We all know that West Hollywood is home to many of the city's best hotspots. So when a new restaurant opens in the area with a lauded Chef, modern outdoor patio, and location next to another hotspot, we pay attention. By renowned Latin American chef Diego Hernandez, Verlaine opened in the old Dominick's space this past Spring, presenting West Hollywood with a new space to eat, drink, and be seen. But in case you think this spot is all scene and no substance, think again. The restaurant is decidedly ambitious, crafting both an impressive bar program and a menu that's undoubtedly a departure from our typical choices of tableside guacamole and crispy tacos. And after experiencing a few growing pains when they first opened (which lead to a mixed review from LA Weekly's Besha Rodell), the Chef and management team have recommitted themselves to improving all aspects of the food and service.
The restaurant consists mostly of a medium-sized outdoor patio, small bar, and apparently small indoor space (which we didn't even know existed until after our meal), and this mostly outdoor seating is definitely the big draw. The modern space, clean lines, and green accents makes it one of the best outdoor spaces in West Hollywood, and a lovely place to enjoy a meal or drinks.
Even if you don't make it in for dinner, you can still enjoy a night out at their bar, which serves seasonally inspired cocktails and fresh takes on some of the classics. It's a small menu to be sure, and we were expecting more options with tequila and mezcal. Neverless, I ordered the Summer Serenade cocktail, which was a solid, fresh choice on par with most cucumber-mint-lime gin drinks around the city.
We started off with the Beef Tartare, which was definitely one of the highlights of the meal. The tartare had some nice textural elements with a few crispy bits, countered by a gooey, runny egg yolk sauce. It was definitely flavorful, but a nice and light(ish) way to start the meal.
Up next was their Ceviche of the Day, which I believe was yellowtail. The cucumber, tomatoes, and avocado were nice additions, and the ceviche itself was definitely a solid offering. Despite the fairly flavorful sauce, the dish didn't necessarily blow me away, and I think it could have been served a bit colder.
The same yellowtail is served sashimi-style atop a crispy tostada, which was a much more satisfying preparation. Though it was very simple, the mayo, serrano chile, ginger, and hibiscus dust all came together to subtle enhance the flavor of the mild dish. Not to mention the combination of the silky fish and crisp tostada, which was lovely.
Another highlight of the meal for me was the Chochoyotes-- pickled pig trotter dumplings with mole-covered masa balls was an interesting combination of crispy, meaty, and softer textures. The flavors were constantly evolving with each bite, yet seemed to be well balanced no matter how you approached it. This definitely seemed like the Chef's legendary cooking at its best and most creative.
The fish of the day was another solid offering-- well cooked, light, and seemingly simple (although clearly featured plenty of flavors like kale, preserved lemon, and swiss chard). It's undoubtedly an homage to LA's health conscious, and a dish that I'm sure they'd find very satisfying.
Definitely the dish I was most excited for, the Sorrel Tamal was not your average tamale. First off, the round shape was unexpected (for me, at least), while the corn masa was a bit thicker and slightly more dry than I expected. However, the sorrel juice, mole amaraillito, and onion ashes provided a really nice savory aspect to the dish that boasted complex flavors.
Overall, the meal at Verlaine was solid. The patio is beautiful, and some of the dishes live up to the Chef's reputation as well as the restaurant's promise of modern, creative Mexican food. It's undoubtedly a lovely place to spend an evening. Some of the dishes didn't fully live up to our expectations, but we know the chef and restaurant have been working hard to work out some of the kinks that inevitably come with growth, which is why we'd be happy to come back and see how everything is going (which we might have to since news dropped of the new cocktail bar inside the restaurant, Wild Beast).