Freddy Smalls opened up last week on Pico Blvd in West LA, just down the block from Mori Sushi. In a small lowprofile space that formerly housed El Serape, some big players have come together to create something special. The chef is Charlie Parker, who previously was the chef at the Cellar Door at Bonny Doon winery in Santa Cruz; consulting is Jeremy Fox, the former executive chef at Ubuntu. Also in the mix is Mario Orellana, formerly of Chimu, who has been consulting and cooking as well. Fox and Parker worked together at Manresa in Los Gatos, for their mentor Chef David Kinch.
I had the pleasure to eat at the Cellar Door several times when Parker was the chef and it was delicious and casual but perfectly executed. The atmosphere at Freddy Smalls is also low key and the menu is attractively priced, but most importantly the food is flavorful and not shy. With Fox associated with the restaurant some might assume that it is vegetarian. It is most certainly not; meat has a pride of place on the menu and some of the best dishes are nothing short of decadent.
Another key player in Freddy Smalls is manager David Fleisher, who previously played that role at Seven Grand. As such, it is no surprise that the cocktail list includes touches such as house-made tonic and grenadine. The cocktail list includes about a dozen choices, priced at $10 - $12, and among the highlights is the Mayberry Smash, made with Death’s Door Gin, fresh berries, sage honey, lemon juice and mint leaf garnish.
The Chicken Liver Mousse ($8) is served with crispy bread, red wine and shallot marmalade (center) and violet mustard (right). The mousse itself was rich and creamy and spread luxuriously over the warm toast. The marmalade was an unusual touch and and the mustard brought a sharper element to the dish. They brought more bread without us having to ask for it, when our waiter saw that we still had mousse left after finishing the toast.
Deviled Eggs have been having a very long moment in foodie circles, and the epicenter of their rennaisance has been at gastropubs. Here, they are Buffalo Deviled Eggs ($6), with crisp chicken skin, Point Reyes blue cheese and CP's Hot Sauce all incorporated to liven up the dish. The chicken skin was the hook and it got us to order the dish. The chicken skin was great, but overall the eggs were fine, not of note.
The pièce de résistance of the menu and our recent meal was the Reuben's Gluttony ($19). A board arrived at the table groaning with gluttonous delights including corned beef (more brisket style in my opinion), bone marrow, yorky pudding, kohlrabi kraut and a selection of mustards. The corned beef brisket was rather tasty and the yorky pudding when topped with bone marrow was outstanding. Overall only a shmear of mustard was left on the board when my hungry posse was done with it. A must order.
The Flash-Grilled Steak Tartare ($12) is topped by a smoked egg yolk, and is accompanied by Worcestershire fingerling potato chips. Incorporating Worcestershire sauce into the potato chips used to eat the tartare, rather than into the tartare itself, was an inspired idea. The smoky yolk mixed in nicely and enriched the dish. Another must order.
It wouldn't be a Jeremy Fox menu without some vegetable dishes. The Beets & Avocado ($9) was served on a bed of red quinoa, fuyu persimmon and pistachio nuts. A pleasing assortment of flavors and textures that also looked too good to eat.
The Mushroom and Farro Porridge ($16) is another vegetarian dish sure to please. The base is caramelized onion consomme, with winter vegetables, miner's lettuce and a slow cooked egg. A runny egg makes everything better and this dish tasted very meaty for a vegetarian option. Note that the egg is $3 additional (to the $13 base), but I consider it an essential ingredient.
The dessert menu is short and sweet with only three options. One stands out and practically demands to be ordered: Belgian Waffle ($8) served with grilled lady apple, bacon butter and bourbon-maple syrup. The bacon butter was served on the side for us and the waffle, grilled apple and bourbon maple syrup was a heady combination. It left us happy as we headed out into the winter's night.
Freddy Smalls is indeed small and is likely to be extremely popular once word gets out. So go now and beat the rush while you can. Good things do come in Smalls packages.
Freddy Smalls: 11520 W. Pico Blvd, West LA. Phone: 310.479.3000 | Website: www.freddysmalls.com