Los Angeles is all about nostalgia and enigma.
For where there is your next big star, there is an iconic legend to match.
The facet applies not just to personalities, but to places, locations, foods and even neighborhoods. No city preserves history like this one. I personally savor hearing of glory days when white umbrellas and striped verandas were a staple, and when lace was used less in lingerie and more in veils and umbrellas.
Chefs Karen and Quinn’s namesake Hatfields, based at the onset of Hollywood, paid homage to the history with its decor and fine cuisine. While located in the world of haute where celebrities and kales and matchas all ruled the roost, it was a refined hideout. With a yellow and white hued tall dining room, the cream hues dominate the urban decor, with all eyes on a giant honeycomb light fixture. Omenic of the beauty that the dishes would present to us shortly.
The ironic thing was, in an effort to make it modern, the cubicle style upholstered chairs and long laid table settings were almost corporate, with enough space between the tables to make one believe they are in an upscale Texas. For indeed, even conversations were not easy to hear. I personally liked the privacy, as I ventured in with a beautiful and hungry comrade into an understated and glamorous dining room, seated joyously next to an open window kitchen.
I started off with a jalapeno and lemongrass gin cocktail, a surprising combination of spice, superfood and clean liquor. Opaque and green, I found it too punchy for the refined ambiance, yet fundamentally refreshing for being in the Californian city of bright dreams… and green smoothies.
The plump homemade bread was accompanied by pickled horseradish and ginger slaw, alongside homemade butter. While an intriguing combination, and one that would have been frowned at in the land of carbs, Italy, I found it refreshing to find fibrous vegetables with my bread, and gleefully nibbled on it in rabbit-like isolation.
The amuse bouche was a spoon of thick and cold carrot and herb soup, topped with mushroom and ginger. Living up to the health and fitness factor that the City of Angels was known for, it tasted almost like a juice cleanse. Fibrous, chilled and flavorful, the sweetness of the carrot paired well with the tartness of the ginger and the sour taste of mushroom. I did enjoy it in its miniature format, for a larger portion would have been much to heavy or chunky, even sans butter.
My entree looked like another work of art on a plate, mandating many scenic shots. While most chefs would have opted for painted sauces and drawn purées, mine was a mosaic of baby beets: both red and yellow. Beets being my new favorite vegetable, designed here like a game meant for Alice in a peculiar wonderland. The rest comprised of fourme d’ambert cheese with pumpkin seed salsa verde. (Trust LA to make a puree out of healthy pumpkin seeds!).
As one of France’s oldest cheeses, it was a vivacious, sultry creamy raw cow’s milk cheese that literally melted in my mouth, almost liquifying with the heat of its neighboring beets. The beets themselves were as tangy and tasty as they were beautiful: tough and almost crunchy, they had been baked to just the right temperature, where a single bite gushed a tangy pickled broth into my mouth. The pumpkin seed salsa was relatively tasteless in comparison, providing a peculiar texture to the mix. While I would have been satisfied with merely this portion of cooked vegetables, the lightly dressed salad was a textural and balanced accompaniment.
My main course was a cauliflower steak, placing this superfood on an elevated pedestal once again. Having eaten it before and even other varieties of steak-cooked vegetables, this one was surrounded with garlic, raisins, sweet potatoes, with a hint of cooked garlic and crispy cooked kale. I enjoyed the char on the cauliflower the most, retaining its tough, juicy and fibrous body, while accompanying it with an almost candied set of sides. The warm cooked raisins had a crusty exterior, and the sweet potatoes reminded me of a satisfying Southern fare. The sweetness was offset by the crispy, bitter kale and the light undertone of garlic, making it a hearty bite. I still missed my beets though!
Desserts were courtesy of the better half of the founding duo, by Karen Hatfield. I received the signature creme fraiche cheesecake, despite my mixed disposition towards the texture of these deceiving cakes. However, it was elegantly interlaced with hazelnut shortbread, and topped with a bouquet of fruits and sorbets. The glistening slices were roasted pear, and the bright scoops were blood orange sorbet (or beet red?). All with a dramatic streak of citrus caramel.
The dessert tasted even better than it looked, and for once I did not miss the absence of chocolate. With a newfound penchant for fruit desserts from Princeton, I found the crackly hazelnut texture to marry well with the creamy cheesecake, which while collectively sweet, were more than offset with the citrus explosions from all the other elements. The blood orange was bitter and sumptuously sour, the candied pear was crunchy and sweet, while the citrus caramel brought it together in seductive delight.
My comrade received a trio of seasonal sorbets and ice creams with a homemade hazelnut touille.
Earl Grey, Meyer lemon and caramel were my favorite to least favorite flavors, mainly owing to the level of adventurousness, which was critical to my love for frozen treats. While neither was the best I’d chosen, they were well made – chilly, creamy, evenly scooped and freezingly fresh in the Californian heat.
With a duo of chocolate cupcake miniatures, we found that while the atmosphere was fairly formal, the foods and service were fairly whimsical. Happy and content with a fun meal, we waltzed out of the honeycomb nest like buzzing bees, ready for the night.