Thursday, April 30, 2009

One Sunset - 04/21/2009

8730 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 657-0111

I must admit I was surprised to see a complimentary blogger dinner at One Sunset a restaurant cum lounge and sister to One Manhattan. Located on Sunset Boulevard, One Sunset located in the Sunset Towers building near its more serious sibling, STK Steakhouse. The interior is pretty much what I expected: dimly lit with comfortable contemporary decor; an easy place to settle in and relax.

LUSHious Raspberry - Raspberries, Gloria Ferrer Champgane, Leblon
While waiting for all the diners to arrive, the staff brought us samples of the restaurant's signature cocktail. The drink was bright red with a sweetness to match, fairly uncomplicated but delicious in its simplicity.

"Breakfast on a Plate" - pancake, apple caviar, maple syrup, bacon foam
The first course was a special from the chef, trying to recapture the essence of breakfast. The heavy emphasis on the sweet elements in this dish make it more appropriate as an intermezzo between savory and sweet than as an amuse. An interesting course, it just could have been timed better.

"The Master Cleanse" - Belvedere Vodka, Fresh Lemon Juice, Maple Syrup
Named after the trendy Master Cleanse diet, this drink is right at home in the trendy digs at One. The cocktail includes the same ingredients, lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper while replacing the water with vodka. I have tried the actual Master Cleanse lemonade and find the alcoholic version much more enjoyable.

"Adult Candy" - bacon-wrapped, blue cheese-stuffed dates
The description reminded me of the bacon wrapped dates at Flying Fig. Pity the flavor wasn't as sharp this time around, the blue cheese wasn't very apparent and neither the dates nor the bacon really had the powerful taste I was expecting.

Spicy Tuna Tartare - tempura eggplant, kecap manis
I typically find spicy tuna to be anything but but in this case, all I could taste was the spice. What's more, the thick creamy sauce blunted the natural texture of the fish. The one positive of this dish was the eggplant, which had a nice light crispness to it.

Burrata and Strawberries - cinnamon bruschetta, pistachios, pink pepper, basil
One of the better courses of the night, though the greens took some of the attention off the key ingredients. The dish is burrata and strawberries, I would have liked more focus on the interplay between these two.

BBQ Short Rib Sliders - crispy shallots, smoked cheddar
Sliders really are all the rage right now, I had that damn "Mini Sirloin Burger" song just last night during class. While a bit one dimensional, the shallots and cheddar don't even register, the quality of the meat made up for that.

Onion Rings - horseradish sauce
The onion rings weren't bad, nothing noteworthy by themselves, but they did help break up the monotony of the burger.

Korean Chicken Satay - barbecued, kimchi, cashews, kejap manis
This was supposed to be the chef's introduction to Korean BBQ but I found the smokiness of the sauce to be the dominant aspect of this dish, a far cry from the milder balanced sweetness of traditional Korean BBQ. I did enjoy the refreshing kimchi "coleslaw" which was fermented in-house for a week.

Tropical Sidecar - Hennessy, Pineapple Chunks, Cointreau, Blueberries
Even more than the other drinks, this one was a bit light on the alcohol and heavy on the sugar with the pineapple juice pretty much smothering all the other flavors. Liz, one of the diners at my table asked the bartender to add more Hennessy to give the drink some teeth.

Salade Nicoise - pistachio crusted albacore, caper aioli
I was amused to find Chef Ryczek preemptively removed the anchovies from this Nicoise, anticipating the vast majority of his guests would do the same. In addition, the caper aioli comes on the side, allowing diners to forgo another element of the classic Nicoise. The fish was a bit plain, but the salad was well seasoned and everything taken together tasted quite nice.

Turkey Meatballs - marinara, parmesan, basil
Very much like a traditional meatball though the mix of herbs and veggies mixed in made it a bit lighter than I was expecting.

Roasted Clams on the Half Shell - chorizo, chowder sauce, crushed oyster crackers
One of the more interesting and playful dishes of the night. The chef seemed a bit more animated when talking about this course as it was inspired by his New England roots. The idea of a clam chowder shot is intriguing but the execution was a bit ham-fisted with the smokiness of the chorizo out of sync with the rest of the ingredients. Afterward, we were given a wedge of lemon to squeeze into the shell and drink it like a chaser. I quite enjoyed the cleansing effect of the lemon, though I would have liked four separate wedges rather than having to share a single one.

Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta - blackberry sorbet, lavender syrup, poppy seed crisp
This was my favorite course of the night, plenty of interplay between the lavender and the tart fruit. The poppy seed crisp while physically insubstantial, added a pleasing textural contrast. Despite all the complexity, each element was apparent in some way even when taken all together.

'Velvet Rope' Cupcakes - red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting
Not bad, but surprisingly simple compared to the previous dessert. For this basic dessert to be the restaurant's signature is quite a damning indictment of the clientele.

Godiva Chocolate Sorbet - amaretto
We were told to pour the amaretto shot over the sorbet before enjoying, though I found the straightforward richness of the chocolate more satisfying by itself.

For me labeling a restaurant a "lounge" is like a scarlet letter, a sign that the establishment is more concerned with looking good than tasting good. Indeed the restaurant's website places such weight on the "striking designs and exotic tones" and "outfits designed by the winner of Project Runway" that the food is a mere afterthought by comparison.

In addition to describing the food throughout dinner, Chef Ryczek came out to speak with us in more detail as the meal wrapped up. Extremely friendly and upbeat it was easy to see the passion he has for his craft. From our conversation, I gathered there is a bit of a conflict between the restaurant and the lounge sides of One Sunset and that Ryczek would like to put more emphasis on the restaurant, pity that he is prevented from doing so by his target audience.


Anonymous said...

Great to see the end post of all the detailed picture-taking and recorded notes that night! Clean shots and concise explanations.

Sophie said...

the eggplant dish looks so delish!

this is really one of the simplest dishes to make anywhere in the world so long as you can get hold of eggplant and sauce package.

Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.