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FIRST LOOK

Slide into a booth for sliders and more

May 08, 2008|S. Irene Virbila | Times Restaurant Critic

Seated AT a booth in the new Brix@1601 restaurant in Hermosa Beach, I can't keep my eyes off the sliders I see heading out from the kitchen. There's just something about that trio of smooth golden buns that looks promising. When I ask about them, our waiter coos, "They are so good!" She sounds so truly smitten that I believe her and order some for the table.

Nothing on the menu at this sprawling 10,000-square-foot American restaurant will add a notch to your foodie belt, but on a first visit everything I ordered was well conceived and executed -- pretty impressive for a place that had been open only a matter of days.

Brix is the project of developer Gene Shook, who owns the building, and he's spared no expense in outfitting it with a handsome open kitchen, vaulted ceilings, roomy booths, private rooms and a giant bar. Heading up the kitchen is chef Michael McDonald, who comes from Dakota, the steakhouse in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The entire team has experience in high-end L.A. restaurants and it shows.

In addition to those Brix sliders -- which are terrific -- you can start with a classic Caesar, moules frites or a plate of excellent charcuterie. Crispy calamari salad gets a lime vinaigrette to perk it up, and the BLT is made with Kurobuta pork belly, which is about as current as it gets. No foam, though, for which we can be grateful. And artesian foie gras is not some wacky deal, simply "artisan" misspelled.

Major steaks have major price tags. A prime bone-in filet is $54, but does include a red wine reduction, truffled potato puree, and chanterelles and peas. The bargain of the main courses, though, is a very tasty $19 grilled skirt steak -- which comes with chickpea salad and a flurry of veggies. Flat iron steak actually comes in at the same price and it's prime. The rest of the menu lists the usual suspects -- pork chop, chicken with fingerling potatoes, diver scallops, Alaskan halibut -- and a full-sized burger.

Nix the music track, though: The mix is the equivalent of elevator music. If you can't take that bland bass line, head for the spacious bar, which is more casual -- and probably more fun. Meanwhile, the wine list has lots of good bottles. And though Brixwine next door closes up shop at 7 p.m. right now, I'm told the idea is to have it stay open later, so you can buy a bottle and bring it over to the restaurant to try. Perhaps with an order of sliders.

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virbila@latimes.com

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BRIX@1601

WHERE: 1601 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach

WHEN: Mon.-Fri.: open for lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and dinner 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sat.-Sun.: dinner only 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Bar stays open nightly until midnight.

PRICE: Appetizers, $8 to $15; main courses, $12 to $54; desserts, $6 to $9.

INFO: (310) 698-0740; www.brix1601.com

ON THE WEB: For more photos of Brix@1601, go to latimes.com/brix

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