Tastes of LA: Bicyclettela & Birdiegsla
As the weather here teases us with the prospect of Fall approaching, my thoughts turn to comfort foods. In my dreams, Grandma ladles out a hearty, thyme-scented braise, while Mom pulls creamy au gratin potatoes from the oven. In fact, cocktail hors d’oeuvres were as close as my grandmother got to a kitchen and Swanson’s Salisbury steak was the only gravied meat in my childhood. So, how did I become so enamored of stews and pot roast and Osso buco and cassoulet and bouillabaisse? Bistros, that’s how!
Bistro fare is the ideal intersection between warm and fuzzy home cooking and gourmet chefery. What is beef stew at home is made elegant in the hands of a chef like Walter Manzke and becomes a deeply flavorful, utterly satisfying boeuf bourguignon. Leg of lamb is transformed into Lamb a la Saless, intensified by fenugreek, beet molasses, dill and saffron at Jeremy Fox’ direction.
Of the two, Manzke’s Bicyclette is the more traditional bistro setting and menu. The aforementioned boeuf is a standout. Even the baguette and fancy-pants butter to start are sensational. But what knocked it out of the park was the carmelized onion tart tatin. Every buttery bite made Foodie Friend # 2 and me rock back in our chairs in reverence for the artistry involved. Sugary browned onions are stunningly arrayed on the ethereal and gracefully chewy puff pastry for the comfortingest of comfort foods. Bicyclette is bistro royalty in my book.
Birdie G’s skews more to the comforts of Eastern European food, surprisingly fused with good ol’ southern cooking Their baguette is an artisanal matzo, their Caesar salad is enhanced by fried oysters, and sausage-derived ‘nduja spices up the vinaigrette. My out-of-town Foodie Friends and I loved the lamb, the earthy rice-battered mushrooms and the blistered Jimmy Nardello peppers doused in that piquant vinaigrette. The intriguingly-named Southern kugel and Pickle Chick will have to wait for our next visit, and with Birdie G’s welcoming, casually festive vibe and whimsical take on some classic comfort dishes, that visit won’t have to wait long.
#1: If you are as disenchanted as I with the decibel level of restaurants these days, I recommend an early start to your Bicyclette meal.
#2 Don’t imagine you’ll be parking anywhere but Valet at Birdie G’s.