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Going local at the SiLa Bistro

September 01, 2008|Jessica Gelt | Times Staff Writer

GOAT cheese from Soledad, mussels from Carlsbad, organic free-range chicken from Petaluma and wine from small-lot California growers: The new SiLa Bistro in Silver Lake is dedicated to keeping it local.

Referencing Al Gore's global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," SiLa co-owner Frank Boyle says, "We have to stop importing food from the other side of the world."

This earth-friendly philosophy is in keeping with Boyle's slow-food-inspired goals for the 2-month-old restaurant, which he describes as "uniquely Californian." More than Californian, SiLa is Silver Lake distilled to its elusive small-town essence.

First, and most obvious, there is the restaurant's name. SiLa is an abbreviation for Silver Lake. Then there is the location, at the corner of Hyperion Avenue and Griffith Park Boulevard; its candle-lighted patio is visible from neighborhood organic-food havens Trader Joe's and Gelson's and within walking distance of many of the homes in north Silver Lake.

Finally, and most important, there is the staff. Servers sit down to chat with patrons, jokes fly, and Boyle, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, stands behind the Douglas fir and birch bar with its crisscross of wine racks to talk with those dining solo. The room is small and warm, candles and polka-dot plants are on every table, and a large, colorful chalkboard by the entrance announces the day's dessert specials.

The menu is tightly focused, with the house specialty being the handcrafted goat's-milk ravioli. The dish is unique in that the ravioli come tossed in a shallow bowl along with sauteed arugula and roasted beets, almost like a ravioli salad.

Creamy bouillabaisse, filled with hunks of grilled Roma tomatoes, mussels, clams and shrimp, is served with toasted sourdough to dunk. And the chef, Steve Brown, who spent time in the kitchen at Topanga's Inn of the Seventh Ray, is happy to whip up vegetarian or vegan options upon request using plenty of fresh greens and veggies.

Other entrees include mint-crusted rack of lamb with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, London prime sirloin steak with a green peppercorn demi-glace, and grilled organic chicken breast with wild mushroom bread pudding.

Boyle is still in the process of creating his wine list, but for the time being he's put together an interesting list of bottles from small California growers: Organic Cabernet from Neal Family Vineyards and Terre Rouge Syrah, les Cotes de l'Ouest, are two favorites. "We want to offer bottles that you can't find elsewhere," says Boyle.

Eating at SiLa isn't cheap; dinner for two with wine can set you back more than $80. But with Silver Lake's transformation from scruffy artist haven to a land of well-to-do professionals, that too is in keeping with the neighborhood.

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jessica.gelt@latimes.com

SiLa Bistro, 2630 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. Dinner, 5-10 p.m. Tue.-Thu. and Sun., 5-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tue.-Sun. Entrees, $15-$28; sunset menu, 5-7 p.m. Tue.-Thu., three-courses for $25. (323) 664-7979, www.sila-bistro.com

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