First Bite: Cute Food
In restaurants as in actresses, forced quirkiness can be an unforgivable flaw. But some restaurants, like the comfortable, modern Hatfield’s near Hollywood, can’t help themselves. Instead of merlot and Chianti, there is a weirdly wonderful list of old Loire whites, stern reds from Austria and the Italian Alps, and German “champagne.” The croque madame sandwich is made with yellowtail and prosciutto instead of Gruyère cheese and pale ham, and tentacles of Japanese octopus just happen to curl around pillars of vanilla-braised hearts of palm. The warm summer salad could be mistaken for an appetizer of tiny, corn-stuffed ravioli, and the rare leaves of roasted squab breast are garnished not with the usual squab-leg confit but with the leg meat smashed flat, breaded and fried into a kind of tiny schnitzel, served with red cabbage. Even the steak and potatoes are odd — the rare onglet is predictable enough, and the garnish of horseradish-crusted short ribs is nothing we haven’t seen before, but the smokiness of the dish comes from the mashed potatoes, not the meat. From most chefs, this style might come across as affected, but from Quinn and Karen Hatfield, whose cooking at small-plates restaurant Cortez in San Francisco sometimes seemed like Mediterranean cuisine reflected in a funhouse mirror, I would expect nothing less. Hatfield’s, 7458 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 935-2977.
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