Thursday, February 6, 2014

First Thoughts: Roadhouse LA, Open This Week

Roadhouse LA is an acclaimed New York chef's take on modern, upscale barbeque, with touches of Mediterranean and shades of fine dining - and is located in a comedy club. Yep, you read that correctly: the newest venture from Umami mastermind Adam Fleischman, who this time teams with former Hill Country/Fatty 'Cue Chef Robbie Richter, is located in the fore of Melrose's Improv. It might just be Fleischman's most brash undertaking yet. The man may rapidly be morphing into LA's Danny Meyer (he has two other openings THIS QUARTER - including the chocolate fried chicken joint, Choco Chicken), but none of his previous ventures included such peculiar ingredients, in and out of the kitchen. Roadhouse LA is no bunt. They're pointing like the Babe and swinging for the friggin' fences.

The peculiarities aside, I know what you're thinking: GOD DAMNIT, SHUT UP ALREADY! IS THE FOOD ANY GOOD OR WHAT? Well, I would say, yes. Mainly.

First, let's start with... the starters. Definitely order the House-Cured Hunan Bacon wraps. Both cured and smoked in house, this dish really demonstrates Roadhouse's range by melding three cuisines -- Thai, American BBQ and bacon cuisine -- by putting a twist on a classic Asian lettuce wrap dish. But this one comes packed with szechwan peppercorn-spiced bacon! And rice noodles and a muted-spiced tiger salad. A must order for a bacon lover. Also recommended: the Chicken Wings. Now, I know what you're thinking: Chicken Wings? Ahh, real original! I'm just bored saying, 'chicken wings.' I get that. I rarely order chicken wings. Roadhouse LA's are worth ordering though. We're talking barbecued whole wings (which seem to be so in vogue these days -- either because people are getting lazy cutting them down or they actually want to provide more meat, you decide) marinated in a ginger molasses-fish sauce combo. The result? Tasty, delicate wings. My dining partner proclaimed them her new favorite L.A. wings. It also comes with a delicious and cooling side celery and parmesan salad that reminds you you aren't at your alcoholic Southern uncle's favorite bbq joint. They do things with a little more deft in these here parts.

Now, for the entrees. I'll kick off with the two entrees I'd steer away from: the Brooklyn Brisket "sandwich" and the chicken. I love brisket. It's usually my favorite thing on a BBQ spot's menu. I feel like Roadhouse went a little too cutesy with their presentation though. It's a "make your own" sandwich plate that comes with meat, housemade cheddar fondue, Texas toast and all the accoutrements. They don't give you a ton of meat though - and it costs $19. If I'm spending $19 on a BBQ Brisket sandwich,  from Brooklyn or from Rancho Cucamonga, how about you take the time to make it for me? And fill it with meat. Similarly, the Royal Jerk Chicken entree, which is award-winning, wasn't bad. But it didn't stick out like the Chicken Wings. I'd stick with the poultry appetizer.

What you must order: THE LAMB. Order it. Shut up, you don't like lamb! That's a stupid thing to say. And even if you do, ORDER THE LAMB. It was succulent. And tender. Tender like a kindergarten teacher. Roadhouse serves both the shoulder and rib. It's seasoned with a ton of Mediterranean spices that I can't spell and you wouldn't be able to pronounce. And then smoked for ever. The result is some of the best lamb, BBQ or otherwise, this dude's ever had. Also recommended orders: the full-bodied, smoky and porky Pork Ribs (that come with sesame seed-studded watermelon) and the Crispy Pig, which is exactly what its name hints. Although I didn't sample it upon my first visit, the Burnt End Patty Melt sounds enticing as well.

So, there you have it. Lots of hits and only a few misses at the new Roadhouse LA. I really admire Fleischman/Richter for really going out on a limb with this project/cuisine. At a comedy club no less. Certainly the food is a major step forward for The Improv and a great addition to the Melrose neighborhood. It will be interesting to see how locals and stand-ups react.

Roadhouse LA
8162 Melrose Avenue


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