Monday, June 27, 2011

Black Market - Cocktails & A Top Chef in Studio City

Black Market Liquor Bar is a welcome addition to the San Fernando Valley dining scene.  The new venture, with a cocktail program curated by Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix of La Descarga and Harvard & Stone, is a comfortable local bar that happens to serve destination worthy drinks.

The star of the cocktail menu is the Smokin' Monk.  No two ways about it, this is a gorgeous drink.  It is made with mezcal, yellow chartreuse, lemon and orange juices and served with some large ice cubes with a lemon wedge for garnish.  The mix of the mezcal and citrus is magical and the mezcal provides just the right amount of smokiness to keep it intriguing sip after sip.  This might be my favorite new drink of 2011.

The Amber and Embers is made with Laphroig Scotch, Clement Canne Syrup Rum, Angostura and Orange Bitters.  Note, only a dash of each type of bitters is used.  The version I had used Ardberg in place of Laphroig.  I sampled versions with 2 dashes of bitters and one dash, and the one dash was superior.  Counterintuitively,  the version with two dashes was smokier and tasted more of the Scotch.

Red Hot and Bothered: Jalapeno-infused vodka, strawberry, blood orange, agave syrup and ginger beer.  There is nothing shy and retiring about this damsel.

The Boulevard Sour, a dangerous concoction of rye whiskey, cynar, lemon juice and egg white, is pleasingly frothy.

Punch is all the rage this days, but Black Market takes this trend one step further with its Punch for One, a pisco based cocktail with pineapple juice, agave syrup, angostura bitters and lime juice.  This is a mellow cocktail that is easy to sip on.  This has been a pisco week, after some pisco sours earlier at the new Picca.

Black Market has an all-star bartending staff, including Zach Patterson (below) of STK, Mia Sarazen of Harvard & Stone, and Tricia Alley, formerly of B-Side Lounge.  If any of these assassins offers to make you a drink, accept.  You are in good hands.

Zach Patterson
In addition to bringing in a stellar team of barkeeps, Livigni and Moix brought chef Antonia Lofaso of Top Chef fame to the equation.  The menu includes some Italian influences, not surprisingly.

A highlight of what I tried was the Ricotta Gnudi, served in a brown butter sauce.  The gnudi were soft and had a light consistency.  The only off note for me was the crunch of pistachio nuts, which were unnecessary.

The Duck Rillettes with bourbon raisins were served in a jar with ample toasts alongside.  The rilletes required some mixing to get the sweet and salty components into proper proportion.

My other favorite of the night was Oxtail Ragu with perciatelli pasta and perorino cheese.  The dish is rich and savory.  The noodles were perfectly cooked and were heavy enough to sustain the meat.  It was attractively plated as well.

I only managed a bite of my dining companion's Crispy Poussin with french fries, which was unremarkable.

For me Antonia's pastas were the highlight of the food menu.  With the cocktails, I enjoyed all that I drank, although the drink that is going to lure me back to Studio City is the Smokin' Monk.  Absolutely delicious.

Black Market Liquor Bar proclaims itself "purveyors of cocktails, bites and candy." I can vouch for the first two; the third you will have to explore for yourself.

Black Market Liquor Bar: 11915 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA.  Phone: (818) 446-2533.  Website:

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