and some upscale bar food. This picture was taken very late in the evening just before we left – this is the reason it does not look more busy at the bar.

When we made the reservation we mentioned that we were planning to go for the chef’s tasting menu and we are not sure if this “labeled” us as foodies but we were very happy that they gave us the best “foodie” table in the restaurant – directly next to the large window of the open kitchen. From here you have a great view of the whole back of the restaurant.

But most importantly you have a perfect view of the whole action in the kitchen. It was fascinating to see the different workflows in the kitchen throughout the night and how concentrated everybody was working starting from Chef Quinn to the Chef de Cuisine Brian Best and the 8-10 line cooks but also how, as the night progressed and less orders came in, the tension eased and quite a lot of talking and joking happened. A perfect table if you are interested in cooking and restaurants.

We started the night with some cocktails. Pimm’s Cup – Pimm’s, gin, cucmber, lemon, Bundaberg ginger beer. Classical approach to a Pimm’s cup with a strong ginger beer taste. Early Spring Bellini – Prosecco frizzante and rhubarb puree. A repeat from the last visit which shows how much we liked this cocktail.

Amuse Bouche: House-cured salmon with celery root slaw. Before we started with our 9-course tasting menu the kitchen started the evening with a nice amuse bouche which reminded us that celery root is often underappreciated and pairs good with the salmon.

1st Course: Sashimi Aji with marinated fennel, apple-shiso sauce and crispy duck cracklings
The apple sauce was an interesting part of this dish but worked nicely with the delicate aji and the fennel. The crispy duck cracklings gave good textural contrast.

2nd Course: Foie Gras Terrine, Brioche and pineapple-muscat reduction
Unusual presentation by incorporating the foie gras in the cut out slice of brioche. The sweet pineapple sauce was a good counterbalance to the richness of the foie gras but close to being too sweet and overwhelming the dish. Since we didn’t plan to do a wine pairing this evening (we just had one extensive wine pairing the night before) we asked our excellent server Timothy for a recommendation and his choice was a very good Riesling which had some residual sugars to go with the foie gras.

3rd Course: Butternut squash custard, mushroom broth, coconut soup and crispy sweetbreads.
If you just see the cup with the coconut froth at the top one expects nothing unusual but this dish turned out to be very complex and one of the highlights of the evening. Here we have a three layered soup – at the bottom some earthiness from the butternut squash custard, the second layer full of umami from mushroom broth with small mushrooms and on the top some sweetness from the coconut soup. When eaten together all flavors work perfectly together and build a strong foundation for the sweetbreads. At this point Peter Birmingham, sommelier of Hatfield’s, came to our table with a bottle of Vinhas Velhas Luis Pato 07 Bieras and mentioned that he doesn’t think that this course would go well with our Riesling and that he had a little bit left in his bottle and we should try it. This was of course a very generous offer but more importantly it gave us the chance to strike up a conversation with him and it is rare to meet somebody with such passion, enthusiasm and knowledge for wines. His recommended very unusual wine was a perfect pairing for this complex dish and we decided spontaneously to not miss this chance and let him pair all our remaining courses – a decision we definitely didn’t regret.

4th Course: Salmon Roulade and salsify carbonara
Very interesting and successful idea of using salsify as replacement for pasta in this carbonara variation. Pairing: Maranges “Le Croix Moines” 06 Camile Giroud – supple with light raspberry and cherry.

5th Course: Roasted squab breast, oat grains, carrots, ginger, squab jus and oat chip.
Very tender meat with slight, favorable gaminess. The oat grains and carrots gave this dish a rustic foundation. Pairing: Pinot Noir Estate 05, Hallcrest Vineyards – some spicyness and herbal fruit having the right balance to not overwhelm the squab.

6th Course: Braised pork belly, Beluga lentils, Meyer Lemon confit, baby arugula salad.
In a tasting menu of many highlights this dish was still good but overall the weakest course. The pork belly could have been more tender and was quite dried out. The lentil and especially the lemon confit accompanied the meat nicely. Pairing: Cidre Greniers Brut Julien Fremont 08 – You don’t see cidre very often as part of wine pairings but here it really “saved” the dish for us. Not too sweet, subtle fruit, perfect pairing.

7th Course: Pan roasted NY Steak, crispy spaetzle, soy glazed longbeans, béarnaise.
This dish is a good example of the food at Hatfield’s where different cuisines, e.g German (spaetzle), French (béarnaise) and Chinese (soy glazed longbeans) are perfectly combined. Pairing: Clarendon Hills Baker’s Gully 04 – Very strong, rich wine with some blackberry fruit which holds up against the steak.

8th Course: Passionfruit Pavlova with pineapple
Very refreshing passionfruit ice to this meringue-based dessert.

9ath Course: Chocolate soufflé with mousse
The last dessert course was the only course where we each got a different dish. The chocolate soufflé was a good end to the tasting menu. Pairing: Brachetto d’Acqui Il Saulino 08 – light, delicate and raspberry flavored.

9bth Course: Chocolate Napoleon, “inverse” affogato
Very good napoleon (or mille-feuille) but the affogato was the surprising part of this dessert. Instead of having the vanilla flavor in the ice cream and the coffee taste in the liquid this dessert consisted of coffee granite and vanilla cream. Pairing: Dark Stout with Dawny Port – nice play on an Irish Car Bomb with Dawny Port instead of the whiskey.

Mignardies: Chocolate-hazelnut pralines
Reminded us on Kit-Kat but way better.

We came to Hatfield’s with great hopes to have a similar fantastic experience with their tasting menu as in their old location. At the same time we had just the night before an outstanding chef’s tasting menu at Bistro LQ and were wondering if Hatfield’s could hold up against it but we are happy to report that Hatfield’s didn’t disappoint and very fast starts to establish itself also in the new location as one of the top spots for creative high-end dining in LA. But it is also interesting to see how Laurent Quenioux at Bistro LQ and Quinn Hatfield at Hatfield’s are some of the most creative chefs in LA but have very different approaches. Bistro LQ uses often strongly contrasting flavors and ingredients to create dishes with a lot of culinary “tension” whereas Hatfield’s tends to create new dishes with “nearby” flavors which are unique and left you wondering afterwards why nobody else thought about it before, e.g. butternut squash custard with coconut soup or salsify carbonara.
It is great to have Hatfield’s (and their chef’s tasting menu) back on the culinary scene in LA and we will soon be back.

Bistro LQ
8009 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048

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  1. Thanks for a great review! Interesting to see that they are no longer doing all the courses tandem-style. What was the cost of the tasting menu (without wine pairing)?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Nicole

      The cost was $95 or $98 (can't remember). I guess that having a much larger restaurant (and many more plates each night) might make it more difficult to have tandem-style course but perhaps they will change it in the future.

      1. re: honkman

        Thanks! That is a reasonable price for 9 courses at this quality level. But I will be tempted to just order the prix-fixe again in the future, which is a great deal...they are still doing that tandem-style, so 4 courses yielded 8 dishes at $56 pp. In addition to being more food, was the tasting menu significantly more exciting than the prix fixe you experienced? Basically, is the difference both quantity and quality, or just the former?

        1. re: Nicole

          That's always hard to say and personal preference but for us the quality of the prix fixe was good but the tasting menu was quite a bit better and more creative (e.g. the third course was one of the best courses in any tasting menu we had in a long time). We might be wrong but we had the impression (and it's not unusual for tasting menus in other restaurants) that the prix fixe is there for the restaurant to earn the money because it is very good but relatively "save" food whereas the tasting menu is more for foodies and the chef isn't playing overly save.

          1. re: honkman

            Thanks for your feedback, you make a good point about prix fixe's needing to be relatively safe. We'll have to try the tasting menu and see for ourselves sometime.

    2. I ate at Hatfields a couple weeks ago and had the pre-fixe. Although the food was quality was high I felt that the portions have become much smaller from the last time I at there in its old space. Everyone in my party was still hungry by the end of the meal.

      1 Reply
      1. re: toonoble

        I have also a post about the prix fixe menu on my blog and agree that the portions were quite small but we didn't leave hungry (but also not stuffed) after the chef's tasting menu

      2. Thanks for the great review and pics on your blog.
        I don't think it is my pervue to assign you more work, honkman, but I really look forward to your Bistro LQ thoughts and pictures.

        Bistro LQ
        8009 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ciao Bob

          There is already one post on my blog about BistroLQ and a second one about the current spring tasting menu menu (including a great ant egg intermezzo ;) is coming in the near future.