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Business of Food: La Verne Restaurant Critic Meets a Little Fork in the Road

March 21, 2013
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Littlefork Assistant Manager Praveena Anandraj was a warm and welcoming force who gives everyone at Littlefork a reason to smile.

Littlefork Assistant Manager Praveena Anandraj was a warm and welcoming force who gives everyone at Littlefork a reason to smile.

In West L.A. to conduct a little business, I didn’t want to rush back to my tiny hamlet of La Verne without sampling the gastronomic delights of a new restaurant in the old section of Hollywood that my foodie friends had recommended.

The restaurant is Littlefork, located across the street from the Hollywood Post office at 1600 Wilcox Ave.

Although Littlefork offers valet parking, I pulled my car into the cement patch of a parking lot, which practically deposited me at the restaurant’s front door. Grabbing a free parking spot in this car-choked labyrinthine section of town instantly made me feel as if I had hit the lottery.

After passing a lively bar scene, I was quickly seated and warmly greeted as I watched my slender water glass topped with H20 out of a perspiring silver-plated pitcher.

Gazing upward, I spied a few animal trophies on the wall. I couldn’t tell if the big cat staring back at me was a leopard or a cheetah or a common American bobcat. I don’t think the designer of Littlefork was aiming for “hunting lodge” chic. Actually, I’m not sure what it was doing there suspended high on he wall, to tell the truth, but it did make me feel I had a friend in the room as I began to peruse the menu.

The menu, presented on a tea-colored paper, is odd, but in a good way. For bar snacks I had my choice between house smoked nuts, malt vinegar pork rinds, kettle corn accented with Montreal steak spice and maple syrup, maple onion rings, clam cakes, crispy head cheese with smoked tomato aioli, maple eggs, and smoked meats poutine.

My waitress told me how heavenly the maple eggs were, but I just wasn’t ready to relive breakfast. I was thinking deviled eggs, perhaps, but not a mash-up of maple syrup, eggs and bacon. Didn’t McDonald’s try something similar a few years earlier?

So, instead I selected the poutine, which I liked saying as much as eating. Poutine is an ample gift of crispy fries over which flows a mixture of cheese curds and smoky flavored gravy. It’s sort of similar to In-n-Out’s fries animal style but on steroids.  They, in all their gooey goodness, didn’t last long.

I washed them down with a ginger beer, which was refreshing and not a bit intoxicating as I was told the alcohol content was about 1 percent.

Although the poutine made a hearty dent in my appetite, I was ready to march on to greater culinary glory. I passed on the salads and seafood, although I almost pulled the trigger on the fish sticks with pickled vegetable salad and orange Dijon sauce. Finally, I selected the apple wood-smoked brisket with three mustards for $16.

The brisket was savory and tender beyond belief. There wasn’t much of it, so I relished every bite as I admired the little dollops of mustard that were arranged on my plate like some kind of secret Morse code message – dot, dot, splat.

My favorite treats, however, were the Brussels sprouts, braised and enlivened with apple cider, sage and crispy chicken skins. They were off- the-charts delicious, at once crispy, tangy, crunchy and zesty. Where were these kinds of vegetables when I was growing up?

For dessert, I had two little chocolate cakes filled with a marshmallow cream and dusted with some powdered sugar. These didn’t thrill me. I would have preferred a couple of Hostess cupcakes. Do they still make Hostess cupcakes? Maybe I should have listened to my lovely waitress who tried to steer me toward the freshly fried apple-cider doughnuts.

But hey, Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time he stepped to the plate, either. Chef Jason Travi is swinging for the fences, and I appreciate that. This is Hollywood after all, not La Verne.

As for the wait staff, they restored my faith that friendly, attentive, interesting people can still be found in the urban jungle of Hollywood. Our conversational exchanges flowed like the French press coffee with which I ended my meal, also a steal at $3. They made me feel like I was part of the neighborhood, even though they knew I was out of my suburban cocoon.

I very much look forward to returning to Littlefork, and joining the other regulars and newbies at the bar. There is so much more I want to sample like the warm mushroom salad with Parmesan and radicchio and the roasted mussels with bread crumbs and lemon, and the brook trout with potato salad and hot sauce.

The thing is that at Littlefork, you can go big or small. To remind you of these culinary options, you’re presented with both a Littlefork and a big one.

This is one fork in the road I will enjoy meeting again in my next Hollywood adventure.

LOCATION

1600 Wilcox Ave., Hollywood, (323) 465-3675, littleforkla.com.

PRICES

Snacks, $3-$7; small plates, $9-$18; large plates, $22-$28, desserts, $8.

by Peter Bennett

pbennett5000@gmail.com

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