For those of you who only head over to the San Fernando Valley when Ludo Lefebvre pops up on that side of the hill, there is another reason to actually go to Sherman Oaks. Open now for only six days, Sweet Butter Kitchen on Ventura Boulevard -- that's a few blocks west of where you'll be staring listlessly at the closed doors of the restaurant-formerly-known-as-Marche next week, after the end of the current incarnation of LudoBites -- is a hybrid along the lines of the recently-opened FarmShop and Suzanne Goin's Tavern, a combination market and restaurant. Great trend, by the way, for everyone who loves One Stop Shopping, particularly during the holiday gift-giving season.
Owned by the husband-and-wife team of Leslie Danelian (Sweet Somethings Catering Company) and Rick Berge, the little café and market has only outside patio seating, but hey, it's California. The menu is filled with market-driven stuff like chicken paillard with shoestring fries, tuna Nicoise salads, grilled Nutella sandwiches, and a croque monsieur approved by Ludo himself.
Apparently Lefebvre stopped by the café the other day and, says Danelian, stayed long enough to show the kitchen just how he would make a croque monsieur. Imagine if Pierre Hermé wandered in and wound up demoing macarons in your kitchen.
Sweet Butter occupies two locations -- it was formerly an office and a Box Brothers -- which now forms an outdoor patio between the kitchen and the market. The market half is stocked with Recchuiti chocolates and jars of burnt caramel sauce, with Piccoline olives and cookbooks and a freezerful of latkes and soup and Dandy Don's ice cream, with a pastry case filled with brownies and ginger cookies and whatever else the bakers feel like making. All the baked goods are housemade, the exception being the bread, which is a combination of BreadBar and La Brea Bakery. The coffee is from Intelligentsia. And after you order, you'll be handed a stand with an ingredient ("salt") instead of a number, as, well, Danelian doesn't really like numbers, at least in that context.
Danelian says that she wasn't too worried about opening in the middle of a recession, given the quality of the products she's selling and the average price for them. The location is pretty good too, as there isn't a lot of competition along this stretch of Ventura. "I feel like I have a monopoly." Well, yes, unless Ludo opens a sandwich shop down the street.
Sweet Butter Kitchen: 13824 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks; (818) 788-2832.