Scratch Bar

LA is seriously lacking in fine dining options, but its not like the chefs in this city aren’t giving it a go.  Take for instance Scratch Bar, which is a newly opened addition to La Cienega’s famed restaurant row.  I suppose it’s not necessarily trying to achieve the fine dining benchmark, but I guess it’s definitely striving for an elevated food experience.  I’ve dined at very few restaurants in LA where the servers explained the dishes’ preparation and presentation at tableside.  I can now add Scratch Bar to that short list.  Unfortunately, that attention to detail and the dining experience did nothing for the food itself, which fell…short.  Way to celebrate Smooth Obturator’s birthday right??
Duck Skin Popcorn fresh thyme
Fat is fat.  Is there something tastier about duck fat??  The answer is probably yes, but it was not reflected in this supposed fun appetizer which tasted like stale popcorn tossed in stale old fat flavor.  We all felt it would have been a good dish had it been served just popped and warm.  Room temperature animal fat popcorn?  Pass.

Luna Oyster oven roasted, beet emulsion

I prefer my oysters raw, but this worked nicely.

Green Mussel & Sea Urchin Sake Shooter

This dish was meant to be eaten in 3 steps.  First goes the skewer of ceviche green mussel, pickled red onion, serrano pepper.  Followed by a shot of sake, lime juice, and tomato syrup.  Lastly, the avocado mousse and uni sit at the bottom of the glass for a creamy oceany finish.  There was a lot going on, but I think it all worked.  I could see people having a different opinion though.

Roasted Bone Marrow n’ Sourdough

The bread was baked from scratch, hollowed out and stuffed with bone marrow.  As the bone marrow roasts, the fat seeps out and fries the bread.  Atop sits spiced mushrooms, pickled onions, carrot tops.  Sounds glorious eh?  Well I don’t remember being all that impressed, but it was a balanced crispy bite.

Honey Fried Olive Stuffed Olives

The olives are depitted and then stuffed with mashed potatos and sweetened kalamat olives.  The whole thing is dipped in honey, frozen, then beer battered and fried to a heavenly crisp.  It’s then finished in honey and lime juice.  Seriously, this one bite almost makes up for the entirely disappointing dinner.  It was THAT good.  I actually forgot to take a picture of our own dish, but the table next to us happily obliged us.

Blackened Cauliflower

Triple T and Mama H.o.P. didn’t appreciate being served burned charred cancer inducing food.  I think the burnt flavor was slightly tempered by the contrastingly textured and flavored creamy pureed cauliflower.  The pickled onions were a nice hint of acid.  I could definitely see ground for complaints on this dish though.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast

This totally reminds me of the recent “boneless skinless chicken breast” debaucle on Top Chef that got Brian kicked off.  I wholeheartedly agree with all the Tom Colicchio’s criticisms.  Who the heck wows anybody with driest, blandest, most uninteresting protein?  Keep in mind, this dish was part of the premium tasting menu.  Uh really? Like REALLY??  The parsnip puree, creamless creamed spinach, roasted maitake and shimeji mushrooms were not enough to save this dish from disappointment.

Warm Hamachi withSweetbreads & Grapefruit

I wasn’t really wowed with this dish, though interesting with such contrasting proteins, textures, flavors, and accompaniments.  The sunchoke puree was smooth and sweet but I don’t know if I really liked it paired with their ubiquitous creamless creamed spinach wiht thai basil and confit garlic.  More mush found its way into the dish in the form of a parnsnip puree.  the sashimi hamachi and white wine poached sweetbreads seemed more different than complementary.  I don’t remember much acid from the dehydrated grapefruit.

Dry Aged Hanger Steak

This was a fairly solid beef offering.  It was well cooked and well seasoned.  I really like the mashed potato puree, sugar blistered tomatoes, and grilled asparagus.  Unfortunately, by this point, we were most unhappy with many of the dishes preceding it.

Dark Chocolate & Cayenne Candy Bar

My dining companions complained that the cayenne spice was too overpowering here, but I didn’t notice or mind it much.  I liked the contrast with the smooth tart lemon curd and salted whipped cream.  The sugar cookie crumble tasted pretty pedestrian, but the chia seeds hydrated in olive oil were an interesting textural touch.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Rainbow Sprinkles

This was a hot mess from the start.  That’s the problems with ice creams made in house, they are so damn melty.  Anyways, I thought the ice cream was much too sweet, but everyone else seemed to like it, especially the rainbow sprinkles made from vegetables like chia seeds, corn, carrots, and mint.


So Scratch Bar was pretty meh and disappointing.  I can see that it was aiming high because the concepts were there, but it needs some refining and nurturing.  Like that olive dish?  Daaang, that was awesome, but OMG, that chicken dish?  I’m sort of insulted they would serve that, let alone as part of the premium chef tasting.  I won’t be surprised if this place folds eventually.  I can only imagine what the overhead for a place on Restaurant Row is.  The quality, frankly, is just not there.

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