Monday, June 14, 2010

Food as comforting as your neighborhood District restaurant

When District first opened, I was excited. I'd heard about their duck fat Yorkshire pudding and that was reason enough to go. Then I tasted some of their food at Taste of the Nation, and I knew I had to make a proper visit. District is an American bistro located on Sunset, right beside its sister cafe/wine store/gourmet market Mercantile. Both are owned by George Abou-Daoud who also owns the Bowery and Delancy in Hollywood.

It's fairly poorly lit inside and furnished in a dark brown tone. Apparently they shipped the 100-year old mahogany bar from Europe. District has the feel of an old New York bar and even reminds me a little of sister bar the Bowery.

I like the high ceilings which makes the place very lofty.

There's a lot of attention to detail in the decor. The walls are painted to look a bit stained and weathered. This place is made to look old yet also has a modern feel.

They have a decent cocktail menu made with fresh ingredients. They also have a pretty good wine list of about 30 bottles and 10 by glass. Their beer selection includes a mixture of 10 Belgian and American craft beers include La Chouffe, Dupont Saison, Allagash White and Stone Ruination. So yes, I have to give them props on the booze, and the absence of crap beers.

The food menu comprises of quite a number of small plates/starters and a couple entrees. Just glancing at the menu, I knew right away that this would be the type of place where we would order a bunch of small plates to share. This is because all the starters looked tempting.

We started with their Sunset Sangria and a Bitburger Pilsner. Interesting that they poured the pilsner in what looked like a wine glass. Seemed a bit girly to me. My sangria was good. It was pretty strong, made with Lambrusco, orange Curacao, blackberries, mint and citrus fruits,

Amuse bouche of ceviche. I was shocked we were served an amuse bouche because this seemed more of a casual spot than a fancy place. Although the prices were more in line with some place upscale.

Duck fat Yorkshire pudding with thyme
You had to allow 15 minutes for it to be prepared. These were absolutely delicious. These little popovers were airy and buttery with a spongy consistency.

Home made dinner rolls with a choice of truffle butter or garlic chive butter
You could tell the bread was baked in-house; it was fresh and soft. The truffle butter was aromatic. Some reviewers online complained that you had to pay for the bread. I get where they are coming from but after tasting this, I wouldn't hesitate to shell out the $3 for it.

AV Boont Amber from Mendocino, and the Beekeeper (Plymouth gin infused with black tea, shaken with clover honey syrup and fresh lemon, soda water)
The Beekeeper was very very drinkable, it tasted like sweet tea. Yes, definitely very sweet so this isn't the kind of drink you could pound.

Squash blossoms with mushrooms, oxacan cheese and spicy pepita sauce
Just like tempura vegetables. The batter was light and wasn't oily.

Bone marrow pierogies with potato, onion and green sauce

The pierogi was nicely browned on the outside. As you bit into the pierogi, buttery fatty marrow oozed out. The marrow was well seasoned which is key, else it would have a very strong offal flavor. It was really delicious but very rich. I could feel my arteries slowly constricting.

The Last Word (Gin, yellow chartreuse, maraschino liquer, lime juice) and a glass of Spanish Verdejo. The Last Word turned out to be very syrupy and overly sweet. This definitely wasn't one of the better drinks.

Corn agnolotti with lime brown butter sauce, English peas, hazelnuts and scallions
OMG, it tasted like the agnolotti was bathed in a sea of butter. Isn't it amazing how butter makes everything taste so darn good? The agnolotti itself was delicious and stuffed with sweet corn.

Soft shell crab open faced sandwich with tomato bacon jam, frisee, deep fried pickles and ranch
This was the only thing we ordered from the entree section. I have to say that after the other dishes, this fell flat. The crab did not seem like soft shell at all! The shell didn't crumble when you bit into it. It stayed in tact and barely seemed edible. The crab seemed like it wasn't that fresh because the meat wasn't tender and sweet. Also, there wasn't much of a breading around the crab. The tomato bacon jam however was rather tasty and gave the sandwich a sweet flavor. The fried pickles were also very disappointing. I only took a tiny bite (I don't like pickles) and spit it out but my friend just had some fried pickles in New Orleans and he agreed that these weren't good at all. He said these pickles were the cheap kind, like the ones you'd get in a jar at the store.

And for dessert, toffee napolean with caramel parfait, chocolate and sesame

I thought the food at District was pretty good, specifically the starters. The crab sandwich unfortunately did not do it for me. The dishes were pretty unique; combos that I had never really tried before. I mean, who thinks to put marrow in a pierogi?? They also had a pigs heart confit but I didn't want to scare my friend off. I loved the ambiance. The rustic yet modern high-ceiling space. Unfortunately, the service was lacking. There were only another party in the whole restaurant, yet it took them over 10 minutes before anyone came over to take our drink orders. Then it took an additional 10 for them to make the sangria. There were a few staff members around so it wasn't like the place was understaffed, they just didn't seem attentive. Water which I asked for never arrived. Also, it was interesting that the place was pretty empty on a Thursday night. The hostess mentioned that it could be due to the location. Even though it's located on Sunset, it's not the type of place where you would walk around looking for food and stumble upon this place. You have to know it's there and seek it out. It is near the Arclight Theatre but moviegoers might instead choose to just hit up Boho, Magnolia or the Bowery which are closer. Apart from the lackluster service and the lack of crowd, I have to say that District has a lot of potential to be that cool, bustling hot spot that serves up unique comfort food.

Hits: duck fat Yorkshire pudding, corn agnolotti, marrow pierogies
Misses: soft shell crab, service
Rating: ***

6600 Sunset Blvd.,
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 962-8200

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