Scratch: Bar & Kitchen – Encino, CA
Let me start this review by admitting that whatever I write from this point forward, will not do this restaurant justice.
Some of you may already know this, but for the past two years, Scratch was originally located in Beverly Hills. When their lease was up, Chef Philip Frankland Lee (currently on this season of Top Chef), decided to move his operation back to where he grew up: Encino, CA. “I rode on that exact carousel when I was little” he tells us. As a fellow Valley native, I immediately had a build in appreciation for the food journey I was about to experience.
Now there are a number of amazing restaurant choices on the west side, and a restaurant of this caliber can easily get lost in the mix. So you can imagine how excited Kathy and I were to see them move to a location not in the very trendy part of the Valley i.e. Studio City (funny enough, he has another restaurant in Studio City, Gadarene Swine). I was fully prepared to pay a pretty penny for this restaurant, as Yelp had already given this place 4 $$$$! Surprisingly, it seemed quite reasonable, considering the quality food (and service) you receive. Can a place be both “warm” and “trendy”, because that’s exactly how I felt when I first walked in.
There are a number of items you can order a la carte, however if you wanted to get a good sense of what this place has to offer, they give two tasting menu options (the difference being the number of courses), and of course a dinner at a swanky restaurant isn’t complete without “adult beverage” options ranging from a light crisp wine which Kathy had, to a down to earth Longboard beer, which I partook in.
In total we tried 10 different items (and they offered so much more).
Course 1: Muscle Shooters with Uni
I’ve had my fair share of shooters before – this was in a league all its own. The muscle was fresh, the avocado was ripe, the uni was added a great texture and the Sake shot was the perfect way to start off this meal. Right off the bat, you get something fresh, exciting, and fun!
Course 2: Scallops with Apple and Pickled Radish
There is no shortage of fresh seafood here, as the scallops practically melted in your mouth. I tasted crème fresh and ginger in the sauce which I thought was a great compliment to the dish. The crunchy crispness of the apple paired very well with the almost creamy consistency of the scallops. I could have eaten just this and been completely satisfied.
Course 3: Brioche and butter?
Surprise! THEY MAKE THEIR OWN BRIOCHE. And they make it REALLY well. It was light, yet felt like it could withhold something substantial like a burger (which I saw was an option on the menu). It also had a nice very subtle sweet taste to it as well. Pared with some butter, olive oil, and fresh cracked pepper, I was officially in my happy place. Can I take a loaf of this to go?
Course 4: Mexican Prawn with toasted Pistachios and Fresh Radish
They loved their radish that night and I was loving it too. The lightly seared prawns were seasoned with Trimura, which is a Moroccan spice that I had never heard of but am now on the hunt for. I was such a fan of the toasted pistachios with this dish. I tend to pay a lot of attention to food texture, and that pistachio was just hitting all the right notes. Another fantastic dish!
Course 5: Thyme and Garlic Olive Oil Popcorn
Oh! They make their own popcorn too? What a fun snack in between these delightful dishes. It should be noted that both myself and Kathy within a week of our visit attempted to make our own thyme and garlic olive oil popcorn…it just wasn’t the same.
Course 6: Squash, Tomatoes, and Spinach Salad
To be honest, after the amazing plethora of fresh seafood dishes we had just eaten, when presented with this “salad” we were a little underwhelmed. But we quickly took it back! The roasted yellow squash was definitely the star, and the mustard dressing was its best supporting actor. This salad made me understand how Vegans can make it through life.
Course 7: Hanger Steak with Kale, Mushroom and Hazelnut
Salad is great and all, but man was this meat tender. The paring with the kale and mushroom was fantastic, and again, the addition of the nuts added another great element to the dish. So delightful and cooked to perfection. *insert heart emoji*
Course 8: House made cheese
Made out of a mixture of goat and cow’s milk and topped with ash (yes, ash, I asked them to repeat that because I thought I mis-heard) they don’t just stop with their bread and popcorn, they make their own cheese as well. Margarita, (Philip’s wife and head pastry chef) told us they go as far as head to the farm where the milk from these cheeses comes from. When you walk towards the back you can see their case full of house made cheeses. This particular cheese was creamy and delightful. My only gripe was that this didn’t come out with the brioche in the beginning, as I kept imaging how incredible that combination would have been…oh well I guess I’ll have to go back!
Course 9: Bone marrow with Mushroom on Brioche
This was a bonus item we ordered a la carte. And it was worth it. The bone marrow was so silky and flavorful, the mushrooms were cooked perfectly, and we saw the return of the brioche (which they artfully shaped into a bone marrow shape). I wish I had 10 bites of this instead of two, and even then I was pushing it as I could have fit that whole thing in my mouth!
Course 10: Butter Cookie Apple Crumble with Salted Ice Cream Topped with Caramel
As I noted a little earlier, Philip’s wife, Margarita is the pastry chef at Scratch. We got to chatting a little with her a little and learned the desert menu is ever revolving. Since we sat at the bar, we got a firsthand look at all the food prep and I thought it was so cool to see her make this delightful desert! The apples were still a bit crisp and were so delightful with the ice cream (which of course they made as well). Classic cookie and caramel topping it all worked great together and was such a nice end to our meal.
We were fortunate enough to have Chef Jonathan Portela (who had just moved here from the east coast) take us on this culinary journey. Right off the bat you could see the not only the knowledge, but the passion in the food that was presented, and that in itself makes this restaurant worth the visit. This restaurant offers more than just great food – it offers an experience. This end of the valley doesn’t get many, if any, dining options like this, and I hope it starts a domino effect of more amazing places to open up here in this area!