Foodie and the Beast
Little Beast brings an inventive menu and homey atmosphere to Colorado Boulevard.
By Irene Lacher 08/12/2013
Eagle Rock seems to specialize in a particularly marvelous kind of dining experience — hip restaurants with great food and casual family-friendly ambience, where you can while away the hours, often on outdoor patios tucked away from traffic. No need to bring out the stilettos simply because you have a yen for a great meal. Indeed, Sean Lowenthal, chef-owner of the recently unveiled Little Beast, prides himself on delivering on a tasty oxymoron — casual fine dining.
Lowenthal and Deborah Schwartz, his wife and co-owner, took over the 1911 Craftsman on Colorado Boulevard that had housed Larkin’s and named their new venture after their son, Miles, whom they’d nicknamed “little beast.” The couple did a detailed remodel, preserving the former home’s early-20th-century charm (they even have the original deed), while building in comforts for its early-21st-century clientele, with higher ceilings, industrial-chic lighting, banquettes and a lovely open-air patio with flowering vines, surrounded by cool concrete walls and topped by strings of lovely white lights that “buzz” overhead like so many fireflies. They had reason to be optimistic about their investment: their pop-up restaurant down the road apiece last summer had generated five-star Yelpers, among other enthusiasts. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that on a Wednesday evening a mere month after opening, the restaurant was already pretty packed with friends, families and couples. (And stay tuned for the addition of Sunday brunch.)
Lowenthal certainly has experience catering to high-maintenance palates; his CV includes the Chateau Marmont, Soho House and the Greenbriar Inn in Boulder, Colorado. Following his own muse for his first self-owned restaurant, the chef has designed a summer menu as individual as he is, accompanied by a nicely and concisely edited wine list. With the possible exception of the Little Beast Burger, he has assembled small and large plate offerings that you likely have never seen before in quite those configurations. His excellent BLT sits on a bed of grilled romaine, dotted with slices of heirloom tomato, bites of applewood-smoked bacon and a creamy bacon-tomato vinaigrette. Think you’ve had hummus? Not until you’ve tried his tangy version, spiked with chipotle and cilantro and served with housemade pita crisps (surprisingly soft on the inside) dusted with smoked paprika. And do not miss the burrata and peaches; the creamy cheese practically melts on your tongue, combining almost fatedly with the sweet seasonal peaches. The flavors popped even more against my glass of fruity Chateau de l’Estagnol 2011 Côtes du Rhône.
Lowenthal is clearly over the spare plates of pretty food still popular in some pricier restaurants; he believes in generous portions, so if you’re inclined to design your own tasting menu, which I highly recommend, you might want to go for half-orders of main dishes, which are still ample. One of his specialties is English pea risotto, which was unavailable during my visit. But I was quite happy with the the velvety sweet corn risotto with pecorino, chervil and Meyer lemon, enlivened with chunks of crab. And the tender pan-roasted diver scallops paired with cauliflower both roasted and puréed had my vegetable-hating companion (don’t ask) cleaning her plate.
For dessert, we really lucked out with the day’s special: a vanilla brioche bread pudding with caramel sauce. I generally avoid superlatives, but Lowenthal’s buttery version may be the best I’ve ever had, so you might want to encourage the kitchen to give it a permanent place on the menu — although I know that I will be happy to motor through the rest of the dessert menu on my return visits.
For those who like a splash of culinary celebrity with their dinner, there is the third annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, where Thomas Keller, Michael Mina, Rick Bayless, John Sedlar, Susan Feniger, Giada De Laurentiis and Curtis Stone are just a few of the big names who’ll be serving up delicious experiences from Aug. 22 to 25. You can peruse the schedule and buy tickets at lafw.com.