April 18, 2017 by Gennefer Gross
Some days, life is a steaming pile of garbage. Other days, you find out your favorite chef in LA (who created your favorite burger at Plan Check), just quietly took over restaurant space stumbling distance from your house, and you get to sample his creations before it officially opens to the public on April 20th.
The place is Electric Owl and the Chef is Ernesto Uchimura, my burger idol and inventor of the absolutely brilliant ‘ketchup leather,’ which is essentially a fruit roll-up-esque square of solidified ketchup that gives you that sweet tomato taste without sogging up your bun and adds another layer of texture to your burger. If you can’t see the genius in this, you really need to re-examine your life.
Chef Ernesto’s latest spot doesn’t have a burger on the menu (yet), but his dishes are just as ingenious as he takes comfort food to the next level with a dash of imagination and a palette of bold flavors.
But before I delve into these creative works of culinary art, I have to comment on the space, which is the perfect backdrop for the handcrafted cuisine within. Modeled after an historic train station, it has an old world charm reminiscent of the roaring twenties. The open bar space in front, flanked by an antique clock tower and rich mahogany wood beckons you into its warm, inviting arms and ushers you back in time to a train car dining room, where you imagine bow-tie clad gentlemen and women in bright feather boas might dine en route to the Hamptons.It has an elegant yet cozy feel with plush booths and gilded ceilings and walls. You can almost hear the conductor calling out stops as the clank of cocktails and cacophony of silverware echoes in harmony with lively dinner conversation and laughter.
There’s an approachable opulence to it that encapsulates Chef Ernesto’s cooking perfectly, and I became instantly enchanted with it. As did my dinner companions, my husband, David, our son (who adores Chef Ernesto and has spent his last 3 birthdays at Plan Check) and our good friend, Kevin Carroll, who you can catch on the third and final season of The Leftovers and this season of The Catch, and who also happens to have impeccable taste in food (and clothes).We started off with the spicy mezcal cocktail, and I am not exaggerating in the least when I tell you that it’s the best spicy mezcal cocktail in LA, and the three of us drink an inordinate amount of spicy mezcal cocktails together. It’s smoky and sweet with a lingering kick that keeps you happily aware of its presence on your lips and salivating for more. This was the best foreplay to begin our decadent descent into the dulcet delights that would follow. Like this cornbread, freshly baked in the husk with ramps, Mexican truffle butter and corn jam. Savory with a hint of sweetness, fluffy morsels of corn float effortlessly over your tongue and melt into a creamy finish. Next, we opted for Cacio e Pepe potatoes, perched atop a bed of zesty ranch with fresh rosemary from the garden out back. This is where Chef Ernesto really shines. Hearty, rustic ingredients with a refined elegance. Every bite imparted luxurious flavors as velvety carbs coaxed you into carnal contentment. This dish was like a big bear hug for your soul. And a lightning rod to your libido because you’ll want to get down and dirty with these salacious spuds. Our tempting tryst continued with succulent steak tartare, where silky strands of meat slinked softly around crispy onion rings, creating a texture experience that tantalized every tastebud. From the crunch of deep fried breading to tender bites of beef, this is one of the most inventive tartares I’ve ever tasted. Truly original but with familiar flavors that felt like catching up with an old friend. We moved from land to sea with a half pound of the freshest snow crab legs I’ve had outside of the New England area, served on a bed of cucumber ice. Cucumber. Ice. Just another one of Chef Ernesto’s magical creations that tastes like you’re the master of your own island being hand fed freshly caught seafood by loin cloth-clad Adonises. Greek gods would definitely be serving this on Mount Olympus. Truly heavenly. Lush chunks of juicy crab gave us the perfect segue into the robust pasta that would follow, a crescendo of cavatelli, hand-rolled in house with braised lamb and fava beans in a lavish lemon butter sauce. Perfectly al dente with a powerful piquancy that permeated every spoonful (and trust me that you’ll want to eat this bowl of briny goodness with a spoon so you can drink in every last drop of sauce). The trio of textures and flavors in this dish alone make you wonder if there’s anything Chef Ernesto can’t do, and if you really need to diet or should just let yourself give into the call of delectable carbs. The last stop on this outstanding odyssey was this beautiful monstrosity of candied meringue with fresh berries and tarragon powder. I usually steer clear of dessert since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I couldn’t get enough of this picturesque Pavlova, scraping my spoon across the chocolate-coated plate while bittersweet bursts of tarragon sent my senses into a tailspin of pure, unadulterated pleasure. Maybe this is what people mean when they say that eating sweets mimics an orgasm because I definitely needed a cigarette afterward. And I don’t even smoke.
The Electric Owl is an aptly named hootenanny of intoxicating treats that electrify the body and satisfy the soul. An unmatched experience I plan to put on repeat to my heart’s content. ALL ABOARD!
The Electric Owl
1451 N. Gardner Street
Los Angeles, CA 90046