Restaurants cooking with grass-fed beef, organic dairy products and blink-and-you-miss-it seasonal produce are now as much a presence around Silver Lake as affordable bungalows and Johnette Napolitano sightings once were. But given the neighborhood's arguably disproportionate share of media attention, it's easy to forget that the era of full-fledged grown-up restaurants in Silver Lake's post - L.A. Nicola period is still relatively recent. A group of restaurateurs with an established track record thinks there's still some evolving to do, all within a small scale that feels right for the area.
Opening today, Lucky Duck at the corner of Hyperion and Griffith Park Boulevard is the latest project from the folks behind Square One, Gingergrass and, more recently, Square One at the Echo Park Boathouse. Located in the former SiLa Bistro space and finally ready after a protracted construction process, Lucky Duck uses Square One's general ethos as a jumping-off point.
"The concept is the same, but the execution is a little different. We're trying to elevate the technique and the complexity of the dishes," says Square One Dining team member Robert Lee.
Chef Bryan Stevens, who prior to developing the menu at Lucky Duck helmed the Gingergrass kitchen, explains, "The menu and kitchen concept is about flowing with the seasons. We're going to be changing the menu frequently." When pressed to pick a genre, Stevens says, "I consider it American, but I think of American these days as more eclectic; it could include Asian flavor profiles, or European."
Stevens's resume also includes stints at the Water Grill, Baleen Kitchen in Redondo Beach, and with the Patina Restaurant Group. Beef dishes, such as the burger with smoked gouda and harissa aioli, make use of the animals Lucky Duck bought from DeyDey's Ranch in the Santa Ynez area, and when Stevens adds pork dishes to the menu, the meat will come from Cook.
Produce-oriented dishes hit the marks you might expect - a green salad with Champagne vinaigrette, a daily soup, a broccoli side with chili flakes and smoked goat mozzarella - and are largely with produce from local markets. Raw bar items include oysters, a half Dungeness crab and a sea bream crudo; also on the bar snacks menu section is an herb omelet and a burger. A fried combo of oyster mushrooms, cornichons and potatoes served with a bowl of remoulade is actually ideal bar food. Main course proteins include a pan-roasted half-chicken ($24), monkfish tail served with a hearty amount of shredded short ribs and parsnip puree ($24), and sliced ribeye with bone marrow herb salad ($36).
Co-owner D'Nell Larson has been overseeing all details of the restaurant's build-out, along with co-owners John Himelstein and Manao Davidson. Larson, a visual artist by training, designed Lucky Duck's interior, which successfully integrates nods to classic bistro decor (penny tile floors in a darker matte hue, Thonet-style chairs), with contemporary and site-specific details. Panels constructed of decorative concrete blocks reference the basic building material of Lucky Duck's strip-mall home, while adding texture and pattern. Hanging planters filled with succulents come from Potted in Atwater Village, and Treeline Woodworks in Frogtown custom-built the tabletops, bar, communal table, barstools and other details of the 36-seat eatery (with 16 more outside on the sidewalk). In dim lighting, the custom-printed wallpaper behind the bar, made by Flavor Paper in Brooklyn, takes on the glinting appearance of hammered copper panels.
Lucky Duck also helps fill the longings of locals who miss having access to Lou Amdur's wine expertise in a restaurant setting. Amdur put together the offerings, which are inclined toward smaller and natural producers, all available by the glass (minus Amdur's signature descriptors). The wine program at Lucky Duck will work its way up to having around 15 labels over the course of the next few weeks, in addition to a few reserved bottles that won't be available by the glass.
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To be best compatible with the menu's emphasis on "savory, earthy flavors," Amdur looked for "wines that would take a back seat to the food. It's not an environment for bombastic wines. It's more an environment for fresh wines," he says. "The thought of people drinking a lean, earthy pinot from Oregon is pretty great." In addition to the white and red choices, Amdur helped select a Cyril Zangs Normandy cider, German Gilabert cava and a cocktail with cava, Quiles vermouth and local maker Miracle Mile's Forbidden bitters. Three beers are available on tap, as well as Hitachino Belgian white ale and St. Peter's organic English ale by the bottle.
Coffee is from Intelligentsia, which will be especially useful when brunch service starts next month. For now, Lucky Duck is open from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., closed Tuesday.