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Apr 30, 2014 03:08 AM

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!