With the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as the epicenter of Hollywood and native Angelena Nancy Silverton the heart of L.A.’s culinary history, the newest addition to her restaurant empire pays a thoughtful homage to family origins.
The Barish, her Italian-inspired steakhouse, has opened in the historic hotel’s landmarked lobby, a locale that has held a special place in Silverton’s heart even before she launched the LaBrea Bakery more than 30 years ago.
The culinary legend’s first new restaurant since the opening of chi SPACCA in 2013, The Barish is named after her paternal grandmother’s family, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who settled in Saskatchewan, Canada in the late 1800s. The family raised Angus cattle and Hampshire sheep on a homestead called The Barish Farm.
Sepia photographs and Silverton family heirlooms accentuate the renovated 110-seat dining room produced by L.A.-based design firm Nickey Kehoe, anchored by a central wood-fire hearth and open kitchen. The Writer’s Room, formerly known as the Library Bar, has also been redesigned with a vintage wine cart, antique typewriter, velvet furniture and a 1950’s portrait of Silverton’s mother, Doris, on the wall. The room was renamed in memory of her mother, a longtime writer for the General Hospital soap opera.
The dining room highlights the Roosevelt’s Spanish Colonial Revival details with custom designed banquettes with blackened finish and tapestry-like upholstery, mirrored columns, and simple white drapery hanging over the large windows. The vintage-inspired furnishings reflect the Italian countryside where Silverton spends her summers.
She sourced some tabletop pieces herself at flea markets in Europe and selected plates featuring farm animals and vegetables by a Tuscan ceramicist. Fittingly, I ended up with the wild hare.
Ah, but it’s what arrives on the whimsical dinner ware that is truly the star of the show.
While it’s considered a steakhouse, an equal amount of reverence is placed on the produce. Silverton has brought on the masterful vegetable wizardry of soft spoken executive chef Armen Ayvazyan, formerly at Auburn.
The yellow endive salad is without exaggeration one of the best salads I have ever eaten. Almost more of a dessert than an appetizer (the Europeans, after all, traditionally consume their salads at the end of the meal) it’s a sweet sculpture of oro blanco grapefruit jewels, celery root, slightly softened endive and peppery watercress mixed with goat cheese and almonds.
Ayvazyan’s genius for taking lowly vegetables like kohlrabi and elevating them to celestial status, continues with the roasted leeks and smoked baby beets with caraway, bronze fennel and yogurt.
And if you can have salad for dessert, you can have a dutch baby with meat. A delightful spin on pizza, there’s a rustic popover cradling a delicate 24-month prosciutto di Parma to tear and fold and enjoy by hand.
The selection of pastas includes a torchio with gruyere, gouda, fontina and parmigiano reggiano cheeses as well as crespelle in broth with ham hock and mushrooms.
For meat lovers – especially those of the raw persuasion – the steak tartare is likely the best in L.A. right now. It’s a mosaic composition of chopped Creekstone New York and bavette steak, pickled shallots, kohlrabi, mustard seeds and crunchy buckwheat for a layered mix of textures and flavors. And with all due respect to Silverton’s leavening legacy, the tartare is refreshingly served on nasturtium and other plant leaves instead of the standard bread – which allows more room for the lamb shoulder chop. Served over seasonal fava beans, pink celery and lamb sausage, the chop is cooked to perfect rareness and cut from the bone for easy sharing and gnawing.
It’s a nostalgic treat to see Silverton once again manning the kitchen counter and gliding through the dining room graciously greeting guests from table to table including old friends like Sherry Yard. The empire will strike again next year, when the James Beard Award-winning restaurateur will reinvent the hotel’s space formerly known as Teddy’s and transform it into Lorenzo’s, which will serve wine, cheese, snacks and fondue.