I first moved to Silver Lake when I was 19. Going out for dinner and a drink back then often meant choking down a watery chicken tostada at El Conquistador while sipping a potent margarita and being dazzled by the explosively colorful decor.
Ten years later, my tastes have changed — and so has Silver Lake. How else to explain my thoroughly enjoyable evening at Barbrix, the sleek new wine bar on Hyperion? Seated at the back bar, I got to watch the kitchen action while looking over the menu and reasonably priced list of wines by the glass. I picked the Kogl Mea Culpa Saemling, a white wine from Slovenia our server described as “crispy” — yes, it is difficult for me to resist crispy things — which turned out to be a great match for the meal.
Veal meatballs were juicy and delicate, sitting in a pool of herb-butter sauce that was so good mopped up with chunks of the La Brea Bakery bread, I had to get a second round of bread. The McGrath Farmer’s Plate was like a slice of garden on the plate — dark, earthy beets, sweet sunshine carrots, curling green pea tendrils — exactly right for a cool May evening. We asked a passing server about the saba mentioned in the menu description (the only saba either of us knew was the Japanese mackerel) and he deferred to the chef, Don Dickman, who came over and gave us a quick but thorough explanation of the process of making saba, a sort of unfermented, deeply concentrated grape juice. He squeezed a few droplets of balsamic vinegar onto a plate for us to taste and contrast — an unexpected and welcome lesson from a chef who undoubtedly had better things to do.
The Greek sardine, grilled until the skin was crisp and slightly blackened, was meaty with an oiliness nicely offset by a squeeze of the lemon wedge served alongside. Is there any better way to get your omega-3s? I only wish it had been sardines, plural, so I could have eaten more.
The roasted halibut with sunchokes, chard and mushroom was slightly overcooked, veering from Silky-Supple Town into Dense-Flaky-ville. The flavors were spot-on though, and I loved the contrast between the slightly crunchy sunchoke slices and slippery mushrooms.
We didn’t order dessert, though I was sorely tempted by the ginger shortcakes with berry compote that kept passing by. Jessica, the ideal dining partner in so many ways, seems to unfortunately lack betsu-bara (literally “another stomach” in Japanese), the affliction I was diagnosed with during my first week in Japan when I could eat five courses of food and still have room for dessert. I always have room for dessert.
I’ll undoubtedly be returning to Barbrix, and not just for the shortcake. The service was friendly, the space intimate without feeling cramped, and everyone in the room, whether patron or employee, seemed genuinely happy to be there — including me.
Silver Lake, it’s official. We’ve grown up.
2442 Hyperion Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027