Sherry Yard, the James Beard-award winning pastry chef and cookbook author who worked with Wolfgang Puck for nearly 20 years, has just opened the Tuck Room Tavern, a restaurant and bar in Westwood. It's Yard's third collaboration with iPic Entertainment, the plush theater chain known for its smaller screening rooms, comfy chairs, tables and complete food and beverage service.
"I love the word 'tuck,'' said Yard. "To 'tuck in' is to eat with enthusiasm or pleasure. It's enjoyable."
Other Tuck Room locations (Yard is involved with all of them) include Houston and North Miami Beach, with a fourth set to open in New York this fall. Her Westwood tavern has been quietly open for a week now, with a formal opening scheduled for June 10; the sign went up two days ago.
"I want the community to know about it first," said Yard. "Plus, we're still working out the kinks."
As for the food, "it's craveable American fare," said Yard. "This is the stuff I would want to eat."
Many of the items are nods to classic dishes from various parts of the country: Reuben croquettes from New York, brioche-crusted crab cakes from Maryland, Southern shrimp and grits from North Carolina ("We had to use the right grits – only Anson Mills"), and the "K-town" short rib sliders are a tip of the hat to Los Angeles. Others are dishes Yard remembers eating growing up, such as the chicken cutlets. Desserts are show-stoppers, including a red velvet pavlova ("It's my homage to a baked Alaska," said Yard) and the Black 'n' Blue pot pie, which features the freshest berries from local farmers markets.
"It's my home away from home," said Yard. "I wanted to create a space that is whimsical and serious at the same time. People don't have enough fun."
She was personally involved in every aspect of the design, from furniture to artwork to the walls. She scrolled through her phone to pull up a picture of the vibrant blue Los Angeles sky she took earlier. "Look at the walls. I wanted them to look like the clouds in the picture. It took two coats of paint and two coats of wax. But it's beautiful."
"It's based on the game Clue," she said of the design. She pointed to various aspects of the space, dividing them into "rooms." There's a "parlor" near the entry, with chairs and shadow boxes serving as tables, each filled with items reminding her of family and friends. The patio serves as the "conservatory," and a nook with seating serves as the "den." And then there's the bar. The floor is a checkerboard pattern, with tall leather banquettes on one side and two massive walls of book sculpture paintings by artist Mike Stilkey, one of an elephant in the room, and another of two dancing bears. There is at least one riddle hidden in the space. "If a child finds it and can answer the riddle, they'll get a free dessert," said Yard.
Yard is also sure to pay homage to old Hollywood at the tavern. Much of the bar menu – curated by master mixologist and advanced sommelier Adam Seger – pays tribute to the golden era of film, with cocktails referencing personalities such as the Norma Jean and the Coconut Grove. One of the banquettes is named Booth 50 in honor of the Brown Derby. Referencing the Westwood cemetery just a block away, she said of its resident luminaries: "We need to make sure they [the celebrities] feel comfortable if they ever decide to visit."
The cemetery is the final resting place for stars including Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Jim Backus and Roy Orbison.
"And don't forget Irving 'Swifty' Lazar," said Yard. Lazar was renowned for holding his annual post-Academy Awards parties at restaurants including Spago, where Yard worked for years with Wolfgang Puck; Lazar is also interred at the cemetery. "Little did I know he would always be close by."
10850 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 307-7004, www.thetuckroom.com.
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