I made reservations to go to a pub last weekend. I can't help but think my friends in England would laugh heartily at this totally L.A. phenomenon. But this isn't just any pub. This is the new Eagle Rock Brewery Public House in the former Fatty's location in Eagle Rock.
Until last month, the Eagle Rock Brewery's only public space was its microbrewery and tap room on a back street near Atwater Village. Their IPAs, pilsners, witbiers and other brews have forged a strong presence on the craft-beer scene in recent years. True to their dream of opening a brew pub, co-owners Jeremy Raub and Ting Su, along with brother/executive chef Jerry Su, are taking their artisan brews to a higher level by offering shrewd food pairings in a cool atmosphere.
Chef Su hints at classic pub fare on the menu but favors modern gastronomy. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa, Su has worked with Michelin star chefs Thomas Keller from Bouchon and Momofuku's David Chang. At Del Dotto Vineyards in St. Helena he refined his talent for pairing food with wine. Eagle Rock Brewery's beers have a sophistication as refined as many wines so it was a logical next step to make beer-centric food pairings.
My group of friends and I started our dining and drinking experience with fresh oysters. Nothing tastes quite so delicious with their best-selling Populist IPA (7% alcohol by volume) as a raw oyster. Tonight's sea jewels were called Hollywood Zens presented on a bed of ice with shaved horseradish, a tangy mignonette and zesty cocktail sauce. They popped with the fresh spray of the sea ($3 each). It was a tough call between the duck-liver toast with persimmon and wood sorrel ($7) and the smoked fish dip with pickled red onion ($9) but we went for the dip. It was the highlight of the night. The rich, aromatic, smoky white fish dip spread onto Ritz crackers held a touch of nostalgia.
The cheese plate ($16) is curated by local artisan cheese shop Milkfarm. This night we had a robust raw cow's milk, a creamy goat's milk and Ewephoria sheep milk gouda with orange marmalade, fruity crackers and fine nuts alongside. The Kale salad ($13) is similar to a deconstructed Caesar with delicate white anchovies, pantaleo cheese, croutons and a gently cooked egg. I must admit I would've preferred a more delicate kale, like baby or Red Russian, but we powered through it.
We moved on to a couple of their "composed" dishes, which means they could be thought of as a meal for one but may also be shared. The Cornish hen was a lot of fun. The little bird was brined, then smoked and finally breaded and fried — totally delicious along with potatoes and a mild nettle chimichurri ($16). Scallops came with raisin miso and seaweed emulsion, dried pineapple and beef bushi, a variation on fermented katsuobushi, integral to the umami flavor of dashi. Though it approached exquisiteness, it's hard to share two scallops among four people ($18).
The prices are fairly high at Eagle Rock Brewery and the portions are smallish. This is not the place for a big sloppy plate of happy-hour chicken wings and a Bud. It's a thoughtful, elevated beer-forward experience. Call me a glutton, then, because after all was ordered and eaten, I was still hungry. I scanned the menu for some gourmet fries or something. We just wanted a truly shareable filler food that didn't require a fork. We thought about more of that amazing smoked fish dip with Ritz crackers but decided in the end we were satisfied.
It's a good thing we made reservations because most of our fellow diner/drinkers were there before us and stayed after. The historic building with its exposed beams and brick, its big windows and garage door, its well-placed seating and pleasant acoustics, is a warm and comfortable spot to linger. Table servers are knowledgeable and quick to refill your brew or suggest others. When I'd had enough beer, I switched from a hoppy pilsneresque ale known as Swamplandia to a dry, bubbly Torre Oria Cava sparkling wine. It all worked with the food. My husband stuck with his fabulous Solidarity black mild similar to a Guinness but better. The Revolution extra pale ale was light and drinkable. There are seven drafts to choose from as well as sour ciders, wines, sodas and Intelligentsia coffees.
Don't feel like you have to be a beer lover to come to Eagle Rock Brewery Public House. The provocative food is enough.
Where: 1627 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
When: Wednesday to Monday 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Prices: Plates $7 to $18; draft beers $6 to $7/pint.
More info: (323) 739-0081; www.eaglerockpublichouse.com.