If you remember visiting Tanzy before it closed, you’d recall a restaurant that greeted guests with an interior entangled by gnarled, twisted branches, as if from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
It was possible to mistake the space as the lair of a wicked sorceress rather than a modern Italian food establishment. A dramatic and theatrical setting was the intention of its designers. After all, it was run by iPic, the posh cinema experience residing in the same building with no walls separating the two. The idea was to smoothly segue guests from dining to film-watching without disrupting the “dinner and a movie” pairing.
Now, Tanzy has been replaced — by a sequel, if you will, named Tuck Room Tavern. The new concept still transports guests to another faraway place but does so in a much more eccentric fashion. Sherry Yard of Spago pastry chef fame, who collaborated on Tanzy with iPic, has returned as the guiding force behind the restaurant's extreme makeover.
The walls are sky blue and dotted with subtle cloud puffs. Yard scoured flea markets for quirky tchotchkes like a gigantic 8-ball, a sleek white modern grandfather clock and candlestick holders. The centerpieces are two sky-high corner bookshelves filled with old books and painted with dancing bears courtesy of local artist Mike Stilkey. Aside from the lighting, which comes dangerously close to gastropub cliche — Edison bulbs are either kept to a minimum or cleverly integrated into the chandeliers — the Tuck Room Tavern manages to convey a refreshing whimsy without getting too far into wacky, contrived territory.
In the new space, the dishes have been transformed as well — at Tanzy, it was modern Italian; at Tuck Room Tavern, it's gastropub.
Gone are the Parmesan fries, which have been replaced with equally decadent mac & cheese “fries.” The starters section includes many on-trend options: There's a grilled avocado shallot mousse that’s been stuffed back into its half-skin and topped with bread crumbs, cotija cheese, fingerling lime pearls and flatbread chips for dipping. Add to that the “K-Town” short rib sliders as well as a bowl of very fresh ahi tuna poké enhanced with soy sauce, sweet onion, ginger, sesame, edamame and macadamia nut crunch.
Yard favors eclecticism on her Tuck Room menu, so diners will discover main courses as unusual as the Drunken Goat, a turkey burger spiced with Mediterranean seasonings, green harissa and Greek yogurt dressing. In another dish, fat, smoky shrimp from Mexico sit atop creamy Anson Mills grits mingling with bacon lardons, Swiss chard and bacon vinaigrette — it’s a satisfying shrimp and grits.
The mango & habanero BBQ baby back ribs taste like a church picnic, thanks to the accompanying coleslaw and honey-glazed cornbread dolloped with light whipped goat cheese. There’s even chicken schnitzel on the menu — tender, juicy and crispy.
Adam Seger is the boss of the bar at Tuck Room. His signature cocktails harken back to Hollywood’s golden age. Sugie’s Original Gimlet was created to honor Harry “Sugie” Sugarman, owner of the Beverly Hills tiki supper club Tropics. The Cocoanut Grove, named after the legendary nightclub in the Ambassador Hotel, is a really sweet concoction made with a couple of different rums, house-made coconut cream, a bit of balsam amaro and fresh coconut water, all served in a coconut. (Yes, included are a paper umbrella and all sorts of other tiki cocktail bling.)
The showstopper, however, is the cocktail shot Seger calls Heisenberg, named after the Breaking Bad character. Resembling a chemistry set, the drink is made via a repurposed Yama cold coffee drip system. Different botanicals, ingredients and spirits are used nightly for new infusions to be sipped in a cocktail or slammed like a shot.
Of course, no visit to Yard’s restaurant can be sewn up without eating dessert. Deliciously descriptive final courses called black 'n' blue pot pie and banana split tart can be tempting, but the red velvet pavlova, Yard’s reimagining of a baked Alaska, is the one to order. Made with crispy Earl Grey tea meringue and raspberry red velvet crumble cake encasing a raspberry-rose swirl gelato, this sweet thing is Yard having a great time. And that's not even mentioning the plate it's served on, strewn with market-fresh berries and chocolate sauce.
Tuck Room Tavern, 10850 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; (310) 307-7004, thetuckroom.com. Mon.-Thu., 4-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 4 p.m.-mid.