The Beverly Garland hotel in Studio City is currently under the knife, undergoing $20 million in renovations and emerging as the more colorful, retro-inspired boutique hotel the Garland. In May, the Front Yard, the new restaurant by chef Warren Schwartz of Westside Tavern, will rise from the sawdust. The hotel is smart enough to use the interim period to test the menu. Warren's Blackboard, a provisional "food and drink workshop" with SoCal cooking influences, is that test.
Appropriately, the first thing you'll notice at the restaurant is the mural-sized blackboard with that day's menu scrawled out in thick chalk lines, readable from even the far end of the room. The prominence of the blackboard is fitting, even if conveniently taking up a large amount of wall space until the Front Yard ponies up for higher-end decor - a few of the cardboard canvases on the walls seemed quite dorm-room chic.
Warren's Blackboard's blackboard is updated a couple times a week based on customer wishes. With your bill, you're handed a feedback card reminiscent of something you'd see at a family restaurant chain: "How would you rate our service? What dishes were your favorite? Is there anything you would change about your dining experience?" The difference from, say, Red Robin is that Warren's Blackboard listens.
So far, because of the "winning" feedback, displayed like award ribbons on a bulletin board by the entrance, Warren's Blackboard has implemented less salt, more fish entrees, more vegetable appetizers and another dessert. Other suggestions looked like flame wars from a Crossfit message board: One guest suggested, "Make more vegan friendly," while another suggested, "Less vegan friendly. More steak!" Not a challenge at all.
The dishes (at least this week's), many influenced by Asian cuisine, tended to be bright with lemon and parsley flavors. Stand-out items included a milky burrata with sweet, cinnamon-steeped poached pears and earthy watercress; roasted Brussels sprouts in sherry wine; and a 2-inch-thick pork chop.
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Options were reasonably priced: a salmon entree under $20, a burger for $13 and bottled beer for around $6. The menu included cocktails, such as a honeyed Penicillin and a delightful fist-in-your-throat in the form of a jalapeño margarita.
Ask to sit on the more romantic outside patio, which overlooks the dreamlike hotel front, with its classical Spanish courtyard fountain and disembodied trolley car looking as if it teleported to the wrong place. At night the soft rose colors and garden lights make one feel like they're sitting in a cute backyard (ironically). If the hospitality toward customers is an indication, and the indoor decor is spruced up to match the delights of the outdoor patio, the Front Yard will be a welcome upscale addition later this spring.