Tuesday, August 30, 2011
SmithHouse Tap & Grill opened last week in Century City on the ground floor of an office building on Santa Monica off of Beverly Glen that has seen several restaurants fail in the space. This time the curse appears to have been vanquished as the restaurant has been packed with neighborhood office workers and residents excited for a casual restaurant with over one hundred beers on tap. It wouldn't be an opening these days without a celebrity chef's involvement, so at SmithHouse the food menu was created by Angelo Sosa of Top Chef fame.
Not content to only bring on a celebrity chef, the SmithHouse team also brought in an A-List mixology team to create the cocktail menu. Jason Bran and Damian Windsor of the Roger Room on La Cienega and Simon Ford, the London-based global brand ambassador for Pernod-Ricard collaborated on the list of eight signature cocktails and six classics. Full cocktail list at the bottom of this post.
The Bitter Lady (above) is a take on the White Lady (a gin Sidecar) but with Campari instead of Cointreau. This gives this lady her bitter monicker. The Plymouth Gin, Campari, lemon juice, honey and egg white are shaken vigourously and then poured into a martini glass and garnished with a lemon peel. The sour cocktail was delicious and has some bite; an excellent way to begin a visit to SmithHouse.
The menu is bar food with some Asian influences, befitting Sosa's Asian accented style of cuisine. The menu is casual and is divided into appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, entrees and sides. I tried the Let's Wing-ette, Sosa's take on chicken wings with a "Red-hot glaze" that are served with celery and are "cooled with Asian ranch" dressing streaked on the bowl. The wings ($9) were substantial but not especially spicy. Tasty and a good introduction to the menu.
The signature element of SmithHouse is the extensive beer on tap selection, approximately 120, which are kept in six temperature controlled zones and served in appropriate glassware. The beer program also includes five beer flights. Each flight is $10 and contains a selection of five different beers. The flights are The Fruit Basket, Belgian Flight, California Flight, Eastside Flight, and the European Flight. I sampled the Belgian Flight, pictured above, which consisted of Timmerman’s Strawberry Lambic, Blanche De Bruxelles, Unibroue Maudite, Allagash Curieux and St. Bernardus Apt. 12. The pours are generous and it is a fun way to get to sample a variety of beers at a fair price.
The beer list runs the gamut, because with 120 beers, they are not going to all be beer-geek obscurities. The list contains mass market crowd-pleasers such as Pabst, Pacifico and Stella, major US microbrews such as Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, as well as a wide selection of craft imports such as Delirium Tremens from Belgium and American craft beers like Ommegang's Hennepin Saison, Racer 5 and Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale.
The SmithHouse Burger (above) is made with Vintage Blend beef and a bone marrow and parmesan crust. The burger ($14) was prepared medium rare, as asked, and was served with pickles on the side and a large bag of herb and parmesan dusted french fries (below). The burger came with lettuce and a healthy amount of dressing, so much so that when I took a bite a lot of liquid landed on my plate. This is a burger that certainly requires a napkin.
The beer list is extensive enough to find something appealing for a wide spectrum of beer lovers or novices. There are even five custom booths (like at City Tavern in Culver City) that have a selection of beer on tap right at the table. That is a fun innovation that is great for groups.
SmithHouse is basically upscale bar food in a comfortable environment with a way better beer and cocktail selection than you would ever expect in a place with a dozen flat screen TVs showing sports. It's less of a culinary destination than a cheerful and easygoing spot to relax and enjoy a drink with friends. If you are looking to see Sosa's culinary wizardry, than neither this nor the Malibu Inn (Sosa's other local consulting gig) will give you that experience. The prices are fair, the beer selection is unlike anything else on the Westside, and its convenient location is likely to keep it busy. If Verdugo Bar and Houston's had a love child and hired Space Craft to design a home, this might be it.
On the evening I visited the cocktail I ordered was the first one my bartender had made all night, which isn't surprising considering the beer focus of the establishment. The cocktail program has been designed by some of the best in the business, so it is worth exploring.
Signature Cocktails by Jason Bran, Damian Windsor & Simon Ford:
pimm's no.1, citrus tea, lemon grass
zacapa rum, lemon, orange, vanilla, passion fruit
don julio blanco, jalapeño sauce, cucumber, lime, salt
tanqueray gin, lime, grapefruit, honey, soda
Black N' Bulleit
bulleit bourbon, cassis, blackberries, orange
absolut orient apple vodka, apple juice, lime, cinnamon
The Bitter Lady
plymouth gin, campari, lemon, honey, egg white
absolut wild tea vodka, cantaloupe, lime
bombay dry gin, maraschino, crème yvette, lemon
plymouth gin, champagne, lemon
hennessy vs cognac, cointreau, lemon
absolut vodka, ginger beer, lime juice
bulleit rye, carpano antica, angostura bitters
bulleit bourbon, angostura bitters
SmithHouse: 10351 Santa Monica Blvd. at Beverly Glen, Century City, Phone: (310) 432-4360 Website: www.smithhousela.com