Second to None: Hatfield’s Restaurant

I found Hatfield’s by searching Yelp for “Best Tasting Menu” in the Los Angeles area.  It ranked number 2, behind Providence, and I was surprised it wasn’t on my radar despite garnering industry accolades left and right.  I’ve been to Providence twice, both times for the tasting menu.  The first time we did 10 courses and by course 8 I was waving the white flag and resting my head on the booth.  The second time we were smarter and went for 7 courses, and I made it through to the end without my head hitting the table.  2nd Best Tasting Menu sounded like the perfect choice to treat our favorite fellow foodie friends (alliteration, check), D+A, who were in town from the STL.  D+A are as adventurous as we, and were game to try the Chef’s Spontanee Tasting Menu, with wine pairings.  Since we were celebrating A’s birthday as well, I booked a taxi to take us from Pasadena to the Westside so we could imbibe with impunity.  Smart thinking, no?

Upon entering Hatfield’s I immediately noticed the chic neutrals and understated art.  The restaurant had an open dining room and open kitchen (I love when I can see the chefs cooking my food!), and you can see Mr. Hatfield himself at the mast finishing off the plates.  While tables are lined up next to each other as you’d find in a Parisian bistro, guests are not crammed in like proverbial sardines.  Staff were friendly and enthusiastic and took the time to explain each element of the dishes and wine pairings.

Starting us off was a smoked salmon amuse bouche with a little bubbly- just the way I like to get my tummy loosened up for a big meal.  Next, Hatfield’s famous “croque madame,” a play on the French dish using hamachi, proscuitto, and quail’s egg.  While the dish for me wasn’t reminiscent of its Parisian namesake, I enjoyed it nonetheless, especially the perfectly poached quail’s egg atop a toasted slice of brioche.  The next dish was a highlight- warm cuttlefish salad, mushrooms, and artichoke puree.  You rarely see cuttlefish served in fine dining restaurants but was well received here.  The cuttlefish was tender and flavorful and the mushrooms perfectly complemented the texture of the cuttlefish, a surprising but sensual flavor profile.

Coconut soup with a crispy sweetbread skewer followed.  I never want to order sweetbreads as a main course but in a tasting menu I find myself more adventurous, and the sweetbread skewer was just one bite sitting on a creamy slightly warm broth of coconut milk and mushrooms.  While the soup was a bit heavy considering we had so many courses to go, I enjoyed its unique presentation and the confidence shown by serving sweetbreads.

Scallops with an apple foam was a lower point in the meal, but still nothing to complain about, followed by a duo of squab and fois gras.  Like the coconut soup, this dish was heavy and I started to fear I wouldn’t make it until the end.  I powered through with the next dish of pork belly.  Who doesn’t love pork belly?  Forget about it.

I wrongly assumed the pork belly would be the last savory dish before dessert until the waiter informed me that 7 courses meant 7 “savory” courses, not 7 total.  I quickly had to adjust my stomach and prepare for the final savory dish: a duo of wagyu and short rib.

4 desserts followed: 2 “pre-desserts” (2 of us were served one pre-dessert and the other 2 another), and 2 more “main desserts” (served the same way).  All in all, counting the amuse bouche and the sharing of 4 different desserts, we were treated to 12 courses.  Talk about palate fatigue.  By the end I was happily intoxicated with both food and wine, and dreading the long cab ride home (which, as it happened, didn’t end so well for me).

Wine selections were chosen with care.  I found the wine selections distinctly lacking in snobbiness, as the sommelier did not hesitate to present a Sta. Rita Hills pinot or Italian Vermentino along with more unique bottles.  My favorite wine of the night was a red frizzante from Lambrusco paired with the beef duo.

Hatfield’s clearly focuses on the food.  Plates were artfully presented but not trying so hard to appear avant garde, and taste took center stage over flashiness.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the restaurant to others, though I may caution against choosing the Chef’s Spontanee Menu unless you pre-plan to skip breakfast and lunch.

We enjoyed our evening immensely.  While it may have scored only 2nd place on Yelp, we found it second to none.


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