George Abou-Daoud specializes in opening the kind of places, like the tin-roofed Delancey and the shotgun bar The Bowery, that cater to young, stylish, displaced New Yorkers and Angelenos who fancy themselves as such.
At most of these places, the vibe is better than the food, although The Bowery makes a mean mac 'n cheese, Mission Cantina's guacamole is far better than expected and GelatoVino's gelato is definitely worth seeking out. Even then, something about all of these establishments feels stage-managed, as though they're set-designed Hollywood versions of a New York bar or a Mexican cantina.
The only one of Abou-Daoud's establishments that actually felt like like it belonged in Los Angeles, like it was of the city rather than plunked down into it, was District, an airy, charming restaurant where the bartenders had perfected the Perfect Manhattan and the wonderful chilli cheese fries were topped with Hook's cheddar. District was, unquestionably, the crown jewel of Abou-Daoud's empire. Naturally, he had to close it.
Now, the unofficial Mayor of East Hollywood has begun his westward expansion, setting up shop on Fairfax Avenue with the much hyped Rosewood Tavern, just opened in May. It's exactly the kind of joint this neighborhood needs but, sadly, far less than it deserves.
Rosewood Tavern is a “casual” steakhouse. Here, casual means that they don't take reservations, that the din is closer to that of a bar, that the space is bisected by two of the worst communal tables in town, that you may get stuck at a high table with horrendous backless stools, that the bartenders have to clamber up a rickety (but lovely) library ladder to fetch almost anything off the Scotch menu and that the wine list is tiny and truly terrible. Rest assured, however, that the prices are not casual.
The food is a conglomeration of poorly executed dishes that spans multiple cuisines but always reverts to a sort of careless, middlebrow aesthetic that seems to scream: The lighting is dim. The patrons are young. Maybe no one will notice we're serving diner food at chophouse prices.
There's a bland French dip sandwich and an even more bland pot pie. Overcooked mussels swim in a salty tom yum broth; it's a sad version of a dish that was once done with sophistication and finesse at District. Even the burger, which is so good at The Bowery, is dreadful at Rosewood. A mushy puck of texturized protein drenched in Thousand Island dressing, it's a salty dripping mess that falls apart before it reaches your mouth for the first bite. It may be the worst pub burger in all of Los Angeles.
Be smart. Explore Rosewood's beer list, which features approximately two dozen craft brews. Dig into its impressive roster of whiskey and Scotch, replete with unpronounceable distilleries. If you absolutely need to eat, avoid the main courses (though the steak is passable, as are the baked potato and creamed spinach) and stick to the three things Rosewood does best: deviled eggs with a sharp horseradish bite, crisp chicken wings and hearty fries. Find a table on the semi-open patio. Sit back. Ignore the noise. And casually sip your drink of choice. Just don't expect the formality of well-made food.