Her name . . . Acabar.
After spending some time together she proved that she can carry on a conversation as brilliantly as her gleaming shell.
I hope she has stamina, because I can dine all night.
I ordered a drink from a slab of marble leftover from the creation of their magnificent bar. The chiseled result, this pluperfect bartender of a man, poured his limpid brown eyes into my soul along with a classic Bijou cocktail of gin, sweet vermouth, green Chartreuse, and orange bitters. In a fancy glass.
Those liquored-up mixologists Josh Goldman and Julian Cox shake it up a notch by offering some of their cocktails on tap. Keep the night young forever with their immortal Zombie.
A thrilling peck hit it's mark -- my first edible overture, an amuse bouche: Country Crouton laden with sheep milk ricotta, mission figs, hazelnuts & chestnut honey ($12). I opened my mouth and used my tongue, this place insists on everything French. The razor-thin slice of firm pink fig lay on the house-made baguette, conquered by heaps of a sweet cheese heretofore unknown to me.
I stuffed it in and the squishy cheese dripped down my chin. A finger reached over to help the rest into my mouth, which made us both smile. Our eyes locked; I'll bet we thought the same thing: figs, please stay in season forever.
I listened to the tale of this place. One day a ragtag bunch including Roland Emmerich, Jerry Murray, and Sue Choi processioned along Sunset Boulevard mourning the lack of a cuisine desired by all.
Something shiny caught their eye, a tarnished lamp in the sand. They rubbed and rubbed -- along with genie-dreamy designer Keith Greco -- until incensed smoke poured out into the air. Poof!
Up popped the dreamiest restaurant to hit Los Angeles in years. When the smoke cleared, local legend and visionary Chef Octavio Becerra reincarnated to man the magical stoves of Acabar.
The restaurant's mission, and I choose to accept it, is to honor all regional cuisines influenced by the French. Think Julia Child with a soul patch dancing along the Spice Trail in harem pants.
We baptized our new-to-the-scene waiter Jordan, in a river of questions and orders so deep and lengthy that I caught him praying for mercy, or at least 20 percent. He expertly guided us to the raw bar's bounteous seafood platter. He plunked their massive bodies down, proclaiming To the victor belong the spoils...
Jordan's dramatic flair should carry him well into the arms of his waiting, beloved songwriting career.
Row after row of oysters from oceans soon to be gone, lined up as if expecting an OCD diner. The house dispatched a well-suited sommelier with an apropos white wine to flatter the heaps of crab and orderly mussels. Twelve unique, inventive condiments and sauces appeared in long dishes and were described. Mignonette is expected, guava is not.
The dining room is a dark and sexy lair suitable for The Little Mermaid's eight-legged, undulating nemesis to luxuriate and plot. The chef smiles deliciously and serves Ursula's head on a plate in his Charred Octopus with wild broccolini and aleppo muhammara ($14).
My mouth met the hard-charred edge, then relaxed into a smile as my teeth sank into the soft, warm flesh. My rock-solid dining companion dared me to lift a tiny sliver of a pale carrot from the plate, probably just to test my chopstick skills. The carrot lost its mind -- the soul sucked out, ingeniously replaced with lemon.
My senses heightened; the walls closed in; I tasted greatness.
Japanese shishito peppers pop up as the ubiquitous nibble on every menu, yet Acabar revives their career in a new take on an old trick -- Blistered Spanish Padron peppers with radis, pickled shallot, adouvan and bonito shavings ($12). It's mouth-watering Salma Hayek sunning topless on a yacht off the coast of Spain.
Something tasted delightfully fishy. In a bow to the symbolism used in Japanese cooking, bonito snowflakes are showered on the hills of rolling green peppers. The demure judge on Iron Chef smiles and giggles, The cold winter dances on the hot summer of my tongue.
I settled in my seat to wait for the feature film to begin. Suddenly Penelope Cruz's heat jumped off the screen and into my lap for a personal dance: Skewered prawns, harissa, dates, labneh and pistachio ($14). I'm frightfully strong but I couldn't resist licking the crustacean's curvaceous, hot neck. I plucked a shrimp, jauntily served tails up, and bit. The little minx challenged me back with a spicy pop. I took control, dragging her flavor-laden body through the cooling thick yogurt, encouraging chunks of drunk pistachios to hop on and enjoy the ride.
My empty plate vanished and my heart sank. I missed the dish already. I devoured the garnishing bed of greens like I obsessively read old letters from a lover. I tasted mint and cilantro and closed my eyes, reminded of the perfume once sprayed on my treasured pages.
A monkey got loose and rampaged through the kitchen. In his mayhem he threw a bunch of grapes on the stove. Before knife-wielding sous chef Taylor Sweeney "Todd" could machete the tiny beast, she tasted the cooked grapes and declared them a delicacy. She slid them alongside the Grill Seared Scallops, with caramelized chou fleur, romanesco atop vadouvan-beurre noisette & grapes ($17) and sent them on a plate to my table.
The scallops, still bouncy despite their recent and perfect crispification, recuperated on a luxurious bed of super-creamy browned-butter noisette. It's the hollandaise sauce Arabs want and could get if they didn't rush hummus.
That naughty monkey, now their mascot, is emblazoned everywhere. Need to pee? Find the monkey.
The menu is a virtual a land of opportunity to travel. Next trip, I'll try a different salad. While I'm huge fan of nudity onscreen and off, I found the uber-pretty salad of Coleman lettuce with heirloom apples, pecorino romano and hazelnuts ($14) under-dressed.
Audiences wait to be dazzled. We cross our fingers when a stunner appears. The magical moment that Catherine Deneuve blossomed onto the screen in Indochine, a collective wish arose from the audience's mind, Man, I'd love to see her naked. Chef Becerra made that dream come true, Steamed buns, crispy duck confit, spicy daikon-scallion relish and pickled stone fruit ($13).
Picking up the fluffy bun was that grab of a perfect ass you get away with -- until the sparkly heat from the relish grabbed the dish by the collar and yanked the duck confit safely away from hitting a cloying sweetness. To top it all off, I loved the bouncy texture added by the gently fried egg. From conception to completion this is an inspired creation.
The skilled and attentive service took me back to the time and place where feasting was allowed and encouraged. Specific forks were slickly moved into place like a bazaar shell game then invisibly whisked away once their purpose was fulfilled. Plate after plate of countless courses were cleared; had I more time and compassion I would have gone into the kitchen and hugged the dishwasher. But in a steamy room, male affection can be confusing.
Dramatic and clever presentation is visible in the Lamb dumplings Provènçal, lamb broth, goat cheese, marjoram and black olives ($12).
Near-masterpiece soup dumpling nuggets, wrapped in a well-done texture around delicate flavor -- all brightened by the shockingly audacious herbs, hopped on my porcelain spoon.
The chef's doing us a flavor, sharing his gift of finding spices of which we aren't aware and introducing them to us in the hopes we fall in love.
In her Dior perfume ad, Charlize Theron strips her way through an apartment in Paris, sending her jewels and gown dashing to the floor.
Acabar's Spicy chicken satay: jasmine tea + lavender infused spicy peanut-verbena pistou ($12) gorgeously and carefully put all the clothes and jewelry back on the dish's hot body in layer after layer of intense spice tucked tenderly into seductive succulence. You need something to grab onto while making love, and the sauce under the pleasingly-plump skewered chicken is a woman-with-curves remoulade, gladly providing a tasty cushion for the pushin'.
I pounded my fists onto the table between bites. Je t'adore amour.
Legend tells us that love-struck Aga Khan gave Rita Hayworth her weight in precious jewels just to wake up, roll over and witness the splendid sunrise of her face. His gasp always woke her up. She opened her eyes and gasped back at the sight above her -- the intricately painted ceiling of their palace. Want that same thrill, come to Acabar. I looked up and found it so exciting that I reached for a seat belt to fasten.
In the Discretion vs. Voyeurism battle of a wild Parisian bistro, Acabar perched large mirrors against their walls. They tilt down, positioned so that diners can watch themselves in ecstasy, shoving pear tarts and frozen Ice cream sandwich macaroons in the meal's refreshing and appropriate denouement.
You're made love to with the rhythmic ferocity of flavor -- then the gentle taste of the desserts is the loving embrace one needs both to savor the experience and provide nourishment to rally for a possible Round Two.
Like a stunning Hollywood starlet, the room and the food are beautiful. But just like the movies, this town chews you up and spits you out if you can't back up your looks with talent.
The Blackglama fur campaign asks, What becomes a legend most? Chef Becerra opens a huge coat that he generously wraps around your entire mind in a luxurious world of taste. He's not only written the veritable recipe for success, he also cooks it.
Accentually light music swayed me through dinner then began to rise with the same crescendo as the meal's end. I rose up, adjusted my jeans, to follow the mesmerizing sounds into the dazzling lounge. The hour is late, but this room is Mae West putting her finger against my protesting mouth to show me her secret tattoo, Good girls go to heaven; Bad girls go everywhere.
The thumping space sucked me into luxury, plopped me down on a cushion, and stroked my hair with a Tell me all about it . . . served by a leggy blonde packing a Ti Punch, a delightfully comforting cocktail dating back to 1798.
Prepare yourself for a magic carpet ride of taste, glamour, and excitement. With their feet planted firmly on the ground, Acabar will whisk you away.
Acabar. 510 North Stanley Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046. (323) 876-1400