Al Fresco dining at The Front Yard

You know the saying – Three’s a charm? Over the weekend, I dined for a third time at The Front Yard restaurant attached to the Garland Hotel in North Hollywood. The first two times, we sat in a booth inside the dining room near the small, yet lively bar. This time we were seated out on the patio under twinkling strings of lights, near a cozy fireplace. I noticed a basket of rolled, plush blankets await for guests to drape for warmth when the evenings develop a slight chill.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The charming GM Mario-Leal Cruz Jr. welcomed us and excitedly shared a few of the new changes to the restaurant. They continue to tone down the 70s decor. There aren’t as many macrame hanging plant holders and the interior is more glamour Hollywood. They still have left elements of the 1970s-era hotel decor to honor legendary Hollywood actress, Beverly Garland. Her son, James, took over the property a few years ago and expanded The Garland into a sophisticated hotel with a new restaurant.

Executive Chef Larry Greenwood and General Manager Mario
Executive Chef Larry Greenwood and General Manager Mario

Another change is the Executive chef Chris Turano left and is now cooking in West Hollywood’s Sunset Marquis restaurant, Cavatina. Now at the helm is Executive Chef Larry Greenwood (LGO Hospitality, La Grande Orange Cafe and The Luggage Room in Pasadena and BOA Steakhouse) and chef de cuisine Jacob Smith (Bouchon Bistro Beverly Hills).

Chef Jacob Smith – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Greenwood and Smith both worked at STK Los Angeles. Greenwood noticed that on Smith’s resume and hired him to help create a more playful menu with items that include a PB & J jar. Don’t expect peanut butter, instead its a smooth chicken liver pate made with crushed hazelnuts. On top is a thick layer of Concord grape jelly. It arrives on a plate with toasted dark brown pumpernickel sliced bread and a cluster of seedless grapes. I’m not much of a chicken liver pate person, yet I loved this dish. Spreading the pate on thick pieces of bread, and topping it with the jelly and a few sliced grapes, softens the gamey taste profile.

PB & J at the Front Door - photo by Jill Weinlein
PB & J at the Front Door – photo by Jill Weinlein

Another whimsical dish is the peas and carrots gnocchi. Peas and carrots were big in the 70s, Greenwood makes this dish more elegant with a butterscotch carrot puree on the bottom and peas in their pod with  pea tendrils. The gnocchi is flash fried with carrots and a brown butter sauce to dazzle the dough with sweetness. Fried sage on top enhances the flavors. Kids will even eat their peas and carrots when prepared this way.

Elegant peas & carrots - photo by Jill Weinlein
Elegant peas & carrots – photo by Jill Weinlein

Order the dry aged prime NY steak with crumbled Moody blue cheese. Every steak should have crumbled cheese. It’s topped with bacon confit onions that are similar to onion rings, just not breaded, and arrive with a charred rim around the edges. This dish is drizzled with a grape gastrique and served with jumbo, smushed fingerling potatoes. They were a tad too salty to my liking, however the steak was outstanding.

A touch of heat in these brussle sprouts - photo by Jill Weinlein
A touch of heat in these brussels sprouts – photo by Jill Weinlein

Be sure to order the caramelized brussels sprouts spiked with a spoonful of chili sabal sauce, lime, yuzu crushed peanuts and fish sauce. It offers a pleasing amount of heat with each bite.

The quintessential dessert - photo by Jill Weinlein
The quintessential dessert – photo by Jill Weinlein

Desserts are worth every calorie, especially the large strawberry shortcake and lighter panna cotta with sliced peaches.

Be sure to sit out front at The Front Yard, a playful and inviting dining spot in the Valley.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. $$ 4222 Vineland Ave. (818)255-7290.

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