Atrium LA is a culinary vacation

At one of L.A.’s newer restaurants, Atrium LA, Executive Chef Hunter Pritchett creatively uses local ingredients to make classic fare with a fusion of LA’s different cultures. Bread and corn are enhanced with Korean flavors, salads have Middle Eastern spices, chops are Japanese inspired and desserts become creative Mexican treats.

Located on Vermont Avenue, the entrance can be a little tricky, as the owners redeveloped a long brick breezeway between two buildings, leading from the street to the Skylight Theater. Some tables, umbrellas, potted plants and trees and strings of white lights in the narrow area make a festive al fresco dining space. If you drive by, you might pass right by it, just like I did the first time.

Inside, a brick-clad dining room with sage green velvet booths and a curved bar serve as the room’s centerpiece. General manager Cesar Lopapa opened Short Order with Nancy Silverton and Amy Pressman at the Original Farmers Market in 2012. Every restaurant he opens always becomes the “talk of the town.”

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A favorite dish is the thick and crusty grilled Bub and Grandma’s focaccia bread glistening with Hemet buckwheat honey and served with kimchi butter. Pritchett’s unique Brentwood corn is different from elote, as he takes an ear of corn and roasts it over an open grill and coats it with a fusion of Korean ingredients. The cob is cut into thin and long curved pieces. As with ribs, this corn is finger licking good and went well with an Aperol Spritz cocktail.

Moving on to the next course, we chose one of the most colorful artistic dishes, the hamachi crudo. It arrived with sliced cucumbers, watermelon radish, small slices of fish and peaches. On top was a swirl of tangy orange leche de tigre.

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A pasta favorite was the hand rolled, short and twisted Trofie pasta covered with a slightly spicy miso-heirloom tomato sauce and topped with a savory egg stracciatella.

The vegetarian grilled cauliflower shawarma served with a Middle Eastern pistachio zhoug (pesto) and the Armenian salad made with ancient grains, pickled dates and layers of soft, thin unleavened lavash flatbread was also a winner.

Meat eaters will enjoy the dry-aged Flannery beef dusted in spices and black garlic before barbecued on the grill. It’s served with grilled summer vegetables. My husband’s east-meets-west, katsu-style, panko breaded fried pork chop was large and hearty, and it was topped with tangy cabbage and a dark brown semi-sweet sauce. Although some of the meat was too crispy, the meat along the bone was thicker and more tender.

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For dessert, try a unique red, white and blue Mexican ice pop called paleta, which is made from blueberry, coconut, lime and strawberry juices. Dehydrated strawberries, coconut flakes and basil crystals elevated this dessert. Another favorite was the summer peach sherbert with sweet corn ganache, blueberry ice and crunchy corn nuts.

Pritchett’s innovative cuisine takes guests on an international culinary vacation. $$ Open for weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Happy hour is from 4 to 6 p.m. Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. 1816 1⁄2 N. Vermont Ave. (323)607-6944.

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