FarmShop, the much anticipated restaurant and bakery from Jeffrey Cerciello, opened for brunch this weekend in the ex-City Bakery space in the Brentwood Country Mart. Cerciello is the former director of operations for Thomas Keller, the chef/owner of The French Laundry in Napa Valley, which has led to high expectations for his first solo venture.
The front of house management smartly throttled seating, so the kitchen would not get overwhelmed on its first day. Even when there were open tables, the host held back seating people, so that the orders could get staggered and customers could get their food promptly. This was a smart and confident move which I commend, as I have seen many new restaurants fail to handle the initial rush in a smooth manner. The crowd was typical Brentwood, upscale and some families, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver and actress Jennifer Garner.
I was joined by fellow bloggers Christine Choisauce and Julian DJ Jewelz. We began our meal with the Fresh and Smoked Salmon Tartine ($12). As were all the dishes we ordered, this one was beautifully presented and the salmon was served with sliced caperberries, dill and crème fraiche. It was unusual to see both fresh and smoked salmon in the same dish and the caperberries were an interesting take on the traditional side of capers that often comes with smoked salmon.
The "Steak & Eggs" ($20) is pastrami, fried potatoes (from Weiser farms), green tomato ketchup, sunny side up eggs & rye toast. The menu listed roasted mushrooms but the potatoes appear to have been substituted during our visit. Switching out the steak with pastrami in his version of this classic dish is emblematic of the playful nature of Cerciello's dishes, which echoes the way some of Keller's dishes such as Peas & Carrots are named. The sunny side up egg was cooked just right with a solid white and a runny yolk. Combining the pastrami, potato, and runny egg together made for an excellent dish. This was my favorite of the day.
The Chicken Liver ($12) was served chopped in a bowl with grapes, caperberries and toast. There was an ample portion of chicken liver, which spread nicely onto the toast. (We requested additional toast and it arrived very quickly.) The caperberries were almost like olives in their pickled flavor. The chicken liver was rich and unctuous and was something I'd gladly have again. The sweetness of the grapes contrasted with the sourness of the caperberries to provide a full range of flavors on the plate.
I did not sample the Hangtown Fry ($22), but it was much enjoyed. It is a fritatta with griddled Hobbs' bacon, fried oysters, pickled chiles and rye toast. Again the presentation was spot-on with the circular fritatta placed plum in the center of the round plate and the herbs specked evenly in the eggs.
Poached eggs ($3 per egg) is a dish that can be a good "testing" dish for a kitchen, to see how it executes and FarmShop passed with flying colors. We dipped toast into the poached eggs which were cooked perfectly and were very happy.
Overall the plating was beautiful on every dish, and more importantly the kitchen is executing smoothly and successfully as every dish we had was a winner. There were no hiccups and Cerciello (pictured below) was on hand and presented a relaxed demeanor. I have yet to go to a restaurant during its first week in which the kitchen seemed so in control. You don't need to worry about a "getting their sea legs" period with FarmShop; they had them on day one. FarmShop began serving lunch yesterday and dinner, which will be served family-style, should begin shortly.
Note that the fresh and smoked salmon tartine is from the bakery menu, although it is available at the tables if you ask.
FarmShop is located in the Brentwood Country Mart: 225 26th Street, just South of San Vicente Blvd. It is located adjacent to ReddiChick. No reservations.