Bacari GDL is the latest of a trio of bacaro-themed restaurants owned and operated by Robert and Danny Kronfli with chef partner, Israeli-born Lior Hillel. A bacaro, as the restaurants’ menus inform us, is a Venetian tavern offering a wide selection of wines and cicchetti, savory snacks or small side dishes. The firstborn (2009) of the three restaurants was titled in the singular Bacaro LA and is located just north of USC. The second adopted the plural; Bacari PDL opened in Playa del Rey in 2014. From the popularity and overwhelmingly positive reviews since its opening this February, Bacari GDL will likely have younger siblings in the near future.
Our visit to Bacari GDL a couple of weeks ago didn’t, however, begin propitiously. Even as early as 6 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon the parking structure serving the Americana complex was almost completely filled and we spiraled upward to one of the highest levels and stalked folks who seemed to be heading toward their cars until we were lucky enough to find a space at the absolute farthest reaches from the hard to locate (no signs!) elevators.
Then, as soon as the elevator doors closed, a gentle automated voice sweetly told us there was a minor problem and we should ring the emergency bell for assistance. Instead, we pressed the door-open button which fortunately worked and since we hadn’t moved were able escape to the stairwell. Finally, having gotten to street level, we had trouble locating the restaurant, a bit south of the garage with its entrance street-side on Brand Boulevard. By the time we found it, we were late for our reservation and more than a bit frazzled.
The bacaro was crowded and very noisy, but somehow once we were seated with welcoming server Meghan delivering adult beverages in record time, the background din faded. After admiring the warm, dark-wood clad interior, the wine-bottle and barrel enclosed lighting, the impressive walls of wine and other spirits behind the bar and the massive black and green boards on each lateral wall touting vintages, brews and signature cocktails, the four of us began serious negotiations on the two-sided cicchetti menu. Such things are not to be taken lightly, especially when the list is chock full of incredibly seductive items.
The cicchetti subheadings are vegetable, pasture, sea, fresh pasta, woodstone fired pizza and sweets, each containing between five and 10 choices ranging in price from $6.50 for desserts to $22 lamb chops or duck confit. Additional cheese and salumi platters cost $14 to $21 depending on how many components one adds to the basic three of five cheese and meat choices. Dried apricots, cornichons, caper berries, apricot mostarda and crusty bread are included. Extra bread, butter, mustard or clover honey will each add $1.
As tempting as these sounded, we focused on the cicchetti listings. From vegetables we chose vinegar-roasted rainbow beet salad with black peppercorns, tarragon, chevre, frantoia-crush olive oil and grey salt ($11) and “Noa’s” caramelized cauliflower with Kronfli Brothers’ smoked chipotle and mixed greens (each $11). Yes, beet salad and caramelized cauliflower have become menu clichés lately, but Bacari GDL’s are well worth trying. Like everything on the menu, the prep and presentation are out of the ordinary.
Our pasture picks were just as good. Oven-roasted Mary’s air-chilled chicken breast, set on a crunchy parmesan risotto cake and coated with lemon jalapeño caper sauce ($12), wasn’t my first choice. But I was won over by the moist flesh and delicious topping. And the square of slow-braised short rib perched atop zucchini slaw with tarragon aioli and bathed in beef jus ($14) provided just enough meltingly tender meat for each of us to have a generous bite and long for more.
Our two sea selections were seared scallops with carrot purée, melted leaks, crispy caper, white truffle oil and micro greens ($16) and banana prawns with pipel chuma (pilpilshuma — a Lebanese Jewish hot sauce made from garlic and peppers) on a bed of farro and parsley salad ($15), both delicious. The only disappointment of our meal was that only three plump prawns were included, necessitating a divvy to insure everyone got a taste.
We ordered ricotta and beet gnocchi ($12) from the fresh pasta. The dish, pale fuschia dumplings swimming in chevre fondue spiced with chimichurri and topped with a sprinkling of gorgeous micro bull’s blood herb, was a visual knockout, almost too pretty to spoon up. Along with the equally outstanding smoked cremini mushroom pizza ($15) topped with besciamella, lots of garlic, Hook’s two-year aged white cheddar and micro herbs, it topped off our savories with high honors.
Sated and full of appreciation for the culinary artistry of Bacari GDL’s kitchen, we were unable to bring ourselves to leave without just a teensy sample of Bacari GDL’s sweets. Due to disagreements in preferences and Meghan’s suggestions, the teensy sample turned into an order for four of the six listings: bread pudding, cardamom chocolate ganache (each $6.50), “just the lava” ($7.50) and “the best cake you’ve ever had” ($7).
Our vote for top prize went to the deconstructed ganache in a three-compartment dish: brown butter cookie dough topped with banana brulée in one, candied walnuts in another and Chantilly cream in the third — innovative and decadent! Our runner up? The three others (all served warm): bread pudding suffused with clover honey custard and topped with rich vanilla bean ice cream, “just the lava” — in a mason jar, covered in frothy coconut-almond milk mousse and topped with hazelnut crumble, and “the best cake” — studded with medjool dates and crispy bacon, saturated with brown sugar caramel and capped with ice cream, certainly the best sticky toffee pudding variant I’ve had in years.
We finally left the restaurant having showered Meghan and the maître d with accolades and, careful to avoid the elevator that had tried to trap us, made our way to the top northwest corner of the parking structure vowing a return to Bacari GDL as soon as we could arrange our schedules. In a flurry of newly opened high-quality restaurants, our first visit has put this one at the very top of my must-try and must-try again list.
757 Americana Way, Glendale (818) 696-1460
Full Bar/Major Cards