One of the year's most exciting openings takes place tonight in West Hollywood, when acclaimed Mexican chef Diego Hernández debuts Verlaine in the former Dominick's location. The restaurant is a collaboration between Hernández, owners Matthew Hechter and Christopher Brandon, and mixologist Aaron Melendrez. According to reps for the project, the group is looking “to create a restaurant that speaks to the year-round bounty of California produce and farming, as well as the influences and culinary experiences that each bring to the project. This is not a Mexican restaurant; it is a chef-driven restaurant with a Mexican chef at the helm.”
Hernández has gained great acclaim for his restaurant Corazon de Tierra in the Valle de Guadalupe of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Corazon de Tierra recently was placed at No. 39 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants of Latin America.
Lovers of the historic Dominick's restaurant will hardly recognize the space; I'm told the old dining room has been “structurally removed” from the building. Guests now enter through a garden corridor rather than through the old front door, and the entire dining experience has been built around an outdoor patio, set in a garden planted with edible flowers, herbs and plants that will be incorporated into the menus. There's a bar and lounge area where lighter fare will be served, but the full menu will not be available at the bar. You will be able to see the old iconic Dominick's sign in the entrance corridor behind the garden.
The menu makes the “this is not a Mexican restaurant” statement clear — there are a couple of Mexican-influenced dishes included, but no more than you'd see on any modern American menu (who doesn't serve ceviche these days?). There's a whole section dedicated to vegetables, with dishes such as whole baby beetroot with smoked and roasted garlic puree and hibiscus powder. Entrees include oven-roasted suckling pig with sweet potato, salsa madre and smoked squash, and dry aged rib-eye with celeriac puree and turnip. The cocktail menu includes lots of classics, with nods to their place of origin, plus a couple of original drinks.
As of this evening, the restaurant will be open Monday through Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday brunch and dinner will be added in the coming weeks.
Verlaine, 8721 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood. (424) 288-4621.