Canelé

1/20/12

Canelé
3219 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 666-7133
http://www.canele-la.com/

Brunch – It’s a strange weekend phenomenon in L.A., where the hip and beautiful rub elbows, while eating a combination of breakfast and lunch items at a designated time between the normal breakfast and lunch hours. As girly as it may sound, I personally love brunch, as far as the usual items served is concerned. But I neither want to wake up early enough nor brave the crowds just to eat a consolidation of two meals which I don’t eat on a regular basis during the weekends.

I decided to get off my lazy fat ass this past Sunday, however, to have brunch and catch up with a few of friends whom I haven’t seen in almost a year. Since one of them lives in Glendale, Canelé sounded like a good choice (among its many “honors” include being #1 on LA Weekly’s 10 Best Breakfast Spots). I arrived just before the restaurant opened at 10am, only to see that there were almost a couple of dozen like-minded diners waiting to enter as well. Had to wait a bit because one in our party was (very) late (FYI: they only seat full parties, since there’s no reservations), but upon being seated, the aroma from the open kitchen immediately hit me.

Our party of four split three entrees and two sides: French toast (to which we added the prunes and mascarpone), fried chicken sandwich, the lamb hash (daily special), house cured bacon, and baked pancake. The portion of French toast was huge – three giant battered toasts that were almost custard-y. The additional accompaniment of prunes and mascarpone really worked – I liked this better than with maple syrup. But I actually thought that the baked pancake (some of you might know it as a Dutch baby) with lemon custard (listed as a side, but was probably large enough to be considered an entree at many bougie brunch spots) was the sweet dish of note. The filling was sweet, but not overly so, and it was nice and fluffy. Just great.

Over on the savory side, there was the fried chicken sandwich. I’ve read great things about it, and it was satisfactory for the most part. But I was actually left wanting more fried chicken – felt like there was almost as much green tomato as chicken. The lamb hash, a special of the day, was very good. Egg was fried well, the potatoes were crisp, and the greens and onions went well with the slight gaminess from the bits of lamb. But again, the star here was actually a supporting actor – the house cured bacon. Cut thick, these strips were essentially fried pork belly. It wasn’t too well-done either – the lean part was just crispy enough, and the fatty portion basically melted in my mouth.

I really enjoyed my meal – enough to order a couple of the dishes for the roommates to try – a fairly tall order on my part. Overall, Canelé marks my tremendous return to the brunch scene (ha). On a more serious note, it’s a cute little neighborhood restaurant (gives off that bistro vibe for dinner), with a focused menu using farmer’s market ingredients. Not the cheapest of options, but the ingredients and cooking more than justify it. Plus, the portions were larger than expected (especially the French toast). I would not hesitate to wake up earlier and return on another weekend, as well as for dinner.

Baked Pancake w/ Meyer Lemon Custard
Baked Pancake w/ Meyer Lemon Custard ($6.50)

Lamb Hash
Lamb Hash (daily special – forgot $)

Thick French Toast
Thick French Toast w/ Poached Prunes & Mascarpone ($11.50 + 3.50)

House Cured Bacon
House Cured Bacon ($7.50)

Fried Chicken Sandwich
Fried Chicken Sandwich ($14.50)

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
French, American, Breakfast & Brunch Atwater Village $$$ B+

Canelé on Urbanspoon

Early Bird

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Early Bird is a breakfast and lunch spot from Chef Joseph Mahon, who was manning the kitchen of Michelin-starred Bastide in West Hollywood before it closed early last year. After his time at Bastide, he was holding a permanent burger pop-up in the form of Burger Parlor in Fullerton, which spawned from his famous Burger Mondays during his time at the French restaurant. While he was moving the pop-up to a brick-and-mortar restaurant nearby (which opened recently – post to follow shortly), he spent the downtime opening this upscale diner of sorts. To say that this was Mahon’s Chungking Express while he was taking a break from Ashes of Time, I am not, but Early Bird is quite the masterpiece for a breakfast joint in the OC.

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I came here last month for brunch with the entire Diaz family + Jen for Greg’s birthday. Greg has been a vocal supporter of Mahon’s since his first bite of the burgers at Burger Parlor (which I take credit for in guiding him there after reading about it online). The menu is short and sweet, with less than a couple dozen of options fairly evenly split between sweet and savory. It’s a pretty well-constructed menu, but one item immediately caught my eye: Teemu’s Duck Confit Hash (no doubt named after the Finnish hockey legend). Yeah it’s duck confit, arguably the most outplayed ingredient in restaurants currently, but I’ve been in love with it before it went all Hollywood, when I knew it as “Chinese dry cured duck leg.” The portion here isn’t big, but it’s quite glorious – perfectly fried eggs sunny side up, nice chucks of duck confit, and a nice rendition of home fries that included some golden raisins, which helped balance out the saltiness from the duck. Definitely California Dreamin’ for some more.

Chris Hei grade: B+

Early Bird
1000 B E Bastanchury Rd
Fullerton, CA 92835
(714) 529-4100

Early Bird on Urbanspoon

Huckleberry

Photo Credit: Food GPS

I have a confession: unlike the majority of diners in LA, I was never too crazy about Rustic Canyon and Milo and Olive (but I love^3 Sweet Rose). I’ve had better meals since the initial ones I’ve written about, but not to the point where they made me want to write entire new posts. But I’ve never been too keen on making an effort to try Huckleberry, as my perception of the place was that it was the “weakest” of the Nathan/Loeb family of restaurants. I don’t wake up early enough for breakfast on weekends anyways.

But something changed. Huckleberry began a “Thursday Night Family Dinner” not too long ago, and I recently read some glowing reports of these dinners (although I believe they were all hosted). Sounded like the 3-4 course dinners you’d find at nearby Farmshop, but at a much more accessible price point ($30/person including tax at Huckleberry, as opposed to around $50 for Farmshop). I was definitely intrigued enough to put the restaurant back on my radar, and when I went on the website to check this week’s menu, I saw “FRIED CHICKEN.” Sold.

So I dragged Eugenia and Linh-Nam along this past Thursday, and headed westward bound for Huckleberry around 7pm. After a short wait, we were seated at a communal table. Not sure how the service is usually at the restaurant, but it was great at our dinner. Very quickly, we were met with an “amuse” of spiced nuts, followed shortly by a spinach salad with pears, pickled red onions, hazelnuts, and a light mustard vinaigrette. Solid x2 (same can be said about the dessert at the end), but we were anxiously waiting for the next course…

…which was the fried chicken, the pièce de résistance. Along with two pieces of chicken per person, there was also a small bacon biscuit for each of us, some maple butter, mashed potatoes, and green beans on the side. First of all, these pieces of chicken were HUGE. I used to be able to devour an eight-piece chicken dinner with ease, and I was barely able to finish my two pieces. The other two were barely able to eat one. And this is with a fried chicken that, despite being a bit heavy with the batter, was not greasy at all. I suspect the frying process involved baking? No matter – it was great.

And the sides? I’ll say this – I am clueless about local artisan farms, but one that I’ve heard of is Weiser Farms. And I also know that their produce comes at a premium. So this farm-to-table family dinner definitely justified the $30/person. And those mashed potatoes were good. Even better? The biscuits and the butter. I asked for some extra maple butter to take home along with our leftovers. We even got some pastries and cookies from the restaurant to take home – awesome. Overall, just a great dinner (and VERY filling). Completely changed my perception of the place.

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Spiced nuts

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Windrose Farm spinach salad, Comice pears, mustard vinaigrette

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Free range country fried chicken, Weiser Farms mashed potatoes, country gravy, sautéed green beans

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Whole wheat apple butter cake, Sweet Rose Creamery vanilla bean ice cream

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Chris Hei grade: B+

Huckleberry
1014 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 451-2311

Huckleberry on Urbanspoon

The Griddle Cafe

Photo credit: Kwongfucius

The first time I went to The Griddle Cafe was for my birthday last year. Eugenia really wanted to try the place, so she and Linh-Nam dragged me out for brunch that day. I had heard of the place and its ridiculously long wait. The three of us had to wait over half an hour at 10am on a Saturday (I think). This time, however, the wait was only a few minutes…for me and Luisito. Jeannie and her brother were nice enough to arrive early, I mean, on time to wait.

Unlike my previous visit where all three of us got sweets (Eugenia and I ordered pancakes, Linh-Nam French toast), this time we actually ordered one pancake and three savory dishes. Apparently this group likes savory more than sweet, in which case, The Griddle Cafe was probably the wrong place to meet up. The savory stuff was solid, but it’s basically above-average diner breakfast food.

The pancakes, however super-sized and loaded with so much sugar I could’ve contracted diabetes, were much better. I suggest sticking to those if you plan on going. Also, with the exception of the red velvet, all the other pancakes come in an order of three. Look at the photo below. One is plenty (and that option is available, although you should just order the “regular” size and take the rest home). I barely finished half of mine the last time around. Solid food, but food I wouldn’t want to wait an extended amount of time for.

Red Velvet Pancake

Red Velvet Pancake

Omelette "My Soul" w/ Steak

Omelette “My Soul”

"Poached y Papas" Benedict

“Poached y Papas” Benedict

"Chicago Charlie's" Scramble

“Chicago Charlie’s” Scramble

Chris Hei grade: B-

The Griddle Cafe
7916 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 874-0377

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