Thursday, January 19, 2012
Follow the sign to Sunny Spot, the latest partnership between Dave Reiss and Chef Roy Choi who previously collaborated at A-Frame and the Alibi Room. Sunny Spot occupies the former home of Beachwood, where Abbot Kinney spills into Washington Blvd. Choi has excised any ghosts of chefs past, including Jamie Lauren, with his new Caribbean menu. Brian Butler created the cocktail list and has also curated the largest selection of rum on the Westside. The restaurant website describes Sunny Spot as "that place where everyday is a holiday and food makes you smile."
If you begin your visit with a cocktail, and you should, the Chilcano Bay is an excellent way to start. It is made with Pisco, lime juice, ginger, lemongrass and Fernet Branca.
The Yuca Fries ($4) are wonderfully crunchy and are served with a tangy spicy sauce "banana thai basil ketchup." We began eating them before this photo was taken as we were hungry and they looked so appetizing.
Enjoyable but not as stellar as the yuca fries, the Sweet and Salty Fried Plantains are smaller than the yuca fries, crispy and a little sweet. These are also only $4, so why choose, get both. The pricing at Sunny Spot is very accessible and makes ordering many plates to share a reasonable strategy both from a variety and a budgetary perspective.
The "What a Jerk Wings" are double coated and double fried chicken wings. They are a little too crunchy, for chicken wings.
Perhaps the best item on the menu may be the Whole Snapper ($35), which is known on the menu as "Yeah, I'm Staring Atchu Fish." The fish is served whole with ginger oil, lime and chili vinegar. The snapper was perfectly cooked and each bite had so much flavor our dining party fought over the choicest bits including the cheeks; the fish bones were picked clean when we were done.
I found the broiled Hamachi Collar ($14) to be a little spicy. It was prepared with garlic thyme butter, lime, and a banana chili glaze. While enjoyable it paled in comparison to the whole snapper which preceded it; I prefer the version found at traditional Japanese restaurants.
The Bijou with rum is one of my favorite cocktails I have had of late. Typically made with gin, vermouth and chartreuse, Butler substituted rum for the gin and a great cocktail got even better. The Bijou is boozy, has layers of flavor and is highly recommended.
Yellow Salty Rice doesn't sound very interesting yet we ordered seconds. There is something addictive about this yellow rice that beckons for just one more spoonful. If it makes you thirsty for another of Butler's cocktails, that is just an added bonus.
Slow Roasted Goat ($15) is described as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) on the menu and while it may not quite deserve that moniker, it is well worth ordering. The tasty goat is served with pickled mango and would be a good introduction to the meat for goat-virgins.
All of the interior and exterior spaces have been redone. Below, the firepits that used to be outside have gone and the patio is now more of a comfortable and casual seating area.
In the main dining room, which is known as the Rum Den, a wall was removed, which really opens up the space. This room contains a bar dedicated to sipping rums and a table in the corner referred to as the "Bird Cage". My favorite of the three dining areas is the "Front Room", perhaps for its proximity to the bar as well as for the communal tables, which have a lot of room; perfect for sharing tons of small plates.
Only the Rum Den takes reservations so two thirds of Sunny Spot is for walk-ins, which makes it easy to stop by and have a drink or a whole meal, depending on your mood and not worry about waiting hours for a seat to open up. I recommend trying several of the sipping rums as well. The Rhum Barbancourt 15 year from Haiti is something special, but there are tons of gems on the menu. So check it our for yourself and see if the experience "makes you smile."
Sunny Spot: 822 Washington Blvd @ Abbot Kinney. Phone: 310.448.8884 | http://sunnyspotvenice.com/