Photos: 'The Bellwether' Tests Out Creative Dishes With An Experimental Menu

A recently opened Studio City restaurant uses an experimental section of its menu to constantly evolve its creative, seasonal dishes and cocktails.

The Bellwether opened its doors on Ventura Boulevard just shy of two months ago, and now the upscale-yet-approachable neighborhood restaurant just added a patio and a great happy hour menu. Launched by Chef Ted Hopson and Beverage Director Ann-Marie Verdi—who both spent time at Father's Office—the new restaurant offers creative twists to classic food and drinks that rely on seasonal and international flavors. And to keep their menus sharp, the duo uses a small research and development ("R&D") menu with works in progress to test out and preview new bites and cocktails for the main menu.

"With each new dish we try to bring in unexpected yet familiar global flavors that give our guests many different ways to experience the menu," Hopson tells LAist. "We change things up seasonally but we also wanted to be able to play around with new dishes and new produce between the major season shifts so we crafted a dedicated R&D section on our menu that gives our customers a chance to go behind the scenes as we test and tweak new dishes and drinks."

From crispy Brussels sprouts with a bacon-maple-cayenne sauce to amazingly rich crispy pork rillettes served with potato rosti, gravy, fried egg and crispy pig ear, the kitchen offers a barrage of totally reasonably-priced shareable plates ($7-9 for smalls and $13-19 for large ones). When LAist was recently invited to check out The Bellwether, we couldn't get enough of the tempura cauliflower served with a Thai-style basil, mint and fish sauce for dipping or the refreshing "Pane e Pomodoro" with heirloom tomato, crispy squash blossom and focaccia. And from the R&D menu for Autumn, Chef Hopson is testing out a butternut squash carpaccio with burrata, toasted walnut milk and honey vinegar. You'll also want to stick around for the Grand Marnier bread pudding and the dark chocolate mousse cake. As an added aesthetic bonus, all of the dishes are served on beautiful ceramic pottery.

From the bar, Verdi offers two cocktails on tap—including a reliable Bellwether Manhattan and a rotating seasonal option—as well as clever twists like the Smoked Salty Dog, which features house-infused grapefruit gin, fresh grapefruit and a smoked Maldon salt rim. And for Fall, she's featuring a Walnut Manhattan with bourbon, walnut liquor and with Punt e Mes. The R&D menu offers The #5 Cocktail, which includes house-infused cranberry tequila, citrusy Combier liqueur, lime, OJ and house grenadine. There's also a wide selection of craft beers—including locals like Three Weavers and Golden Road—as well as some British brews inspired by Verdi's time in England. And they have a well-curated list of wines by the glass and bottle, both from California and across the seas.

The Bellwether's newly launched happy hour menu features $5 craft beers, $9 wines by the glass and on-tap cocktails, as well as $5 small plates like a confit pork and grilled ciabatta or spicy, crunchy chickpeas. The menu is available from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and all night Monday.

Nearly every seat in the dining room of The Bellwether offers a clear view of the open-air kitchen and bar—so you can see the team hard at work. The bright and airy space features crisp white walls with black trim and woodwork that brings a vaguely Tudor-style look to the modern design. There's seating for about 70 at blonde wood tables and a few seats up at the bar—which is basically an extension of the counter that runs around the kitchen. They also just opened a Ventura-facing patio for a bit of fresh air and you may recognize their water closet—where the design is inspired by The Who's Quadrophenia—as one of our favorite bathrooms in L.A.

The Bellwether is open daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and is located at 13251 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 285-8184.