Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Hatfield's is easily now my favorite restaurant in LA. Headed by Quinn and Karen Hatfield, Hatfield's features local and seasonal market ingredients. High ceilings, smart lighting, and pockets of privacy make this space an ideal restaurant for any occasion, from casual to fine. A la carte dinner prices may limit this spot to special occasions, but their prix fixe menus make things a little bit more reasonably priced and get you the most bang for your buck.

With a low-volume soundtrack that featured singer-songwriters strumming casual licks and laid-back beats, the music also lent itself to a feeling of friendly dining. The open kitchen is huge and prominent.

The large see-through windows and doors mute the activity of the well-orchestrated kitchen, but leaves you feeling like you were invited to a friend's house. In case you haven't noticed, I'm a huge fan of the restaurant's setup.

My family and I were fortunate enough to eat here the night before New Year's Eve to celebrate the end to a great year. We were also fortunate enough to enjoy a 10-course tasting menu that was, surprisingly, very diabetic friendly. Things were healthy, fresh, and light on the carbs, which left my family feeling perfectly satisfied by the end of the meal.

The meal started off with some fresh bread and butter topped with chives, salt, and pepper. The chives added a nice kick and the pepper added a good depth to what would have otherwise been a standard block of butter.

The amuse was a House-Cured Salmon, Cucumber Yogurt, and Crispy Potatoes. The salmon melted in my mouth and blended well with the Mediterranean tzatziki-like cucumber yogurt, while the crispy potatoes added a nice crunch with each chew. Refreshing and light, as was the next course.

The second I heard the Hiramasa with Roasted Anaheim Chili, Crispy Shallots, and a Meyer Lemon Crème Fraîche being described, I knew I would like it because I love yellowtail and I love crudos with citrus (probably because I love ceviche so much). This dish was even lighter and more refreshing than the amuse. The tempered acidity of the meyer lemon in crème fraîche form was perfect with the fresh fish and light heat from the chili. The crispy shallots added that same texture from the amuse, but also briefly contributed to the dish's hints at ceviche-like flavors.

Next was the Warm Cuttlefish Salad with Maitake Mushrooms, Artichoke Chips, Arugula, and a Sunchoke Puree. This dish was a great segue from cold to what would eventually be the hot food in the tasting menu. I wasn't a huge fan of the texture of the cuttlefish, but the texture went well with the crispy artichoke chips. The arugula added a light bitterness and the earthy maitakes connected the cuttlefish with the rooted sunchoke puree.

The Butternut Squash Flan with a Shiitake-Coconut Broth and a Sweetbread Skewer was insanely good. This was hands down my favorite dish. There were so many flavors packed in this small bowl that I couldn't wrap my head around the entire concept until I had my last drop of this flan/soup/curry concoction. Somehow, the chef thought to balance out the sweetness of butternut squash with the more neutral flavor of a flan/panna cotta, and to balance out the sweetness of a coconut broth with the earthy, but also sweet, flavor of shiitakes. Each slurp of this was mind-blowing, and I think the disproportionality of the single-bite sweetbread skewer to the broth/flan was purposeful in a way to showcase the broth/flan. Really, really good.

The Seared Diver Scallop with Braised Celery, Apple Foam, and a Parsnip Puree also contributed some interesting flavors to the meal. The slightly crunchy braised celery added a nice texture and flavor to the beautifully seared scallop and light apple foam. The bright flavors from the apple and celery went well with the scallop, but were grounded by the parsnip puree base. The brief accents of parsley also helped to bring back the bright apple and celery flavors.

Next up, the Braised Chicken and Foie Gras with Brussel Sprout Leaves, Red Flame Grapes, Trumpet Mushrooms, a Cauliflower Puree and Red Flame Grape Jus. The name is long and complicated, but the flavors were clean and comforting. The chicken melted in my mouth just seconds after the foie gras did, and the sweetness of the grapes balanced well with the still-crunchy, slightly bitter brussel sprout leaves. The sweet jus worked well with the cauliflower base and the restrained use of trumpet mushrooms centered the dish. Another knockout.

At this point in the meal, I was beginning to wonder when there would be a dish that wasn't crazy delicious. The next dish did nothing to fulfill that curiosity. Everything just kept on being ridiculously freaking delicious.

The Pork Belly with Smoked Broccolini, Meyer Lemon, and a White Bean Puree was beautiful. I love pork belly, and pork belly that's presented so elegantly always makes me laugh. I grew up on slabs of pork belly spewing grease on an open grill. Dishes like this always make me wonder if the well-presented pig grew up on a chateau while the greasy pig grew up in a deep-frier. Either way, I love them both. This particular pork belly was cut into a perfectly cubed piece of perfectly cooked pork. The sweet acidity of the meyer lemon shone bright until it was tempered by the smokey and bitter broccolini and the white bean puree. This was the heaviest dish of the batch, but the meyer lemon made the dish feel like it wasn't.

The second heaviest dish, and the last entree, was the Wagyu Flat Iron Steak with Fried Onions, Swiss Chard, Hon Shimeji Mushrooms, and a Vanilla Scented Parsnip Puree, which also didn't feel heavy at all. Right when I thought there couldn't be any other purees that night, out came the ingenious vanilla scented parsnip puree. The wagyu was cooked and seasoned really well, and the slight sweetness of the puree elevated the sweetness of the hon shimejis and the bitterness of the chard. The fried onions added quick accents of acidity and texture to each bite. Another great dish.

As if to gently introduce you to the inevitable realm of sweets, the Apple Slush with a Wheat Beer Zabaglione and a Florentine Tuile was light, refreshing, and barely sweet. The cool tartness of the apple slush quickly melted into a creamy zabaglione that only had a subtle aftertaste of wheat beer, almost like a deconstructed alcoholic cider. The tuile added an optional crunch.

My favorite dessert of the night was the Bittersweet Chocolate Gelato, Toffee Brittle, and a Chocolate and Caramel Cake. The smooth, bitter gelato balanced well with the crunchy toffee brittle, and on the other side of the plate, the caramel cake tasted like a sturdier scoop of Bi-Rite's salted caramel ice cream. As I ate this dish, I found myself following the brushstroke of the caramel, starting at the left with the gelato, scraping up remnants of caramel in the middle, and finishing with the caramel cake at the right. It's like the dessert outsmarted me.

The final dessert was a three-part tribute to the spectrum of chocolate from sweet to bitter: Mexican Chocolate Milkshake, Chocolate Dusted Beignet, and a Venezuelan Chocolate Fondue. The milkshake was like a chocolate horchata with only enough to entertain two good sips from the straw. The beignet was fluffy and sweet and went well with the dark and more bitter fondue. Eating one after the other brought a new appreciation for the breadth of chocolate.

The night rounded off with a last few bites of restrained sweetness. The Apple Cider Jellies were simple and straightforward and were a nice alternative to peppermint candies.

Other than the apparent Tilth-like themes of local freshness, quality ingredients, and seasonal food, that night's tasting menu showcased Hatfield's attention to complementing textures and flavors, as well as their use of creative alternatives to heavier, starchier, and more traditional components (i.e., a variety of flavorful purees in lieu of a base of potato mash). The dishes here also play a lot with sweet and savory, especially in dishes that are traditionally strictly savory. Hatfield's doesn't have dishes as showy and crazy as places with exploding olives, anti-griddles, and nitrogen-infused pearl gelee lollipops, but it definitely has a way of introducing new flavor profiles and reintroducing familiar ingredients to modern cuisine. A meal hasn't pitched a perfect game like this in a while.

Whenever I have the money and occasion to go to Hatfield's again, I have no doubt in my mind that I will jump at the opportunity. If this spot isn't already on your list, add it, and save up for it. It's worth it.

6703 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 935-2977

GET: The Tasting Menu.


  1. Matt and I are going this month. No tasting menu, though. Too many ickies for Matt. I'm so excited.

  2. Sweet! Let me know what you get/think.

  3. uh oh. just went to hatfield's w foodjetaime and darindines and ate the EXACT SAME MENU (+ a few extra desserts). We had a great time but... the food was just okay? I've been to hatfield's before and have had much better food so perhaps i was being too critical? In any case, the cuttlefish salad was amazing as was the sweetbread nugget w soup & flan... but i found everything else too one-dimensional. the bread and butter was darn good though haha

  4. I can see how it could be one-dimensional, but I actually think it's more that the courses tend to be simple, clean, and not over-thought. In terms of flavors though, I really don't think they were one-dimensional. I think they managed to have a really beautiful and subtle balancing of flavors with most of their dishes. And on top of all that, it was menu that didn't rely on too much oil, salt, carbs, fat, or butter, which I found pretty amazing.

    Agree to disagree I guess? Hahaha.

  5. agree to disagree :) though i haven't loss faith in Hatfield's yet-- at one point they were in my top 5 restaurants in LA. definitely deserves another shot or two.


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