Dining Review: A familiar menu keeps an old bungalow aglow

This article was updated.

It's always sad to see landmark restaurants close. Take the venerable Bucket in Eagle Rock. There for more than 50 years, then suddenly and unceremoniously gone. Larkin's in Eagle Rock wasn't there for decades, but the soul food restaurant was loved by many before its closure last year due to a death in the family.

The 100-year-old bungalow vacated by Larkin's has become a lovely spot featuring progressive American comfort food, destined to stay in the neighborhood as long as it likes.

Little Beast is the second child of married co-owners Sean Lowenthal and Deborah Schwartz. I say second because like their first child, after whom the restaurant is named, Little Beast has been a labor of love (not to mention time and money) raising this delightful creature to full maturity. After cutting his culinary chops at Boulder, Colorado's Greenbriar and West Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, Lowenthal and family opted to spend more time together by renovating the Eagle Rock Craftsman bungalow and showcasing Lowenthal's talent for creating seasonally driven rustic American fare in a space all their own.

The menu has few surprises. It's all familiar, comforting food with the effort placed on freshness, fundamentals and proper technique. For instance, the flat-iron steak is seared on the outside, delicately pink inside, delicious and tender from end to end. Served with Bloomsdale spinach, roasted wild mushrooms, garlic confit and crispy onions, it's a study in foresty flavors. The Scottish salmon is given a similar pan-seared treatment rendering a juicy, crispy filet. The cioppino has perfectly cooked scallops, shrimp and white fish in a full-bodied sauce thicker and spicier than the Fisherman's Wharf kind. My wild mushroom risotto was better than I could have made, but nothing that would lure me back.

The thing that would lure me back is entirely unrelated to food. The environment is absolutely enchanting. Twinkling lights strewn throughout fragrant, vine-covered patios outfitted with rustic wooden tables and vintage metal chairs create a hypnotic space made only more so by the muffled yet eager conversation and clinking of glasses filled with fine wine.

The wine list is well-edited and reasonably priced. So is the rotating draft beer list. Appetizers like artisan cheese plates with truffle honey, duck liver mousse, balsamic roasted squash and cannellini tuna conserva accompany the spirits nicely.

Though wine and beer are de rigeur here, this is a place that welcomes children, especially those with refined palates. If my kids were still 6 and 8, I would absolutely bring them here for roast chicken and Lowenthal's “yummy broccoli” ($7), or the junior version of their famous Little Beast burger with charred onion, ripe tomato and lettuce and Worcestershire aioli ($8).

All ages will enjoy the desserts at Little Beast. Blueberry lemon cheesecake comes in a too-precious Mason jar but the creme fraiche in it kicks booty. The warm fallen-apple pastry with dulce de leche had us all smitten.

Parking is a small nightmare and dinner for two can easily set you back $100. But Little Beast's charming al fresco dining, comforting, refined food and professional service makes this a top spot for date night.

What: Little Beast

Where: 1496 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock

When: Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to close

Price: Appetizers, $6 to $12; Mains, $14 to $25; Wine and beer, $5 to $14; Kid's menu, $3 to $8

More info: (323) 341-5899, littlebeastrestaurant.com

[Editor's Note: This article originally stated that Chili John's in Burbank is closed. This is incorrect.]

--LISA DUPUY welcomes comments and suggestions at ldupuy@aol.com

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