Walking into Barbrix is like walking into a rustic inn or wine bar in the countryside. Perhaps the backdrop of the hills of Silverlake adds to this feeling of transportment. The humble restaurant is small, cozy, and intimate, but not to be underestimated. The wine bar itself, a rectangular formation, may be the piece de resistance of the restaurant. The wine bar displays an ingenious use of space.
The tables and small plates menu are ideal for pairs, and/or an even number of people. For the brave or curious, there are always seats near the kitchen where one can watch all the action. The small plates are simple and straightforward, as opposed to dishes that involve molecular gastronomy. Oftentimes, sime can translate to boring, but not here. These little creations are rendered divine through the use and execution of market driven, fresh ingredients. The dishes read like a trip to the Mediterranean. The breadbasket, slices of French bread with sea salted butter, promised more simple, quality based food to come.
The mortadella (freshly ground beef & pork "cotto") was delicate, thinly sliced and subtly savory. I've never come across a polenta quite like the grilled polenta with alba, shitake, & oyster mushrooms & creamy gorgonzola fonduta I had here. The mixture of different types of mushrooms added a complexity to the polenta that I've never experienced before. The creamy gorgonzola fonduta complimented the earthiness of the mushrooms. This first dish made me deeply aware of the quality of the restaurant's ingredients: I imagined a small garden teeming with fresh herbs and mushrooms outside the restaurant.
The pan seared Maine scallops with dill yogurt sauce was a creative combination and one I would never have conjured up. Because I've never been a fan of dill or yogurt in my savory dishes, I was surprised that I liked this sauce with the scallops. Perhaps the presence of the dill was more subtle than overpowering & fresh dill was used? Here, subtlety is key.
Along the same theme, the scallops were cooked with the right amount of heat and time. As an avid cook and consumer (at restaurants) of scallops, I know that scallops can be tricky little devils. Too much heat or cooking time may render scallops rubbery, tough, and flavorless. Too little heat or cooking time may render scallops runny and watery (a few degrees above carpaccio).
The artic char with green pea risotto was expertly done as well. The char, a relative to both salmon and trout, had just the right amount of juiciness and flakiness (also as difficult to obtain as in the scallops). The green pea risotto consisted of morself of rice that leaned towards the soft side, but not too soft. As a cook and consumer of risotto too, I know the right amount of texture is difficult to obtain. I've cooked and eaten many an underdone risotto at home and at various restaurants.
Imagine upon initial contact, tasting delectable cheese laden rice only to bite down on the morsels, thus experiencing a chalkiness, rendering the previous euphoria invalid. Such is risotto done wrong. This particular risotto was comfort food at its best. One bite of the risotto and for a split second, I forgot where I was. In my experience, this nirvana rarely happens. I was speechless until I acclimated myself to the risotto.
The nutella creme brulee garnished with a strawberry was a delightful twist to creme brulee. There was a hazelnut fudginess to this creme brulee that set it apart from other creme brulees. The texture of it was similar to that of eating nutella out of the jar. However, the sweetness of it seemed to be balanced by perhaps an addition of light cream. It tasted light and subtly sweet. This too was comfort food and a fitting end to a great meal. I perused the wine list and noticed the great selection.
Since I knew I had plans to drink at another establishment shortly afterwards, I abstained from selecting wine. I have a strong feeling however, that if I had, the wine would surely elevate the flavors, subtleties, and complexities of the small plates even further. Such is my goal the next time I go.
2442 Hyperion Ave.
Los Angeles, CA. 90027