I have toiled for years over going(or not going) to Chef Mark Peel’s much acclaimed restaurant Campanile. You see, even though I don’t mind occasionally paying to dine like a rich man, it’s an ordeal to get me to want to dress like one.
And from all gathered intelligence, Campanile is relatively formal, if not downright uptight.
It’s not that I’m a slob; I would never dine out in anything less than shirt sleeves. But the whole slack and shiny shoe thing makes an otherwise enjoyable experience a wash. Especially, if it involves a drive up to Los Angeles.
Chef Peel’s newest endeavor, a cocktail bar and restaurant named The Tar Pit, seemed a more casual compromise.
It wasn’t that casual.
The Tar Pit is pure swank. But there was confusion among the masses. Inside a dimly lit, jazz-age inspired restaurant, patrons were evenly dressed in t-shirts and suits - a schizophrenic luxury that compelled a more inclusive ambience than the Tar Pit’s elegance aspires to demand.
As a cocktail bar, The Tar Pit’s drinks are smart, creative and expensive. With a cocktail menu divided into sours and aromatics, the Tar Pit’s $12 libations include whimsical elixirs like the frosty Georgia Julep (above, left) and the very potent Oaxacan Angel, a mixture of mescal, agave, and cardamom bitters.
During DineLA Week, as a participant of the annual two-week long prix fixe special, The Tar Pit offered three courses for $26.
In addition to the choice of a goat cheese and fig compote crostini, the special menu included a vibrantly tasting Persian cucumber and radish salad, as well as a more muted, but visually striking Bibb and chervil salad. While the Persian was dressed in pungent tang, the salad remained crisp; the Bibb was only herbaceously flavored, but fresh.
The Tar Pit’s mains were also a thoughtful juxtaposition of delicate aromatics and refined heartiness. The veal short-ribs in parsnip puree as tender as they are bold tasting. The linguini and littleneck clams in clam sauce of roasted garlic and thyme is earthy, but light; its pasta rustically rendered. Chicken A La King was a third option.
The dessert course included the choice of banana bread pudding in rum caramel sauce, crème fraiche, and candied pecans or a couple of a chocolate caramel sundae comprised of caramel ice cream, chocolate sauce, as well as nuts and orange streusel.
The bread pudding was remarkably firm in texture, not soggy like some. In spite of not being overly soaked, it was delicious. The sundae, while good tasting, was just a sundae.
In spite of its elegance, service at the Tar Pit was spotty and slow. Some tables qualified for bread, while others did not. Some felt compelled to remind servers of their orders as lapses in service were the norm for the night. Whether due to its newness or a method by which to get diners to order more drinks, TheTar Pit, with all of its aesthetic luxury and good flavor, finds itself with much room for improvement.
The Tar Pit
609 N. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, 90036
Many of the photos appearing on this post were taken by http://brubrublah.blogspot.com/