A free-form mural at the entrance welcomes patrons to Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails. Talented visual artist and designer Gregory Siff was commissioned to paint the edgy abstract of Sunset Boulevard. He wrote quotes from people he overheard while working in the restaurant, including hundreds of poignant and whimsical questions, statements and requests. The motif continues in the dining room.
I met a group of friends at a table near the mural to sample “Top Chef” Season 9 fan favorite Chris Crary’s new summer menu.
We snacked on spiced fried chickpeas and enjoyed Kentucky Mules made with Makers Mark bourbon, lime juice, spicy ginger syrup, Angostura bitters and seltzer water. My friend raved about the Red Dragon cocktail with Bacardi Dragon Berry, freshly pressed lime juice, muddled strawberries and a pinch of fresh mint. I really enjoyed the Hornet’s Ankles cocktail made with Avion Blanco tequila, lime juice and house-blended clover honey syrup. It’s a twist on the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail. As we enjoyed the drinks, we toured the restaurant and lounge.
A huge basement is located under the bar. A metal floor near the bar can be pulled up, revealing a stairway leading to two walk-in refrigerators, a dry pantry and wine cellar. When the building formerly housed the Coconut Teaszer nightclub in the 1980s, the area had a winding staircase and was called The Crooked Bar.
Hyde started down the street as a beloved celebrity club/lounge popular during the late hours. It was a small, intimate and private setting where Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears and Nicky Hilton entertained friends.
When Michael Mena XIV closed its doors, Hyde moved to the site at the corner of Sunset and Laurel Canyon boulevards, and hired executive chef Chris Crary to head the kitchen.
The interior was design by Waldo Fernandez and art collector Guy Hepner. Huge photos are displayed of Elton John playing piano to a sold out stadium crowd, and David Bowie sitting in a chair with a joyful large dog standing on its back legs. Two cozy fireplace areas are ideal for intimate gatherings.
Crary knew he wanted to be a chef at the age of 12 while helping his grandmother in the kitchen and eating her Southern food. When the restaurant space was being renovated before Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails opened, Crary asked the contractors if he could keep the old wood flooring. He sanded, stained and glued pieces together to make serving pieces for his creative fare.
Crary was formerly with The Viceroy and Ocean 41 before coming to Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails on the Sunset Strip. He was cast on Bravo’s “Top Chef”. How could they not select him? Not only is he an incredibly talented chef, he is extremely handsome. While on “Top Chef” Season 9 in Texas, he made it to the group of Top 16 chefs, and was voted fan favorite.
The Hyde is known for its nightclub environment, and now with Crary, it is becoming a foodie dining destination. We started with a colorful plate of peaches and burrata with curled prosciutto. The sweet grilled farmer’s peaches were topped with verdant pesto, toasted pine nuts and thin slices of pretzel bread.
“Mostly everything is made in-house, except the burrata,” Crary said. “The burrata is from Italy. We bake the brioche and breads.”
Crary’s street tacos, priced at $3 on Tuesdays, are delicious. He makes four varieties each week. For the carnitas tacos, Crary uses pork butt roasted slowly at 250 degrees for more than nine hours. His halibut tacos are topped with a delicious lime slaw, and his carne asada is spiked with zesty creme fraiche.
I also enjoyed the seared ahi tuna with radish, heirloom tomato, avocado puree, basil and compressed watermelon. Crary places watermelon cubes in a bag with soy and sriracha sauces and honey. He vacuum seals the bag to infuse the flavors before serving the bright red watermelon with the ahi. Another seafood inspired dish is fried calamari with sundried tomatoes, pepperoncini, parsley, citrus and wholegrain mustard.
Entrées include a sliced 14-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak with crispy smashed fingerling potatoes and brick colored walnut romesco sauce for dipping. Locally-caught black cod is served with miso cauliflower, kumquat puree and crispy puffed rice.
My favorite dish was Crary’s simple and pure chicken Bolognese with melted parmesan cheese. It had less fat than mac-and-cheese, yet was so comforting.
Side dishes include corn crowdie with pistachio, chile, buttermilk, diced jalepeños and herbs decorated with chile limon popcorn. Another side dish offered is Brussels sprouts marinated in sherry and honey before being flashed fried and drizzled with almonds and dates.
Guests must try the cinnamon spiced milk with Crary’s brown butter chocolate chip cookies and a demitasse of espresso. Crary loves to prepare deconstructed desserts that include s’mores with a large brownie cake smothered with fudge sauce. He tops it with crushed graham crackers, marshmallows and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. His deconstructed lemon tart features meringue peaks, lemon curd and a sprinkling of crumbled pie tart crust.
Could this be the quintessential Los Angeles restaurant attached to one of the hottest nightclubs? Only time will tell, but with Crary at the helm, chances are pretty darn good.
Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails serves brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner begins at 7 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday; 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.
Every other Tuesday, a comedy show is held at 8 p.m. with five comedians and a host. A $20 standing room entrance fee includes admission and one beverage. A $30 three-course prix fixe menu is also available. 8117 Sunset Blvd. (323)940-1650.
This article was published in the August 20, 2015 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.