Sunday, January 14, 2007


Our love affair with Hatfield’s began seven months ago based on the Gray Lady’s chronology. Over six weeks or so, I had watched the space at 7458 Beverly Blvd. metamorphose from an unintentionally kitschy Chinese restaurant to a modern, minimalist dining room. We had read about the sterling credentials of the Hatfields themselves, who in our dumb luck leased a vacant space one long block from our home to open their gem. Our plan was to get in early and ingratiate. If this tiny restaurant became a hit, we wanted to make sure we could always a get a seat.

The restaurant is nestled in the center of contiguous storefronts in the middle of the block. To enter it, one ascends a short stairwell onto a veranda where there are a few choice tables overlooking Beverly Boulevard and then enters the white, subdued dining room. Upon then being greeted by Hatfield’s smart and genuinely warm staff, one can begin to enjoy the award of a temporary respite from Los Angeles’ clamor and vulgarity.

Since our first visit on the restaurant’s opening weekend, my wife and I have been entranced by Quinn Hatfield’s vision of a modern, ingredient-driven French cuisine or what should be modern French cuisine. Hatfield’s excels at fish and seafood. It can be innovative, as in the case of its charred Japanese octopus with roasted fennel, and red wine olive puree. Or it can execute a classic like sea bass in a gribiche sauce.

But the kitchen’s heart lies in its foie gras. For the first several months, only a terrine was offered. It was always delicious regardless of its differing presentations. Then one night, a resplendent sautéed version appeared on the menu accompanied by golden lentil puree, royal trumpet mushrooms, and petit grapes. I inquired into what prompted the sudden change. I was shuffled toward the back to meet the self-effacing Quinn for the first time, who quietly replied that he finally had confidence in his staff to tend to the kitchen so that he could concentrate on sautéing the liver (and apparently step out of the kitchen for half a minute). But it was clear that as his confidence grew, so did the quality of the restaurant.

The chef is a tactician who stays in the kitchen and works hard. Last fall, we had a late dinner there with friends, as did Mario Batali. For an infant of a restaurant and the husband-&-wife chefs who are well under 40, it is a tremendous compliment that Batali showed up. Still Quinn would not come out of the kitchen to introduce himself, at least while we were there, which was until 11:30 pm. In this dubious era of celebrity chefs, Quinn Hatfield’s quiet devotion to his kitchen is much more meaningful and--dare I throw out that dreaded, clichéd word--soulful. As a postscript, I have learned from a possibly reputable source that Batali praised Hatfield’s as the best restaurant he went to in 2006 in Los Angeles (though it is unclear if he went anywhere else.)

I am remiss in not yet praising Karen Hatfield, who runs the front of the house and is the restaurant’s pastry chef. Simply stated, her desserts and ice creams are explosively good and sophisticated, too. She is an expert at juxtaposing salty and sweet. I will just list a few of their desserts, copy-and-pasted from their website, so if there were a reader, he/she would get the point:

Roasted walnut praline tart,

chocolate shortbread crust,

espresso ice cream

Chocolate peanut butter truffle cake,
rosemary butterscotch ice cream,
cocoa nib brittle

Sugar and spiced beignets,
Venezuelan chocolate fondue,
ginger ice cream soda

We went to Hatfield’s on New Year’s Eve because we trusted that they, unlike their competition, would not indulge the restaurant industry’s typical New Year’s skullduggery of charging an irrationally high fee replete with the most cloyingly sweet of sparkling wines and then giving their most prized employees the night off.

So here we are again, back in the realm of the tasting menu with wine pairings. They offered two menus, but since the less expensive of the two was essentially a recapitulation of the regular menu, we opted for the wholly original “Menu Luxe,” which also pushed our Abramoffian agenda. The meal started with an elegant and very fresh hamachi tartar with celery leaves, crème fraiche, and Osetra caviar. This dish was a success because of the way the chef deftly played the caviar off the distinct taste and texture of the hamachi, which is also to say that the caviar was not there as a garnish or an empty luxury.

Next were diver scallops with marinated artichoke and puree, along with saffron vanilla emulsion, a variation of the aforementioned octopus dish. After suffering through Quince's apathetic take on this dish, Hatfield’s scallops were rich, intensely flavorful and cooked properly. They didn’t need the accompanying pyrotechnics.

After two light dishes, my arteries started trembling, as they knew their workload was about to become Dickensian. First was a roasted squab breast with roasted foie gras served with a small portion of crispy squab schnitzel. This dish was served with a glass of the 2003 Arbois, Jacques Puffeney, a complementary, idiosyncratic red wine from the Jura region of France. The final savory dish was a butter-poached fillet mignon with herbed spätzle. Just as this beautiful creation was placed on the table, Quinn appeared out of the kitchen for the first time all night. He approached our table with black truffles which he then generously shaved onto the fillets. I thanked him for what my wife and I thought was their best performance in all of our visits to Hatfield’s. He didn’t want to accept the compliment but politesse demanded it. And with that, he was back in the kitchen.

Now it was Karen’s turn. She brought out two desserts: a warm apple “upside down” spice cake with vanilla mascarpone and chimay ice cream, and a chocolate mille feuille with devils food cake with espresso ice cream. I am not sure how she extracts such flavor from each of these items, but she does. The chocolate was served with a Lambrusco Grasparossa, an Italian semi-sparkling red dessert wine which manages to be so tasty while, and I promise this is not a complaint, resembling carbonated Manischewitz.

A few other notes: the wine list has very interesting selections from some of the less obvious French regions as well as Austria, Italy and California. My wife loves the cocktails that the bartender, Matt, made. I have tasted a few of them: while not for me, they were good and not patently chick drinks. Matt sold his screenplay and will be missed. The restaurant’s head server, Hans, is an affable, civilized individual who knows his wines. I attribute his warmth and intelligence to the fact that he is a graduate of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

7458 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles
(323) 935-2977

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