MessHall - Opening Week
I stopped by MessHall tonight. The restaurant is surprisingly large, on the corner of Los Feliz and Hillhurst. If you enter from the valet side, you will pass by an open patio with two glass encased fire pits. The interior is L shaped, with both communal tables and private booths. The theme of the restaurant is sorta like going to camp. The menus are humorous, and the staff dress to suit the theme. I sat at the bar with some friends.
What we ordered:
Drinks: Everyone at the bar seemed please with the drinks. The head bartender is very knowledgeable and creative when coming up with custom cocktails for picky customers.
Fried Oysters: This felt almost like comfort food for me. It reminded me of the fried zucchini sticks with Triple O sauce that I grew up with in Vancouver, at White Spot. The dish comes with both a white and red sauce.
Beer Battered Calamari: Pretty interesting take on calamari, I thought it had a texture almost like fish and chips. For a while I thought they sent us the wrong dish.
Steak Tartare Taco: Apparently this was a hit. So much that nobody cared to save me any beef. The wrapping was a Parmesan crust.
Shrimp Cake: This was decent. Though what really stood out was the romesco sauce made from pumpkins that we ordered on the side (it us usually paired with the fritters dish).
Corn and Cheese Grits: This did not last long. Delicious. The almost burnt pieces of cheese were a nice touch.
Mashed Potatoes: Smoothly whipped to be airy, and laced with creme fraiche. And as a plus, you can get gravy on the side, something so many restaurant that make fine mashed potatoes refuse to do.
Burger: They make a delicious hamburger. It was just oozing out juice as it sat on the table. It comes with sage seasoned fries and home made ketchup.
Hog Chop: Their porkchop on the bone is sous vide, and charred briefly. Really nice and moist. It's topped with Tabasco butter. Comes with a side of sauteed greens with bacon.
Butcher's Steak: This was arguably the surprise of the night. A cut of meat from the center of the cattle that butchers usually keep and take home themselves. The sinew was very apparent. Cooked rare, which is exactly how one should enjoy this particular piece of meat. It was set over a salsa verde sauce, which seemed to match perfectly.
We finished the night unable to eat dessert, thought the play on smores seemed popular. The staff seemed in a good mood, so we were treated to complimentary digestifs.
The service was very attentive and accommodating all night, swift and subtle. The food also comes out impressively fast, a rarity for restaurants this size. Overall, I'm quite impressed with the restaurant, especially being its first few days. So many places seem to get things wrong in their early stages and on busy nights, but not this one. I was told they are designing a brunch menu with a unique version of a bloody mary and other specialties. I would be excited to return.
Went to Messhall this week and I'm with you - a solid place for good food, excellent drinks, a cool space, and good service.
Would I travel from Santa Monica to Los Feliz for it? Maybe not (Rustic Canyon comes to mind as something similar, albeit pricier)... but anyone east of the 405 should check it out.
Messhall could be faulted for following the trends, if they didn't do it in such a satisfying way. Smoked corn fritters, studded with spicy poblano peppers and served with an herbal romesco sauce, were crunchy, hot, addictive little flavor bombs. Oysters are available fresh (a side menu listed four different kinds) or grilled, smothered with tarragon and shallots.
Billed as "regional American cooking", it veers to the Southern side of things. Pickled veggies with grilled bread, grits (not one but TWO ways!), pulled pork on brioche, "Hog Chops" - the restaurant would fit right in with the modern Southern cooking happening in Nashville and Atlanta. The servings are large enough and the prices are moderate enough that you can satisfy that comfort food craving without much guilt.
A salad of roast beets was brightened with pomegranate seeds and more than a handful of roast pistachios, and large enough to share. Normally, I refuse to order mac n' cheese that is mixed with anything and costs over $10 (lobster mac, bacon mac, I'm looking at you) but here I caved and ordered the Pork Belly Mac N' Cheese. The top was crunchy and the first few inches were the perfect balance of cheese, shells, and tender pork belly... though as the dinner wore on and we worked our way to the bottom there was more oil than cheese. A wider serving dish could - and should - help that issue, because my first few bites were pure childhood awesomeness. The collard greens we ordered were braised with a bracing amount of vinegar, but were a good counter to the richness. All in all it's a warm hug from your Southern grandma, and the ideal meal for this cold spell.
I put some photos up if you're interested... too big to post here. http://www.eattalk.net/2013/01/messha...
I stopped by for late night drinks on opening night to check out the space and menu. The service was fantastic and the manager came over and offered us free appetizers even though we were there just for drinks. We ordered the popcorn bacon (unlike the Black Hogg version, this is literally popcorn tossed w/ some bacon) and it was addictingly (is that a word?) good. The calamari was a total miss imo. Too much batter, not enough calamari.
I'm excited to go back and have dinner there. Want to try the pork chop and the texas brisket that they smoke in house for 10-12 hours.