Scouting Report: Southern cooking, weird wine and taxidermy at Hatchet Hall in Culver City
Name of restaurant: Hatchet Hall, which is meant to recall Carrie Nation (the temperance activist who liked to take her hatchet to bars), and is meant to bring up vague notions of Southern cooking.
Where you are: You’re in Culver City, in the enormous space that was Waterloo & City until it closed at the end of 2014. Which means that there’s lots of parking, and that if you’re a regular at Roy Choi’s A-Frame, you’ll know how to get there (it’s a few doors west).
As for the inside, the place is gorgeous. Imagine an old dining room (mirrors and silver and taxidermy) somewhere in the Deep South, update it and move it a few miles from the beach. There’s a private dining room, a cozy bar in the back and an outdoor patio. There are half the seats that there were at Waterloo & City, so the place, though still enormous, feels cozier — communal tables and an oyster bar help.
Who’s cooking: Brian Dunsmoor, who was previously chef at Hart & the Hunter (with Kris Tominaga) and the Ladies’ Gunboat Society at Flores. Before that, Dunsmoor cooked at the Venice pop-up Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. In all these restaurants, Dunsmoor, a Georgia native, has riffed on modern Southern cooking. Remember those amazing biscuits at Hart & the Hunter? Exactly.
What to order: Start with the yeast rolls, which are made with benne, a kind of sesame seed (as are a few things on this menu), and come with a huge mound of salted honey-butter, which you will eat all of, possibly with your fingers. Then get the beef-fat potatoes and the roasted game hen. This is not spa food, but rich, flavorful dishes that are the best kind of elevated comfort food. If you’re a fan of creme fraiche, you’ll love this menu: There are spoonfuls of the stuff in the chickpeas, the panna cotta, even the diver scallops (that works, by the way).
What you’re drinking: Glasses of “ham wine” or “oyster wine.” This is because the wine is orchestrated by Maxwell Leer, previously of Bestia, who is nothing if not playful. Probably the best thing to do is simply to ask Leer to pick your wine for you, as the wine list resembles a bizarre crossword puzzle more than, well, a wine list. Lots of fonts, lots of hashtags.
If you’re not a wine person, walk through the main dining room, past the swank bar and into the room in the back, which functions kind of like a speak-easy. It’s dark. It’s beautiful. There’s more taxidermy. Cappy Sorentino is the barman in charge of your cocktails. Would that all barmen had names that suited their jobs so well.
Info: 12517 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 391-4222, hatchethallla.com
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