October 18, 2012 by Gennefer Gross
As a consumer of fine food and drink, where I don’t bat an eye plunking down $12 bucks for an artisan cocktail, I am often dazzled by modern cooking techniques. Dusts and foams and geometrically-shaped cubes of meat, carefully arranged with the flair of a great artist, excite and inspire me. But, while these painstakingly prepped morsels are visually stunning, I often find myself craving heartier flavors. The kinds of dishes that aren’t typically pretty on the plate (biscuits sloppily smothered with sausage gravy or a heaping pile of shrimp and grits) but deliver on big, robust tastes that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Enter The Hart and the Hunter, the brick and mortar re-imagination of the popular Venice pop-up, Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, now residing inside the Palihotel in West Hollywood where Chefs Kris Tominaga and Brian Dunsmoor are serving up Southern-influenced comfort foods. But The Hart and the Hunter is not without its artistry, taking a refined approach to classic dishes like fried green tomatoes and chicken livers and marrying them with the Farmer’s Market-fresh philosophy that underscores most SoCal eateries. The result is a locally-sourced menu where provincial fare is punctuated by produce and presented on flowery, eclectic plates you might find in your Grandma’s house.
Currently open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner (with a weekend brunch menu in the works), The Hart and The Hunter bids you a warm welcome with a brightly lit space and cheery sunflowers atop mismatched wooden tables, reminiscent of a shabby chic Southern dining room. Sip a deftly-brewed Americano from Handsome Coffee Roasters while you nibble on one of their freshly-baked treats like a flaky caramel apple dumpling or a chewy peanut butter marshmallow cookie, which tastes like the luscious love child of Jif and a Rice Krispie’s treat. And on the savory side of the spectrum, their avocado toast with EVOO and sea salt on country bread is effortlessly executed to perfection.
At suppertime, the chicken cracklins with hot pepper vinegar capture the essence of the holidays, when you peel crispy layers of skin off the turkey as it emerges from the oven, savoring the rich, complex flavors imparted from hours of slow-cooking. The smoked trout platter is rustic decadence in a jar, where perfectly seasoned trout is paired with house-cured pickled onions, capers and crunchy avocado toast. And the Brussels sprout and peanut salad with thick cuts of bacon, aged cheddar and sherry vinaigrette is the epitome of simple indulgence that will leave you the most satisfied you’ve ever been from a mound of leafy greens.
Uncomplicated and delicious with a corner store vibe and a staff that makes you feel like you’ve been invited into their home, Brian and Kris have created a comfortable oasis that is a cross between a swank Melrose spot and a chill Venice pad, due in large part to the dynamic between the duo themselves. Longtime pals whose unmistakable chemistry in the kitchen translates onto the plate proves what the South has always known — food cooked with love (and a little good, old-fashioned horseplay) just tastes better.
The Hart and The Hunter | 7950 Melrose Avenue | West Hollywood, CA 90046