Finally, another reason to fight the traffic on the 405. Tipple & Brine opens today on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.
Yes, it's in the Valley and and the name is a bit, well, precious, but this is a restaurant with a great deal of talent behind it. Executive chef Mike Williams has cooked with Casey Lane at the Tasting Kitchen and now-shuttered gastropub the Parish, as well as top San Francisco restaurant Boulevard. Daniel Zacharczuk of Honeycut and the Varnish put together the drinks list. And owner Richard DiSisto has proven success up in the Valley: He started Lucy's 51 in Toluca Lake 10 years ago.
The place is an oyster bar, emphasizing equally both the “oyster” part and the “bar” part. Its signature item, commemorated with a big chalkboard illustration, is the oyster luge: You eat an oyster, then pour some Scotch into the briny liquid left in the shell (tipple and brine, get it?).
There are a couple dozen Scotches (and a couple dozen other whiskies) to choose from, along with a rotating assortment of bivalves from both coasts, but the default option is the mildly peaty Bowmore 12-year-old, whose smoky, maritime flavors go beautifully with smaller, saltier oysters like Kumamotos.
There's plenty of other seafood on hand as well, with everything from an uni toast that pairs Santa Barbara sea urchin with a guacamole-like avocado mousse to whole fried orata. Most dishes are sort of Italian-ish with a focus on seasonal produce, though the vegetable sides run a wider gamut, such as Brussels sprouts with chile vinegar and a miso-spiked mayonnaise, or asparagus with fried egg, ham and manchego. The menu even nods to landlubbers, with a short section of chicken, lamb and beef dishes, currently incorporating springtime favorites including artichokes, asparagus and fava beans.
Besides the rows of whiskey, there's a short but comprehensive cocktail list — one each made with vodka, rum, gin, tequila, cognac, Irish whiskey and Scotch — and a dozen beers on tap.
Hordes of Edison bulbs hang from the ceiling, which, combined with the reclaimed-wood walls and exposed ductwork, give the place a sort of early-1900s industrial feel — rustic, worn and comfortable.
Hipsters of the Valley, your craft-cocktail-oyster-bar dreams have come true.
Jason Horn has been obsessed with food since he learned the secret ingredient in his dad's chicken soup (he'll never tell) and obsessed with writing since he followed a high-school crush to a literary magazine meeting (it didn't work out). Follow him online at The Messy Epicure and on Twitter at @MessyEpicure. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.