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Delicious Spree LA to Z...Beechwood
LAist is going on a delicious spree around LA from A to Z. This week, the buzz is about B: Beechwood.
You'd never guess Beechwood's real personality from the very plain, drab grey stone wall out front with a tiny sign in the corner that you can't see from the street. Stepping through the door, and immediately into a bar, it's described perfectly by the word, not swanky, but "sha-wan-kay." It has a dark retro '60s thing going, a bit like a basement rec room. You'd also never guess the place is a restaurant, because it's all bar, no dining tables to be seen. You'd never guess the place is in beachy bohemian Venice, with a primarily young hollywood-y, hipster-ish crowd. We can't say there wasn't any hipster attitude, but it was certainly much more subdued here.
Off to the right, short rows of couch-slash-benches were crowded with hipsters (not meant to be offensive). There is an outdoor area beyond that. Was the dining room must have been on the patio? As we waited for a table, we walked the length of the bar and saw that most everyone at the bar had food - not just drinks, and certainly more than just bar snacks. As always, we puzzled over three skinny little things in the middle of the bar with a burger, an enormous bowl of fries, something that looked like pasta, and a steak. Were they really going to eat that?
The hostess pointed the way to the table, not toward the patio, but through a small hallway that we thought led to the restrooms in the back of the restaurant. The dining room is much smaller than the bar. Both sides are lined with brownish leather booths that reminded us of the pre-diner Denny's decor. Regular tables run down the middle of the room in single file, with enough room between tables to allow a very thin server to squeeze through on tip toe.
Yes it's small, yes it's tightly "squozen," yes it's dark; but the most noticeable thing about the dining room is that it's as loud as, if not louder than, the bar. If there was any mood music playing in the "background," we most certainly didn't hear it. The din was so decibellious that we even looked around to see what kind of acoustics were taken into account during the interior design phase. None, really. For the floor being carpeted, it really was quite loud.
Both the regular and bar menus are offered in the main dining room. With a glass of very yellow pinot grigio (we honestly believe the server must have accidentally brought us chardonnay), we were quite tempted to order three things from the bar menu. Everything sounded so good, and from our not-so-subtle stares at other people's tables, it sure looked good, too. We played it safe with the medallion of braised short rib, which was so falling-apart tender, that the server was right when he said to use a spoon. Unfortunately, the spoon was only good for the meat, not the paltry puddle of sauce at the bottom of the deep plate. We wish there had been more of the sauce - served up like a proper braised dish.
Everything else we ordered from the regular menu. Italian parsley and escarole salad with prosciutto and burrata cheese was good, but the dressing on the greens was a bit bland. Roasted asparagus was also good, and we especially liked the garlic sauteed greens underneath, which others may think were too salty. Typically we stay away from salmon in restaurants, and would have chosen the John Dory, but the roasted white salmon was something new. Is it a different breed, or just bleached regular salmon? We don't think we really want to know. Regardless, it sure tasted alright (for salmon), as did the greens and tiny potatoes underneath, though we could have added more salt to them, too.
Nothing on the dessert menu really jumped out, except the blue sorbet, which just stood out as something we were not going to order. We would just rather have something richer, sweeter, and much less figure-friendly. We glossed over chocolate pudding, peanut butter tart, pear clafouti, and others before finally settling on the apple "sticky bun," an interpretation of apple pie a la mode. It is a whole peeled and cored apple, stuffed with nuts and something that felt like small pieces of pasta, baked, and served with vanilla ice cream and caramel. It was sweet and drippy, so we most certainly finished every last bite, but we won't order it again.
We like Beechwood and the food. The service was a bit novice, but sincere. Had the small plates been more than for $8 - $10, or the larger entrees closer to $30 rather than under $20, we probably wouldn't go back, but it's in the neighborhood, it's nice inside, and it tastes good.
And we still have to try the rest of the bar menu, if for nothing else but the french fries (and a salt shaker).
822 Washington Boulevard (at Abbot Kinney)
Venice, CA 90292