Friday, March 11, 2011
Croquer: Son Of A Gun
It's no secret that I sort of worship Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook.
Their gut-busting ode to tasty carnage Animal is basically ChocoMeat's Shangri-la. So despite my slow growing love for devouring sea critters, I was still enthusiastically biased going into their new joint Son of a Gun. Hand me a bib and shell-cracker or whatever, I'll eat anything these guys can throw in a pot.
The 3rd street storefront (formerly Restaurant 3, and Cynthia's before that) has been gussied up the likes that Animal has never seen. Marine and boating gear fills most of the wall space whilst plaid-shirted servers circle a monolithic communal table (always open for walk-ins), and bartenders stir cocktails under a print of a monkey about to kill a parrot. The scene is set for beautiful food consumption.
While we waited for our table, Michael, Andy and I sipped on a round of dry Sazeracs. Upon moving to our table we were alerted that the kitchen was out of Alligator Schnitzel! I almost walked out right then! Considering the options we picked pretty easily, well prepped for the menu thanks to some previews we had read. But regardless, starting is always a given - Oysters.
S.O.A.G.'s Malpeque Oysters on the Half Shell with classic condiments were sweet, fresh and supple, nary a lick of grit.
Our second plate out was new to the menu, a Smoked Steelhead Roe with Maple Cream and Pumpernickel. After one smoky-salty-sweet-creamy-crunchy bite, an audible sound resonated in each of us. Very impressive and sophisticated dish. Highly recommended.
We couldn't finish these two items without some proper bubbly, and S.O.A.G. is stocked for just that. Michael picked out the Saint-Chamant a Epernay Blanc de Blanc Brut, one of the most bone-dry, delicate and handsome Champagnes I've ever tasted. A stunning compliment to the entire meal.
A modest Squid Salad with Garbanzo, Mirepoix, and Radicchio surprised our palates with complexity, character, and the perfect amount of spice. A silent warrior.
The Lobster Roll with Celery and Lemon Aioli is dinner roll size, topped with the tiniest potato chips ever made. Tasty, but fell under the radar with only a single bite. Dare I say too small to share?
The Mussels with Tarragon, Pernod, Fennel, Toast arrived in a deep bowl sans-shell - to get right to the point. The soupy pastis-kissed cream sauce was pure elegance. One of my favorite mussel preparations to date.
This is where the meal began showcasing some really unexpected surprises. An elevated classic, the Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Herbs and Sriracha Mayo was incredibly toothsome, and a collective highlight. Crispy, buttery, herby, spicy, and satisfying, we seriously considered ordering another...
Luckily the Fried Chicken Sandwich with Spicy B&B Pickle Slaw and Rooster Aioli appeared just in time to distract us, a large mound of non-oceanic awesomeness begging to be taken quickly. I have to say our entire table may agree with KevinEats that this is possibly the best chicken sandwich. Ever. Tender, juicy, piquant... perfection.
Now, as a blogger I am always embarrassed to admit that I am not a huge fan of fresh water fish. Maybe it was all those trips to the mountains as a kid, watching the trout we fished getting their guts removed by my uncles, occasionally dangled in my direction. I am happy to report that I'm recovering from these issues however and beginning to really enjoy a well prepared fish. The Idaho Trout, Carrot, Potato, Caper Dill Butter made me a believer. The flaky sweet flesh eased off the skin effortlessly and blended nicely with the roasted root vegetables. Somehow this seemingly straight forward dish was one of my palate's favorites.
By now we were pleasantly pickled but ready for one more drink to take us into dessert. We giggled at the "Temperance" (non-alcoholic) section heading of the drink menu, and found the bubbly cocktails. Andy and I opted for the Air Mail while Michael perused the digestifs. A twist on the classic Air Mail (rum, lime, honey, bubbly), S.O.A.G. spikes the bubbly with Chartreuse Green VEP and just a kiss of lime. Went well with our first dessert...
Incredibly simple, the Frozen Lime Yogurt, Graham Crumble, Toasted Meringue didn't need frills, it was balanced and refreshing.
Skeptical of the Flourless Chocolate Cake, Banana, Peanut, Coconut Ice Cream description, I actually quite enjoyed the deconstruction. The banana was brûléed, the peanuts glazed in a heavy caramel beside sprinkles of coarse sea salt. Sometimes deconstruction works, and a swipe of a spoon across this plate did it for me.
Speaking of skepticism, after asking what the Hoboken Special was, the table shared a guffaw over the answer - frozen chocolate custard and... Pineapple Fanta. But who am I to turn down a challenge? Bring it on, we said. And son of a gun, we actually enjoyed it quite a bit. All of it.
8370 W. 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90048; 323.782.9033