Name of restaurant: The Bellwether in Studio City.
Chef/Owner: Co-owners chef Ted Hopson (formerly Lukshon and Father’s Office) and beverage director Ann-Marie Verdi (also from Father’s Office).
Concept: The Bellwether is an upscale, neighborhood spot in the former Olé Tapas Bar space on Ventura Boulevard. Hopson is focusing on a seasonal, shareable menu that includes a daily R&D (research and development) “works in progress” section.
Verdi is working closely with Chef Hopson to create cocktails using the same seasonal produce as the kitchen. The bar displays a large drink monitor listing on-tap selections, including wine, beer and cocktails.
The 3,200-square-foot, open dining room (seating 70) features butcher-block tabletops and crimson leather banquettes along the main wall. Designer Ana Henton (Love & Salt, Lukshon) is in the process of finishing the décor. There’s a patio in the works, as well, that will seat an additional 30.
The dish you need to try: The crispy pork rillettes sit on a potato rosti with creamy ham-hock gravy. It’s topped with a sunny-side egg and crispy pig ears. It’s all your wildest pork dreams realized, on one plate.
Runners-up: Swine not your game? The menu is actually quite vegetable-heavy. The tempura cauliflower (a large bowl for $8) is made with a Thai twist, including Thai chile, mint, Thai basil, lime and nam pla (fish sauce). It just may turn out to be the perfect bar companion.
There’s plenty of fish on the menu, too, including a beautiful hamachi crudo gussied up with avocado, pickled baby vegetables and lightly puffed quinoa.
Don’t skip dessert: The white chocolate mousse cake comes with brown butter pistachios and cherry ice cream.
Whose at the next table?: Families. A lot of them.
Problematic: The noise. Hopefully the finished décor will help with the sound. It was so loud the server asked us to repeat each order.
Service: Very knowledgeable and friendly.
What are you drinking? “Headstart For Happiness” cocktail made with house-infused Tito’s blackberry vodka, Julian’s hard cider, simple syrup and lime.
Info: 13251 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 285-8184, www.thebellwetherla.com.