Delancey's George Abou-Daoud has a new restaurant called District on Sunset next door to his (also quite new) wine bar and deli Mercantile. The casual restaurant opened a little over a week ago with Kris Morningstar, the talent behind Blue Velvet's kitchen in the early days, at the stoves. For District, he's come up with a menu of quirky, often delightful dishes.
Check out the space, though. It's a little bit steampunk, a little bit West Village back in the day. First of all, there's the bar, a glorious hunk of mahogany that stretches from the front to the back of the long, narrow space. It was built in 1913 in France; you can't help but wonder at all the changes and characters it must have seen in its many years. Now, the bar's long expanse plays host to an eager young Hollywood crowd on the make while cocktail maestro Matthew Lanan muddles mint and citrus in tall glasses.
Tables are laid out in a long row down the middle of the restaurant, with more sheltered against the brick and plaster walls. Too bad the chairs make you feel as if you're sitting in a highchair for adults. The guys at the table may grumble, but my friend and I are too busy digging into the fresh-baked Yorkshire pudding and phenomenal house-made dinner rolls to let anything bother us.
The menu is short and sweet -- 10 appetizers and half a dozen mains. To start, try the beef deckle. Deckle? That would be something like a cured beef bacon with an inch-tall rim of fat. Trust me, it's curiously delicious paired with a piquant cucumber salad. Cheese rice agnolotti could be a starchy disaster. Instead, they're dreamy packets of supple pasta dough stuffed with pureed rice and sauced with porcini and hazelnuts. But the killer app is shrimp and grits flavored with garlic and Aleppo pepper for a kick of heat. Sea urchin gratin, however, falls flat.
As we're delving into guinea hen piled with spring vegetables -- chanterelle mushrooms, baby onions, carrots, etc. -- we're doing some serious people watching, always fun in this neighborhood. Most everybody has a made-in-L.A. look to them, except for the two beer drinkers in plaid flannel shirts at the bar who probably wandered over from the Cat & Fiddle to check out the scene. The beautiful thing is that there are two scenes, one here and one at Mercantile next door, where, if you're throwing calorie-counting to the wind, you can stop by for a late-night ice cream fix.
District on Sunset Where: 6600 Sunset Blvd. (at Seward), Los Angeles
When: Tuesday through Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight
Price: Baked breads, $3; appetizers, $7 to $18; main courses, $24 to $27; dessert, $8 to $10.
Contact: (323) 962-8200; www.districtonsunset.com (website under construction)