Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Larchmont Bungalow, Los Angeles CA

As much as I know I could eat The Griddle Café every day I was on vacation in Los Angeles, I love to try new places and as such limit myself to their gluttonous pancakes once per trip. Having already tried Toast, Doughboys, CiCi’s, La Provence, and Jack n’ Jills I turned to friends and the blogs for suggestions and one thing became evident quite quickly – a trip to Larchmont Bungalow was required for this year’s itinerary. Located in the upscale but largely quiet Larchmont area of Los Angeles, the cozy restaurant featuring plenty of local sourced and organic goodness had been referred to as everything from creative and cozy to a “hidden treasure” to the best breakfast in Southern California.

Awaking early as ever to an ongoing downpour the roads were surprisingly quiet and we made it to the small café shortly after opening. With only two other couples already seated and dining the sprawling store was largely empty and metered parking was plentiful. Walking in we were greeted by a lovely young woman named Jessica who showed us the menu and told us that when we were ready we could order at the counter. Taking a seat and browsing for moments it wouldn’t take long as we had already scouted the menu – what would take time was browsing the pastry case and the store full of knick knacks, salts, spices, coffees, and crafts.

With decisions made we placed our order – far too much food, expectedly, and returned to our seats to wait. Essentially a two person operation at the front of the house with two cooks in the kitchen things were relaxed and we sat listening to XM Coffee Shop radio (literally, I feel bad for bands pigeonholed here.) After a few moments beverages would arrive – two single origin coffees and two teas. For the coffee La Amistad Costa Rica, a rich smooth coffee with plenty of caramel and chocolate tones and the tea, Earl Grey Vanilla, a stunning black tea with citrus, vanilla, and floral notes. Pricey and without refills I will say this was the best tea outside of Robuchon’s La Colombe that I had on the whole trip.

Beginning first with two selections from the pastry cabinet, our first bites of Larchmont Bungalow would be from a “Classic” Cupcake. Similar to the Hostess original but all the more dense with cocoa and hefty whipped cream this was a great cupcake and quite large for the price.

More exciting than the cupcake would be the house made chocolate chip bread pudding muffin. Made with day old croissants soaked in custard and loaded with dark chocolate chips Jessica offered to warm the item before delivery – a great idea. Served with sides of whipped cream, fresh berries, and Nutella I can say that there was little “muffin” about this pudding aside from the shape and delivery. With flavors and textures all balanced nicely and pockets of chocolate dotting the rich bread the sides were hardly necessary – but they were added liberally largely because there are few things that can’t be made better with nutella or whipped cream. The berries, fresh as can be, were eaten separately – and with some whipped cream.

Moving on to the main courses, perhaps LB’s most well known item is the Red and Blue Velvet Pancakes. A “side” (half order) portion that consisted of three slices of “cake” each approximately the size of the chocolate cupcake I can honestly say this was perhaps the second best Red Velvet presentation I’ve ever had – cake, pancake, or cupcake. Ribboned with cream cheese icing and topped with homemade whipped cream plus candied walnuts and served with a side of natural maple syrup (warmed) the cakes themselves were dense, flavorful, and ample with cocoa tones while the cream cheese was faintly citrus. With the blue and red interestingly tasting slightly different – the blue sweeter – I liked that the taste was not over the top sweet – at least until we added some syrup which was actually a bit over the top.

Sharing around, the next order was the LB French Toast. Though perhaps a bit similar to the bread pudding these six triangles of buttery brioche were dipped in a vanilla egg wash and perfectly fried until crispy. Stuffed with Nutella and plantains and then topped with toasted hazelnuts and more Nutella the dish was additionally served with a side of warm house blended hazelnut syrup. Not quite custardized, but also not doughy, another wonderful dish.

The next option was again three full slices of brioche dipped in the same vanilla custard, but this time the presentation was Strawberry Tequila French Toast. Slightly more custard infused and soft, this set was topped with a handful or two of tequila laden strawberries, mango and honey cream, and paired with warm agave nectar. Sweet and ever so slightly savory I really liked this presentation, but not quite as much as the others.

The final main course was another fruited selection - Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes. A rather standard stack of three pillowy flapjacks topped with fresh strawberries plus that same lovely house made whipped cream, this dish was the only one that was vastly improved by its paired syrup – a lovely strawberry infused maple. Slightly crisp these pancakes reminded me strongly of the “cupcake” pancakes at Chicago’s Southport Grocery and Café.

Full and satisfied we settled the bill – a somewhat pricey $20 per person after tax and tip – and made our way back into the rain. With strong emphasis on local sourcing and quality ingredients I’d personally compare Larchmont Bungalow to Toast more than I would to some of the more gluttonous breakfast spots in Los Angeles, but with that said you can certainly get your sugar fix at Larchmont, just as we did, and enjoy breakfast in a lovely café that feels miles away from the glitz and glam of Hollywood.

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