Thursday, August 22, 2013

little fork @ 1600 Wilcox Ave, Hollywood

It was a Hollywood Sunday afternoon; the sunny haze drenches the low rise buildings with a 70's sunshine cellophane like film.  I pass by a partially opened door and peek into what I gather is a congregation of sorts, latin music comes through as does the sounds of fans furiously expunging the body heat emanating from the bodies squished inside a brick & mortar sardine can.

Parking at a street meter, (forgetting that there's always valet in LA) I get a pedestrian view of the restaurant and it's arrival; amidst a diverse neighborhood (both in architecture and use) little fork's exterior seems rather sparse, even nondescript to the glancing eye.

But walking towards the monolithic structure, with a discerning eye, you can see the subtle nuances of small yet deliberate details that defines minimal theory; the light grey concrete facade in a smooth, honed finish is a shade lighter than your average dull, cellblock variety, a line of vertical windows serving as the only architectural fenestration into the main dining room define a visual language, albeit a nominal one.  With the only ornamentation being it's name: electrified luminous neon tubing of 'little fork' in lower case  script ... minimal monolith juxtaposed with 'bodega deli' signage hints as to the mangeables you'll find inside..

As pretty as the outside is, I reluctantly pry my eyes away long enough to enter into the void; and in an unexpected twist, it too is minimal (shocking...) but with a lot more tones and textures that are soothing to both the sight and mind.  Hard surfaces dominate the overall ambience: concrete floors and wood paneled walls reinforces a minimalist environment,  juxtaposed with a backlit coffered ceiling referencing an entirely different style; a quirky clash that I am growing fond of the longer I inhabit its space.

I get whisked away to the patio, (which on a balmy afternoon, I thought I was sent to purgatory - did I smell or something? I just won't take a shower at the gym, it gets handsy...) passing through the dining room, I'm taking into a quasi enclosed atrium space that is all too perfect.

The Patio's serene yet deliberate design successfully positions itself to having both an indoor and outdoor ambience.  Some examples: a glass wall separating the Main Dining Room from the Patio gives a feeling of openness and space, the front facade extends and defines one side of the space and  ends at a corner window thus blurring lines of exterior and interior space.  The open slat wall in light neutral grey as the main architectural feature denotes an exterior element done in an interior fashion and finally the glass roof drenches the extension like a courtyard atrium.  

I am enamored with the little pickled vegetables that come to the table as an Amuse Bouche of sorts; made from only seasonal items, they vary constantly.  Tonight, the jar is filled with Pickled Green Tomatoes -  a crunch that only comes from an almost unripened vegetable akin to biting into a rind, combined with tart pickled astringency, the palate comes awake, refreshed from its lazy coma.  

The menu at little fork, has a distinct Northeast Coast theme with a heavy influence on seafood.  There are also quite a few dishes that are intriguing, seemingly quirky and out of the norm but speaks to the imagination.

A wonderful appetizer, original and unusual: Maple Eggs - Eggs with a Maple Custard and Bacon Strip in a cute plastic egg shell and ceramic carton.  A light starter for sure, it's a reference to breakfast, which feels a little naughty to eat other than in the morning (except after a fun filled night out).  The Eggs were incredibly soft and creamy and who doesn't love Bacon? A smart little App, it instantly puts you in a good mood and ready for more.

I love Fried Oysters, much in part to my summer memories in Montauk, where roadside foodtrucks would serve little gems of seafood, although quite a bit greasier and decadent than those served at little fork.

Oyster Sliders: light and crispy bite size oysters are just absolutely fresh and delish, with a dollop of Tartar Sauce so light and a pop of color of crisp Red Pepper slivers, I think I've found the 'Perfect Bite', I would be happy to eat a sack of these Sliders.

Another classic dish that has nostalgia written all over it: Clams Casino. Apparently a family recipe, it's left of center for sure.  So delicious and yummy, the breading is a JalapeƱo Cheddar so it's more of a softer texture than crunchy with a bite of Bacon on top.  The heat kicks it up a notch without detracting from the flavor profile.
A departure from the classic, it's successful in reinterpreting a classic without any gastronomic bells and whistles.

The Lobster Roll is the reason why I came to little fork, and it did not disappoint.  Lobster on a toasted Parker Roll with Malt Vinegar Chips and Parsley Pickled Condiments.  The Lobster was very fresh and light with a Celery finish, the roll was perfectly toasted with a thick bread crunch.   the Chips acted as a salty, oily counterpart, sometimes a little overwhelming.  The pickled condiments was a crisp acidic finish to the dish.  Not an overly decadent dish, it remain true to it commitment to freshness and the Lobster shines through.

Having all those little dishes started to take a toll on my stomach, and I was about to shut the door on dessert.  But quick coaxing led me down the path of destruction... enablers....

And so it was: Apple Cider Donuts with a side of Apple Butter and Salted Caramel. The doughnuts had that great cakey dense consistency to them without being too heavy and with a light crunchy exterior, it combines the polar opposites in one bite. I thought the accompaniments were tasty, although I wanted more on the plate so I could dunk my Dnuts, (the Salted Caramel skidmark -clearly a disproportionate and inappropriate amount given the volume of its counterpart) I resorted to finger wiping my salty sugar skidmark like a coked-out fiend on a Sunday evening...I have no shame....

I found a perfect place to luxuriate in Hollywood, without the pretension and vapidness that prevails most dining scenes; little fork is a venue that you can relax, enjoy and focus on having really superb food with attentive service (really great staff-thanks Jessica) and I've said all I can say about the ambience-perfecttion.

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Food:         4.75
Ambience: 5
Service:     5

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