Scratch Bar – Delightful Surprises on Every Plate

DSC_0729Stepping into the patio of Scratch Bar on Restaurant Row on La Cienega Blvd. in Beverly Hills, I looked around and noticed that every staff member looked like they are represented by l.a. models. I was handed a flute of Prosecco by Joe, a handsome man with stunning blue eyes, and led into the restaurant to sit at the bar counter in a comfortable leather chair.

Celebrating their one-year birthday, owner and General Manager Dario Danesh and Owner/Chef/Proprietor Phillip Frankland Lee invited a group of foodies to help them all celebrate the restaurant’s anniversary.

The evening was full of delightful surprises. Chef Phillip stood behind the corner of the bar greeting guests while preparing to make an interactive 8-course dinner right before our eyes. He told us he would be preparing 90% of the dishes at the bar.

The dashing bartender Chase, enticed me to drink a Lucky Charm cocktail. He explained that it’s a

Chase mixes great cocktails.
Chase mixes great cocktails.

version of a mojito, only better. Chase poured shots of sake, with lime juice, muddled mint, a pinch of salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper to give a tingle on my lips.

Chase made a Bangkok Dangerous cocktail for my friend. It had two types of sake with lemon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, pineapple juice and a pinch of salt. She loved it.
For those who want a non-alcohol drink, try the Scratch ginger beer.

In front of our place setting was a menu with a description of the variety of small plates we would experience throughout the evening.

The first plate was actually a shot glass with a green mussel shooter. Chef Phillip told us to eat this in a three-step process. First, we were to take the skewer and bite into the sake enhanced green mussel. Then we were to throw back the unfiltered sake and lime juice. Last, we were instructed to skewer and poke the avocado mousse to find a sea urchin treasure surprise on the bottom.

DSC_0712I loved every part of this shooter. Even the sea urchin, which in the past I have said is an acquired taste. What a great start to a stellar evening.

Guests can come in for a la carte dining or be adventurous and allow Chef Phillip and his staff to surprise them with 14 courses at the Chefs Counter.

While watching Chef Phillip assemble a pork belly that looked like firm tofu, he added a raw oyster and poured a little coconut and chamomile broth. He shared with us that he is a local boy, born just blocks from the restaurant at Cedar Sinai Medical Center. He finished the dish with a tiny wedge of orange and puffed amaranth.

Joe the wine steward, served a luscious Pinot Noir with this dish. He told us he loves a good French Pinot Noir, because it’s the most versatile grape that pairs nicely with vegetables, birds and meats.

Next Chef Phillip lined up the tops to Korean hot boxes along the bar. He placed a crisp waffle circle on the bottom and topped it with whipped German potato salad, then chicken before drizzling it with a little maple syrup and micro greens.IMG_0203

As we took a bite and smiled with pleasure, Chef Philip enthusiastically prepared a newer vegan dish for us. It was a combination of various preparations of the cauliflower flower. He purees cauliflower, blackens cauliflower, marinates and dries the stems to resemble beef jerky. He tops this dish with pickled red onion and lime juice.

Chef Phillip doesn’t like to throw anything away, even cauliflower stems.

While enjoying the various flavors and textures of cauliflower, Chef Phillips told us that Michael Cimarusti (Providence and Connie and Ted’s) is his favorite chef in Los Angeles. “I interned for him at Providence,” Phillip told us. “I thought I kept my little area in the kitchen clean, however Cimarusti didn’t think so. One night he threw my cutting board at the wall,” Phillip said. “Cimarusti always told his chefs that you can’t make clean food in a dirty kitchen.” Chef Phillip thought that was so cool.

A plate with a cool glass rectangular top was presented to our place setting. Inside was a scoop of goat cheese that was in a sauna of smoking herbs. When lifted up, the smoke wafted into the restaurant. We were instructed to pick up a slice of freshly baked sourdough bread. Next, we were to spread the smoked goat cheese on the bread and add a swipe of dark olive puree and top with a few pickled vegetables. “Eat this like an open sandwich,” Chef Phillip said. The smoking under the glass gives the goat cheese a campfire essence.

He served his second favorite dish on the menu as we sipped an Italian blended wine from Tuscany with dark cherry and blackberry notes. Chef Phillip told us he takes half baking cylinders and par bakes the sourdough dough inside. Next, he scoops out grooves in the center, and fills it with bone marrow and bakes it again. When done, he tops this with pickled red onions, cayenne leaves and adds shimeji mushrooms from Japan. This dish was served on a decorative floor tile that the chef picks up at Home Depot. This dish offers a “wow” factor.

DSC_0721I loved the dry-hangar steak with roasted asparagus, and super sweet sugar blasted tomatoes.
The last surprise of the evening was when Chef Phillip’s supermodel wife, Margarita came out with dessert. She is the pastry chef at Scratch Bar. The two have known each other since Middle School in Tarzana, CA.

We finished with Margarita’s cayenne chocolate bar with raspberry jam and turmeric shortbread cookies. Margarita uses chia seeds, micro mints and olive oil to offer antioxidant elements.

Recently Scratch Bar opened for lunch service at 11:30 a.m. on Monday through Friday. Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. Order a la carte or pull up a stool to watch Chef Phillip craft 14 courses for $111 with a $40 optional beverage pairing. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. The restaurant is open seven nights a week by reservation. $$$ 111 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)289-8010.

Parts of this article were published in the August 7, 2014 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

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