I am something of a francophone, at least to the best of my abilities. Amir knows I studied French for years. I’ve been to Paris. I belong to a couple of extracurricular French groups here in the city. I also love a beautiful French movie and own a collection of mix CDs with songs I’ll never fully understand but can hum all day. Oh, and let’s not forget the food, shall we? We were invited to sample the menu at La Poubelle Bistro, which remains one of the longer running restaurants in Los Angeles. That in itself is a feat if you know anything about the food scene here. We were more than happy to accept the offer and settled into a dinner that proved its worth.a
The man behind the food is Executive Chef Johnny Zone. His colorful and credited background created a foundation of experience and knowledge under chefs we all know–Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsey. He would have found himself in France working with Alain Ducasse had he not accepted the lead position at La Poubelle. Now, he strives to bring joie de vivre back into the menu at a Hollywood restaurant that suffered from the effects of so-so reviews. What struck us immediately upon meeting him was the fact that he’s young–younger than us for sure. He’s also very personable and excited to chat with you about his passion for food and the work he’s putting into cultivating a fun, interesting and capable kitchen staff who assist him in the creation of the evening’s dishes.
We agreed to let Chef Zone do his thing. And by that, we figured he could bring out the most notable dishes for us to try. Of course, we also sipped on a few cocktails. What is a meal without a cocktail? Rien.
As we waited for our courses to be prepared, we poured over the wine and cocktail menu. I was immediately drawn to one featuring strawberries, and Amir went for one with a vegetable–carrots. Out of these two, the Carrot Margarita was the winner. It felt like your morning juice with a kick of tequila of course. Amir had to remember that it was indeed a cocktail, so he had to drink it much slower than he would have preferred. If you are looking for a unique variation of your summer margaritas, try adding a bit of carrot juice for extra sweetness.
All of our starters were significant in themselves. Had they been the basis of our meal, I would have been satisfied. The brussels sprouts salad was outstanding. If you have ever had a fried brussels sprout leaf, then perhaps you understand why. This was our first time crunching on the delicate leaves. The use of truffle oil was also delicate, and that is always a plus in our book. Neither one of us had been big raw oyster fans until three or so years ago. Now, we are big fans of slurping oysters right from their shells. The simple mignonette highlighted the fresh, clean and salty flavor. I always enjoy a lovely runny egg, and the poached egg on our frisée salad burst all of its gooey, yellow goodness throughout the bowl. It was spot on.
If you follow us on Twitter, perhaps you saw our photos of a couple of these dishes. The sliders definitely got some folks’ attention. Maybe it was the spear of bacon poking out of the soft bun. Maybe it was the mention of, yet again, subtle truffle in the creamy aioli. Maybe it was the perfectly cooked sirloin with its intense meaty essence. We’re not sure what the best part of the slider was, but we know that each element together created a great slider. But it was the scallops and corn succotash–oh that succotash–that pulled us in. Fresno peppers, super sweet corn and a hearty handful of crisp bacon sat on each forkful. It’s a shame we had to share this dish because, obviously, we each wanted to scrape the plate clean.
Clearly Los Angeles’ chefs are all about organic produce, sustainable meat and dairy products and devising a menu of almost all, if possible, housemade offerings. Chef Zone is in that same school of thought. Pasta is one of those things that he serves with a large amount of pride. Do you remember our visit to Osteria Mamma? The family-run Italian restaurant includes Mama, Loredana Cecchinato, in the kitchen making many of the traditional recipes, including the pasta. Chef Zone spent time with Mamma at Osteria Mamma watching her making spaghetti, tagliatelle, ravioli and gnocchi. He brought those skills back to La Poubelle to send out pasta that embodies Italian ideals. After several main dishes, it was my favorite time–dessert. The Meyer lemon pot de creme was soft, smooth and sweet with a light, glowing hint of lemon. The Colombian chocolate tart was intense, although the caramel layer just above the crust did break up the rich, dark chocolate. Our sample size was just the right amount. I would suffer through an entire serving under any other condition.
Amir and I have both lived in this city for several years, and we had never made our way to La Poubelle. Interestingly enough, Amir spent a lot of time right up the street from the restaurant, and yet, he still never made it. I do think everything happens for a reason. Had we gone a while ago, we may not have been impressed with the food. Now, I’m happy to say that my taste buds are longing for fried brussels sprouts, truffle aioli on sirloin and Coquilles St. Jacques. And a Carrot Margarita. We can’t forget that. For that reason, we’ll be back.
La Poubelle Bistro
5907 Franklin Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028