Excavating Mark Peel and Jay Perrin’s Tar Pit

Restaurant Critic

It’s been a long time coming, but Campanile’s Mark Peel and Jay Perrin have finally opened their bar and supper club a few blocks north of their iconic place on La Brea Avenue. Named the Tar Pit, it is painted, outdoors, an appropriate dark brown. Inside is something altogether different: a drop-dead glamorous boîte with mirrored leather booths, dramatic Art Deco touches, and a bar where the bartender whips up nostalgia-based cocktails created by mixologist extraordinaire Audrey Saunders (Peju Club in New York).

Try her signature Gin Gin Mule, which combines house-made ginger beer with gin, lime, simple syrup and mint to delicious effect, or the Jamaican Firefly assembled from dark rum, a little of that ginger beer, fresh lime juice and simple syrup.

Her cocktails are elegant and sure to become classics.

But if you prefer wine, Perrin has instituted a novel list: Everything on it is $38 per bottle. Eliminating the differences in prices, he feels, will encourage people to experiment more and try a Primitivo from Puglia or a St. Laurent from Burgenland in Austria or Pinelo, a white wine from Slovenia. Tasting notes are included as a guide, so drink up.

As for eats, Peel has managed to write a small-plates menu in which every dish sounds tempting.

The bar menu is a case in point. How about pickled deviled egg with shaved Smithfield ham? Or a definitive version of clams casino? Crab cakes are made from lump crab meat and served with a preserved lemon remoulade. And if you’re feeling peckish, an order of luscious duck confit sliders should set you up nicely.

Staying for dinner? And why not? Consider such retro dishes as shrimp Louis, lobster and scallop Newburg, and steak and kidney pie. I don’t know how, but I passed up all of those for an order of big, fluffy, wild boar meatballs in a tomato ragu with squiggly spätzle noodles and was perfectly happy. We had to have the braised pork cheeks and ears too. Er, that would be orecchiette (“little ears”) pasta with pork cheeks and pigs ear cut into fine ribbons in a salsa verde, or green sauce, with bitter greens. A funny and lovely dish.

Don’t worry, if you get swept up and order too much (the most expensive item on the menu is $17), I’m sure the bartender can send over a digestivo, something both effective and imaginative.