California / Continental / Eastern European / Restaurants/Bars

Birdie G’s

When it came to booking a team dinner while I was in LA for a work trip, we let the locals do the picking and they did right by us. We wound up going to Birdie G’s, a new restaurant from what seems to be every west sider’s favorite restaurant group.

The main dining room was airy with huge windows, largescale artwork, and an open kitchen. We ended up sitting at the bar, which felt a bit more mod, a look I love. Sitting there meant we had easy access to the bar, which was churning out delicious cocktails. I tried the naranja china (candied kumquats, lime, golden falernum, kumquat ginger syrup, ancho reyes, reposado tequila, mezcal) – it was like a light kumquat margarita that was slightly bitter. That’s not a flavor profile I usually go for, but it worked when paired with the smoky mezcal. I also had a sip of the liberty bell libations (cracked black pepper, red & orange bell pepper, lemon, honey, aviation american gin). I’m not a gin drinker but found this to be super refreshing.

There were five of us there so we were able to order a large chunk of the menu. I noticed two things:

  1. This restaurant likes to play with fruit in savory dishes. This is a big no no for me, but [at least in the items we got] the fruity ingredients still played very much on the savory side of things.
  2. There is such a thing as modern Jewish fusion food. Who the f knew?

We started with the relish tray. This large dish was packed with tons of pickled and fresh veggies and a five – yes, five – onion dip. That dip was dang good and I loved the variety of veggies. This was served on a large cut crystal platter because like everything served here, this was a dish that you would have found in your Jewish grandmother’s home, just modernized.

We ordered two items from the bread section: cornbread with fermented green chili butter milo and olive bread. The cornbread was served in an adorable cast iron dish and was tasty – neither too dry nor too sweet. The other bread (sorry no pic) was bulbous with a nice crust and high quality olive oil, but not the most special item.

There was burrata on the menu so DUH we had to get it, especially because the tomatoes in Cali are already so good this season. Sure there was mozz, tomatoes, and basil, but the addition of capers and [I think fried] bits of anchovies made this dish extra yummy. I loved that they pushed burrata into the salty lane rather than a sweet one.

That relish tray was us dipping our toes into the modern Jewish pool, but the kasha cakes really took us there. Kasha is a grain (my La La makes the BEST with bows), but here they’ve fried it into croquettes and served with schmaltz, gribenes, crackling, lemon zest and chive. It’s like the greatest hush puppy ever.

The polenta with fresh ricotta, strawberry sofrito, pine nuts, and basil made me nervous. Strawberries in polenta? Ummmm. I anticipated simply passing this one to my neighbor (everything here is family style), but those strawberries were cooked down with sofrito to make them almost savory. It gave the creamy polenta a “what is that?!” moment that I very much enjoyed.

The mushrooms (four different types of them) were supposedly cooked with soybean essence. I still have no idea if they were because who knows what that would even be? I could, however, tell that they were cooked with madeira. They were delicious and definitely a side you should order.

Mussels and fries: fine. I feel like I don’t need to spend too much time talking about this. They were just like other solid moules frîtes. They were great for one of our fellow simpler diners.

Onto another Jewish-y item. The kugel was basically a super rich mac and cheese with very caramelized onions on top. This is like no kugel you’ve ever had at a kidush luncheon, I’ll tell you that much. It was fabulous.

While waiting for our table, the bartender recommended the P&B’s pork coppa steak (with cherry bbq, seaweed togarashi, and BG cornichons). It was our only large dish for the night and it was a good choice. Somehow the sweet, briny, and sour flavors worked really well together and brought out the richness of the pork, which was cooked quite well.

We ordered several desserts, and I have mixed feelings. The chocolate cake was fine. I don’t really love chocolate cake. Whatever. The sticky date bundt cake with salted caramel sauce was delicious. I’d order it again for sure. Then we got suckered into ordering the “world famous rose petal pie”. UGH. No. It was called out in its very own box on the menu – a marketing trick to draw your eye there so you order the more expensive item. Yet, I thought the ingredients did, actually, sound very exciting. Raspberry, strawberry, rose, and hibiscus! All lovely, pink flavors. Turns out it was jello floating in a pink mousse. I hate mousse. That whippy texture is NOT my thing. It was a gorgeous dish, and I liked the pretzel crust and crumbled, freeze dried berry topping, but overall, it was not at all what I was hoping for. But it sure would look good on Instagram, wouldn’t it?

I would love to go even deeper with the Jewish-skewing menu items. Artisanal matzah? Hangtown brei? Normally items I shy away from because I didn’t grow up with that type of cuisine, but if I learned anything from Birdie G’s it’s that they’re taking this food in new, amazing directions. This was a great restaurant where the chef really seems to just be doing exactly what he wants. It’s the kind of place where the food could come off as trying too hard if it wasn’t so dang good.

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