Fantastic Food at The FLATS

Walking into The FLATS, I scanned the bar to see if the hanging wicker chair in the corner was available. Located by a large window facing Wilshire Blvd., it’s the best seat in the house to swing and sip one of the clever cocktails made by Template Consulting’s Marcos Tello and The FLATS head barman Shaun Summers.

As my friend Carol handed me a white Russian cocktail to sip, I noticed the top was orange instead of a normal white color. This 1960s classic is updated with vodka, espresso liqueur, and house-made carrot cream, giving this drink an earthy sweetness. Near me, people were sipping a Hot Toddy comprised of Japanese whiskey, hot water, house-made winter spice cordial, lemon and orange juices.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

Looking up on the back wall, I admired the WRDSMTH typewriter mural with a piece of paper rolling up stating, “Aspire to inspire others and the universe will take note.” That sums up Michelin starred Executive Chef Paul Shoemaker and The FLATS owner and restaurateur Lisa Long.

Long isn’t a novice to the restaurant industry, celebrating thirty-years in the industry. I met her seven years ago when she opened Firenze Osteria with Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani and his best friend Jacopo Fellini. When she discovered the former Red Medicine space was available, she created a restaurant specializing in flatbread. When her chef left, she hired Shoemaker to take over the kitchen at The FLATS.

Shoemaker worked with Michelin star chef Alan Ducasse and the French Laundry team in Yountville, before coming down to Los Angeles to work at Water Grill and Providence with Chef Michael Cimarusti. While working at Joe Pytka’s Bastide, he earned himself a Michelin star.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

I first met this talented chef during the opening of INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table. The multi-sensory interactive dining experience included art, music and imaginative food. It was the first time I ate an edible “dime bag” made with translucent Japanese rice paper filled with powdered foie gras that was sweetened with cocoa puffs, pine nuts and carbonated caramel that offered a pop rocks candy experience. I remember placing the rice paper in my mouth, and discovering a textural whirlwind of melting, crunching and popping. Another treat I fondly remember were the crispy salmon skins topped with smoked salmon roe, a dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkle of Meyer lemon and micro celery. It was delicious.

Shoemaker prepares these creative appetizers at The FLATS plus adds a few more that include housemade soy mallows. These unique housemade mallows are ethereal and the wasabi peas on top give each one pizzazz. He dazzles fried olives with a whipped cremè fraiche and Meyer lemon gastrique dipping sauce. The long crispy Hen of the Woods mushrooms are served tempura style and enhanced with garlic water giving them an umami quality.

Shoemaker assembles a handful of seasonal salads that include his winter pear salad sprinkled with honey poached cranberries, cocoa, and goat cheese. His grilled Little Gem is adorned with avocado, pickled blueberries, Reggiano dressing, and brioche croutons.
Since The FLATS is located in the flats of Beverly Hills, the menu still features a variety of artisanal flatbread vegetarian and house-cured meat pizzas. They are made with in-house pizza dough and sauces.

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Friendly Service at The FLATS. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Biting into the FLAT’S Burger, I tasted the savoriness of bacon, Gruyere cheese and earthiness of the caramelized onions and rosemary aioli spread on the bun. This dish is served with hand-cut Kennebec fries. He also makes a pork belly burger called the Honey Boo Boo Burger that is intensified with whipped honey butter and a soft-ripened Robiola cheese made with cow’s, goat’s and sheep milk.

For those seeking pasta, there are two winning dishes, a vegetarian housemade Pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, tomatoes and parmesan cheese. The Maine lobster Bolognese is topped with a tomato sauce over the housemade Italian-style egg spaghetti alla chimera.

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The FLATS offers a variety of Flatbread. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Two other Italian dishes include meatballs bathed in tomato sauce, with burrata, arugula, and crispy ciabatta; and a meatless ricotta gnocchi dotted with macadamia nuts, sauteed spinach, tomatoes, and burgundy truffle.
Other vegetarian items include broccolini florets with a dripping of anchovy butter, and Brussels Sprouts sweetened with brown butter and honey dates. It’s elevated with cured egg yolks.

Seafood lovers will enjoy Shoemaker’s personal favorite, the Big Eye tuna tartar made with organic avocado, umeboshi (pickled plums) and smoked sesame. It’s served with fresh ciabatta. His Dungeness crab cake is heightened with pumpkin, currants and a cocoa and ginger reduction.

Desserts are created by Pastry Chef Raymond Morales and include gooey Valrhona chocolate brownies, crème fraiche cheesecake with pickled blueberries, and a carrot cake with whipped butter meringue.

Now with a more imaginative and inspiring menu, the universe has taken notice of Shoemaker’s skills at The FLATS. Open for lunch starting at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, parking is free in the lot on Gale Drive. Happy Hour starts at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and nightly from 11 p.m. to closing. Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. nightly. $$ 8400 Wilshire Blvd. (310)909-7549.

This review is also featured in the Nov. 16 issue of the Beverly Press.

Secret Supper Club INTRO – Art, Music, Food

On a nondescript strip of Lankershim Boulevard, next to the former Firenze Osteria, is a dance studio that has been transformed into a secret supper club with a dining room that seats 20 adventurous guests. Michelin-Star Chef Paul Shoemaker is busy in his new kitchen preparing a 12-course elegant dinner every Friday and Saturday evening. This is the newest interactive dining experience of art, music and food called INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table.
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A candlelit hallway leads to the main room where two ladies dressed in club-attire greet each guest with a flute of bubbly to sip while admiring artwork by painter Jens Schmidt.img_8367

My eyes were drawn to a painting on canvas titled “Hello World”. Schmidt’s art is reminiscent of early 20th century abstract masters, with heavy whimsical strokes in primary colors and secret messages.

Rob Ciancimino is one of the three masterminds behind INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table, along with Shoemaker and Manny Marroquin, multi Grammy Award winning mixer/engineer, and owner of the nearby, famed Larrabee Studios.

Esteemed chef Paul Shoemaker - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Esteemed chef Paul Shoemaker – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Ciancimino transformed the suburban Evolution dance studio into INTRO in about 30 days. He lifted up the flooring, removed the dance mirrors and painted the walls dark gray. “While removing the linoleum, we discovered wood flooring and reused the boards to make this long dining table in the center of the room,” Ciancimino said.

Music is soft at first, allowing people to introduce themselves and make conversation before guests take a seat to begin their two-hour culinary journey.

There is no menu so you must be an adventurous eater. Shoemaker enters the room with an amuse bouche and introduces himself to diners. This talented chef learned his skills while working with the acclaimed Executive Chef Alan Ducasse and Chef Thomas Keller at French Laundry before coming to LA to work with Michael Cimirusti at Providence. He cooked at Water Grill, Firefly and his own restaurant Savory. Shoemaker received a Michelin star while at Joe Pytka’s Bastide.

The focus on each course is to engage guests and tantalize the five senses. The dishes are very pretty and beyond one’s expectations.img_8304

A plate of focaccia with sweet butter arrives. I recommend saving this to enjoy with the pasta course, which comes later in the meal. The first course, presented on a beautiful wood plank, came with three edible cocktails. A white soup spoon was filled with a liquid gold ravioli consisted of bourbon cider foam with the essence of mint, lime and slight carbonation. A tiny martini glass filled with gin and tonic made with silver and gold fizz was garnished with green apple crisps. The last was a shot glass filled with a pink foam of sparkling champagne, beet juice, caviar, a raw oyster and passion fruit fizz. These three palate cleansers definitely awakened my senses.

Edible cocktails - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Edible cocktails – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Ciancimino introduced two wines chosen for the evening’s menu, a white and a red. Wine bottles are left on the table for guests to refill when desired. “The wines selected allow the food to speak,” Showmaker said.

The next course was a salmon amuse layered with complexity. A bite sized salmon skin was topped with smoked salmon roe and a dollop of creme fraiche. Next to this was a cone filled with whipped citrus cured salmon, honey and Meyer lemon. On top was a sprinkle of Togarashi spice mixture for a slight bite of heat.

A perfectly cooked scallop - Photo by Jill Weinlein
A perfectly cooked scallop – Photo by Jill Weinlein

The most unique course were two foie gras bites. The first was an edible “dime bag” made with translucent Japanese rice paper filled with powdered foie gras, cocoa nibs and puffed rice. I experienced a breakfast cereal essence, as the rice paper melted on my tongue. The second offering was whipped foie gras with apple butter that was topped with bubbly foam.

Another innovative dish was the bone marrow ravioli with black pearl and truffle mousse capped with shaved Parmesan Reggiano. Again, the one bite delivered a kaleidoscope of flavors.

The maple-enhanced, smoked pork belly had been cooked for hours to melt away the fat. It was dazzled with pumpkin puree, whipped crème fraiche, maple syrup and candy cocoa nibs.

Chef Shoemaker is originally from San Diego and now lives in Malibu. He has a friendly, surfer culture appearance, yet his dishes are classic French technique, fused with flavors from all over the globe.img_8325

The butter poached Maine lobster was purposely undercooked. “[That’s] the way lobster is supposed to be cooked,” Shoemaker said. It was served with ground basil and coral colored roe. Another seafood dish was one fresh scallop that was lightly torched and slicked with a housemade ponzu that took four days to ferment. It’s served with an avocado mousse and smoked black sesame seeds.

A piece of art - photo by Jill Weinlein
A piece of art – photo by Jill Weinlein

For a salad, Shoemaker transforms three variations of red beets into a visual work of art with red beet tartare, beets with whipped goat cheese and a slightly sweet beet macaron enhanced with passion fruit.

Halfway through the dinner, there is a ten-minute intermission to stretch your legs, visit the restroom, admire the art, or engage with someone at the other end of the table. Wine glasses clink, as diners are ready to sit back down for five more courses.

This pasta is incredible - Photo by Jill Weinlein
This pasta is incredible – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Remember earlier I suggested saving the focaccia? Now you can enjoy it with al dente pasta covered with a luscious truffle fondu sauce and shaved truffles. The bread is ideal for dipping in the luscious sauce.

For a surf and turf component, a beautiful slice of monk fish arrives with micro greens and a cocoa reduction with ginger sauce swirled on the plate. A butcher’s cut, prime hanger steak is perfectly cooked with a Bordelaise glaze and the most tender, cheesy potato fondue gratin. Absolute perfection.

Elegant Meat and Potatoes - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Elegant Meat and Potatoes – Photo by Jill Weinlein

The final two bites included a pour of Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port. The first plate had a nugget dusted in gold powder that resembled the consistency of Laffy Taffy. It’s made with passion fruit, ground macadamia nuts and a strawberry saffron gel.

The last sweet treat was a chocolate “Dead Tree” dessert prepared by pastry chef Raymond Morales. It’s a visually stunning dish made with Gianduja ganache, brown butter and handmade chocolate shaped trees.

Piece de la resistance - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Piece de la resistance – Photo by Jill Weinlein

INTRO is a multi-sensory dining experience that reinvents the craft of food, art and music every Friday and Saturday evening from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Reservations are required with a 24-hour cancellation policy. The chefs will do their best to accommodate any food allergies or alcohol restrictions if communicated in advance upon making a reservation. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The first course is served promptly at 8 p.m. The menu changes seasonally and often, due to the availability of the finest ingredients.

To make reservations visit http://www.ExperienceIntro.com 4200 Lankershim Blvd.