Gardner Junction, which opens today on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gardner Avenue in West Hollywood, is a project three years in the making — and boy, is the new restaurant pretty. With a menu from chef and owner Steve Brown (Inn of the Seventh Ray, Monsieur Marcel), Gardner Junction replaces Rainforest Pizza & Hookah Bar on an awkward triangular plot of land that once housed an old Red Car trolley station.
Taking inspiration from the location's transit past, the firm Spacecraft custom-designed Gardner Junction with elements of steampunk and a train motif, from the working clocktower that now sits guard over the intersection to the lanterns hanging over the bar to the low-slung ceilings in the dining room.
Brown's menu, like so many these days, takes a shared-plate format. It includes 20 dishes that rotate every six weeks depending on what he finds at the Santa Monica and Hollywood farmers markets. He also has started his own organic garden, visible from the dining room, on the neighboring property.
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The ambitious opening menu includes items such as mushroom-farro risotto with smoked lamb belly, charred octopus gazpacho with buttermilk snow and kale-flour linguine with rabbit ragu. A Farmer's Plate consists of 12 vegetables from the restaurant's lengthy list of vendor farms, cooked "using multiple techniques." A pork belly and pickled pepper combo wrapped in hoja santa leaves looks like a futuristic sushi, topped with Dapple Dandy gastrique, pickled mustard seeds and Korean chile threads.
Many of the meat items — venison salami, American prosciutto and a 72-hour short rib — were cured at Huntington Meats at the Original Farmers Market. And if the Gardner Junction Instagram is any indication, opening week also will bring some dry-aged country ham, cured for six weeks and smoked for four days. Expect to spend about $50 for two people before drinks, which include California wines and a small selection of craft beers.
Gardner Junction, 1451 N. Gardner St., West Hollywood; (323) 450-9021, gardnerjunction.com.