Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What To Order at the New smoke.oil.salt. on Melrose

Very few LA restaurant openings came with more hoopla than the recent introduction of Perfecto Rocher and Adam Fleischman's smoke.oil.salt. The pressure most certainly was on. Diners have been champing at the bit for the former Lazy Ox Cantina chef to return to a local kitchen. Add the fact that SOS moved into the former space of the much ballyhooed Angeli Caffe on a highly trafficked patch of Melrose. This was The Next Great Melrose Restaurant before even the scaffolding was removed.

Luckily, after a lengthy and incredibly convivial preview dinner (the most lively in recent memory), I am happy to report it certainly lives up to the hype. It's so authentically and deliciously Spanish I probably should have written 'hype' in Spanish. Unfortunately my Espanol lacks comparatively to its 9th Grade hey day - much like of most of what once made me cool. 

The restaurant is split in the middle by a staircase leading to a tattoo parlor (soooo Melrose), but SOS uses this division to its advantage. On the left is more of a formal dining room and to the right a rambunctious Barcelonian-like wine bar. You can order the entire menu on both sides, but the mood greatly varies. In all, the restaurant seats 60 and hopes to add a Chef's Table in the near future. 

The menu offers a plethora of Spanish tastes from vegetable tapas to traditional seafood dishes to grilled meats. There probably is not a more traditionally Spanish menu in all of Los Angeles. That does not mean it lacks innovation however. Chef Rocher takes these classics and adds modern touches, like the Sea Urchin Flan, which combines the city's it ingredient of the moment, presented in a stalwart fashion. Although this Flan has been the concentration of SOS chatter since it opened, I actually liked three other items from the dinner that I highly recommend you order...

Start with the Catalan Tomato Toast w/ Red and White Sausage. This isn't a complex dish by any means, but it just works. The toast is fresh and crunchy; the tomatoes crushed and sweet; the sausage chewy and housemade. Due to its simplicity, it's not the kind of dish I probably would have ordered if it weren't part of a Preview Dinner, but I am damn glad I had it - and will continue to have it on subsequent visits. Like a little, open-faced sausage grinder with Spanish pizazz.

It's almost illegal for a tapas restaurant not to offer a fried potato dish. Rarely, however, do the restaurants try to elevate the dish because, hell, fried potatoes and a little aioli taste pretty darn delicious by their lonesome. SOS decided to add a few layers to their rendition and the Braves Trancades are stellar. Perfectly fried potatoes (they go through multiple stages of freezing, cooking and frying) - crisp as the bill on a just bought New Era baseball cap. The potatoes are then topped with thin sheets of Serrano ham, chorizo AND a fried egg. The perfect sweet and salty app. Ideal for hangover cures and just about everything else.

smoke.oil.salt also features a giant BBQ smoker right off the main dining room section of the restaurant.  TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. I recommend the above pictured Pluma Iberica. Note: your serving will be much heartier than the Preview Dinner's. The pork filet is packed with smoky flavor and one of the tastier pieces of loin I've ever encountered. The smoked green onions and Xato sauce (a tasty cousin of Romesco) don't suck either. 

Also recommended: Calcots, Calamari. 

7274 Melrose Avenue
Dinner nightly 5:30-midnight, Wine Bar 5:30-2 a.m.