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First Impressions at smoke.oil.salt - A Pictorial Essay

I first tasted Chef Perfecto Rocher’s cooking during his brief stint at Lazy Ox Canteen. For one glorious week at Lazy Ox, Chef Perfecto, a third-generation Valencian paellero, prepared a different paella on each night. Each paella was glorious in its taste, aroma, and presentation. It was with sadness that I learned of his departure from Lazy Ox last year. Since then, there were rumors of his joining Taberna Arros y Vi and Hermosa Restaurant Group (neither deal ever materialized).

Now, Chef Perfecto has resurfaced, with partners Lee Weinberg, Stephen Gelber, and Adam Fleischman (of Umami fame) in their new space on Melrose Avenue, called smoke.oil.salt. We had dinner there in its first week of operation.

VERDICT: Very, very promising. I think the tastes of Valencia came through in most of the dishes we ordered. The portions in each dish are just a tad larger than your usual tapas, which makes for ideal sharing for a party of 3 or 4. The space itself is dark and inviting, with mostly private tables, one communal table, and available bar seating. The menu is presented in Valencian/Catalan, with English translations. Service was very good, but occasionally our server was unfamiliar with the names of the dishes (not a big deal, in my opinion). Valet parking: $6/vehicle. The wine list is Euro-heavy, with a mini-section of Spanish cidras (ciders). There is a Coravin system for those who wish to try wines poured by the glass.

Highlights included the Bunyols de Bacallà (cod croquetas, with citrus aioli), Bravas Trencades (fried potatoes, serrano ham, chorizo, fried egg), Calamars Amb Mongetes (Monterey Bay baby calamari, warm cranberry beans – On the night we went, however, Chef Perfecto also added firefly squid, which was excellent in its own right), and the Cassoleta de Fideua Negra (squid ink pasta, Patagonian shrimp, chanterelle, honey aioli – Chef Perfecto substituted quahogs for the shrimp in the fideua on our visit – A great touch). For dessert, try the Crema Catalana Amb Compota Citrica (catalan custard, mandarin compote, smokey ice cream).

Minor misses included the Pa Amb Tomaca (Catalan tomato toast) – I thought the bread was a tad too toasted. Also, the pieces of their famed Pernil Ibèric (highest grade iberico ham - hand-carved) were cut too thick. To emphasize again, these are minor missteps which can easily be resolved.

Sunday and Monday nights were supposed to be “Paella Nights” at smoke.oil.salt, but I was disappointed to hear that the kitchen won’t be rolling out any paellas for another 2-3 weeks. But then I realized - I should give them a break, after all… It is only their first week in business! Definitely though, we will be coming back for dinner on “Paella Night”!

Total cost of our meal (before gratuity, party of 4): $285, incl. food, 2 glasses of wine, 3 beers.

smoke.oil.salt is an exciting new addition to the Spanish dining scene in L.A.


7274 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

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  1. Nice! Thanks for the report.

    I'm looking forward to good Paella here in LA; have you been to Soccarat in NYC, and if so, how did his Paella's compare?

    The two things that bug me are: 1) Fleischman, and 2) the name - I cannot stand it. Too derivative of the typical "X + Y", "A B C" types around the country.

    But I'm just being cantankerous.

    Photos make it look nice.

    8 Replies
    1. re: a213b

      I have been to Socarrat in NYC. While I liked the paella at Socarrat, I felt that they were trying so hard to achieve their namesake that they overcooked the darn thing, so I did not love it.

      Chef Perfecto Rocher's paellas at Lazy Ox were the real deal. Bomba rice, excellent sofrito (flavor base) flavor, just the right amount of socarrat. Once I tried it, my brain immediately registered a "Oh yeah, this is the real deal - What I remember from my time in Spain"...

      1. re: J.L.

        I once "dined" with Peter King at the downstairs communal table at the Socarrat in Midtown.

          1. re: kevin

            Could he be the brother of Burger?

              1. re: Tripeler

                who is peter burger? is he the one with the brother named bacon?

                1. re: barryc

                  Stopping this before it ends up at "Subservient Chicken".

              2. re: kevin

                A Republican...a House republican from NY

        1. Thanks for posting J.L.! Very excited about this place myself.

          1. It all looks great. Thanks for the beautiful porn shots. That custard photo made me drool...more than a little.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Servorg

              servorg-noting your skeletons avatar, any grateful dead friendly spots, or places with that kind of music/vibe, these days or is that a thing of the past? and has there yet been an "edibles" review/guide on CH?

                1. re: Servorg

                  memories of NOLA jazzfest a few years back...wish i was there tomorrow and this weekend!

            2. Been waiting for this place to open up - will wait for the paella. Thanks for the pics!

              1. Very nice. Great pics.

                Looks like a visit is in order. I'll probably wait a week or 2 so they could work the kinks out, but I do look forward to it!

                  1. re: JAB

                    sounds like a plan, but if only served on Sunday or Monday nights, scheduling limitations do exist.

                    1. re: carter

                      That's only a problem if you can't make it.

                  2. nice review, great photos, i want to try it too. that roasted peppers onions and garlic thing looks dynamite

                    1. ::sigh:: Looks and sounds delicious. Like other posters, I think I'm going to wait until there's paella to try. =)

                      1. damn, you had me at smokey ice cream.

                        1. For $85, I would want to be blown away by a meal. Do you think Smoke.Oil.Salt is that kind of experience?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: BacoMan

                            For my $85 per person meal at s.o.s, I got a taste of a number of proper Valencian dishes without paying the airfare to actually go to Valencia.

                            My facial expressions upon leaving s.o.s at the end of the meal : :-)

                            My facial expression upon recalling the meal: :-)

                            p.s. My personal "expect to be blown away" price point is at $650 per person these days. You and I come in with different expectations.

                            1. re: J.L.

                              So, your average meal runs about $500/person, or so?

                              I'm even more confused now. Are you saying that the Smoke.Oil.Salt dinner was basically a mediocre meal, but since you usually spend about 5-7x as much on dinner you thought it was a good value for the price?

                              1. re: BacoMan

                                //this post has been edited from it's original comment

                                n/m. over it.

                                1. re: ns1

                                  I was wondering why someone who eats $500+ dinners on average would bother to go somewhere like Smoke.Oil.Salt in the first place...but realized there's no way you can ask that question on these forums because it's about a poster, not the food.

                              2. re: J.L.

                                That's blown away by the CHECK, rather than the food.

                                I've been 'blown away' by a 5 EU bowl of soup on the
                                Côte d'Azur, while saving $642

                            2. Great review. Sounds amazing

                              1. Highly recommend the Valencia Callos (honeycomb tripe stew, spanish chorizo, chickpeas). It's warm and comforting. And very filling.

                                1. I just read the review by JGold on smoke.oil.salt, and honestly I think I prefer this one.

                                  Actually, I *know* I prefer this one. About 1000x more.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I want to like this place, but Gold's review did very little to entice me. I will still go, because of this review, even though now a few months out of date, unlike his from yesterday's paper.

                                  2. Did anybody make it out tonight for the paella? Bacoman made it (unfortunately he won't be doing a review because he is permabanned) and was unimpressed.

                                    Any other opinions? I really want this place to be superb.

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: set0312

                                      We were contemplating on going there a couple of weeks ago, but settled on Racion, which was solid. I'm hoping that this place is superb. too.

                                      Say hi to yo boy Bacoman for me ;)

                                      1. re: chrishei

                                        Not to hi-jack the post, but what did you have at Racion that you thought was good? I tried it once and vowed not to return. Nothing was compelling, nor is the place close and convenient. Maybe I just ordered the wrong things.

                                        1. re: carter

                                          I wouldn't go out of my way to go there, but it's a nice neighborhood spot - quiet, unpretentious, reasonably priced. The prawns & octopus dish was good, as were the salt cod fritters and the duck sausage-stuffed squid (the latter not nearly as good as the ones from Lukshon though). But again, it's not a destination spot.

                                          1. re: chrishei

                                            What has always been a true side benefit to my participation on this site is not just about recommendations/finds in my local area, but learning about places like Racion, because I just never know where my wife and I will be delivering and installing for some customer out in the hinterlands. So thanks for sharing your very thoughtful review.

                                              1. re: chrishei

                                                It's so long since my salad days I'll just genuflect and say thanks for the tip of the cap.

                                          2. re: carter

                                            Racion was once the darling of this board. However, there has been a significant downhill slide in food quality over the last year.

                                            1. re: J.L.

                                              how's the paella here ?????

                                              did anyone finally try it.

                                              i've been on sabbatical for a while.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                The paella at where - Racion or s.o.s?

                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                  Smoke salt. Whatever it's called.