Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Hungry Cat

When I tell you I was late for lunch at The Hungry Cat, I’m sure you’ll realize that the place is hard to find. Why else would I be late for a meal, ever? The Hungry Cat is in a setting that resembles a strip mall but don’t let that deter you. I sat outside for awhile and imagined myself in Milan in the 80s—not much to look at really, but a good place nonetheless.

I loved watching a Fruits de Mer platter of the most gorgeous seafood being assembled at the raw bar, and I loved the casual energy of the bar activity with delicious looking citrus drinks being made and sent to the tables.

Chris and I started with a cocktail, which I can’t remember having done before in the middle of the afternoon but the cocktail list was so seductive that I couldn’t resist. I wanted to try the Bitter Rose, which was made with rose petal infused boomsma gin, averna, strawberries and lemon or the Echo Park. I went for the Echo Park which was made with altius vodka, lime juice, muddled mango, cucumber and chili salt. It was wonderfully thirst quenching and refreshing with all the flavors infused in a sublime way with a subtle bite of chili at the finish. Next time I’m going to try the mint julep. Chris had the ice tea which came with a side of simple syrup, a detail I always love.

Amanda had told me to order the sea urchin, but they didn’t have it because it was Sunday and no one was diving for them. (I loved that bit of information.) We opted for Alaskan king crab claws. When that plate arrived I knew we were in for a great meal. I was reminded of eating at 72 Market Street in Venice, Ca. 20 some odd years ago. That restaurant had the most perfect plating ever—just very simple so that the ingredients just stood out. Anyway, the crab came with two sauces, a mayonnaise based sauce with whole mustard and a cocktail sauce. The mayo/mustard sauce was my favorite with the crab; crab needs a little fat. The cocktail sauce was too strong for the delicate flavor of the meat. I switched to a glass of Spanish Albarino white which came in a tumbler. I loved that as well.

Amanda had also told me that The Hungry Cat had the best hamburger in LA so I ordered the pug burger though I also wanted to try the lobster roll, the grilled fish tacos, the soft shell crab sandwich, and the cornmeal-crusted fried oysters. Ah, well. Chris ordered from the brunch menu and had the house-made chorizo and eggs with queso fresco and romesco sauce. I loved the burger which came with blue cheese, bacon and avocado and the best fries I’ve had in LA. Hand cut, crispy, and not too greasy. My only complaint about the burger was about the bun which was a little too chewy and dry for my taste. Chris’s dish was perfection: the chorizo was sublime, the eggs on top with rich yellow yolks were cooked perfectly and the romesco was a nice touch. They even served warm tortillas to sop it all up.

What I love about the food here is that nothing is overdone, and the ingredients can stand-alone. It takes a lot of discipline to cook that way, layering food to achieve perfection. So many restaurants I go to work hard to make everything sound brilliant on the menu, but when you get your dish it doesn’t measure up to the advance publicity. I can’t wait to go back to the Cat and order from the rest of the menu. I’m also going to try more of the cocktails like the Hendrick’s gin, cucumber juice and fresh lime.

The Hungry Cat
1535 North Vine
(Sunset & Vine)
Hollywood, CA 90028
323 462 2155


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