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Hungry Cat -- Old Hat?
A cluttered stretch of Sunset Boulevard, crowded with stores and neon, billboards and cars, the sidewalks studded with gum, marked with the spray-painted symbols of different bands who’ve played Amoeba, seems a place ill suited to the food of a blue New England day, a little warm with a nice breeze, the air has that sweet salt tang to it. But to find the best seafood in town, Los Angelenos know better than to head for the coast, where Neptune’s Net and Gladstone’s do a tolerable job serving tourists. You head east – to the place where it all started. No, not Plymouth, MA. Hollywood.
Hungry Cat, you say, isn’t that a little old hat? Blah, blah, David Lenz and Susan Goins, blah, AOC and Luques, blah, blah, blah. But as the weather warms up, a girl’s fancy turns to seafood, especially when that seafood is bursting fresh and beautifully presented. Hungry Cat is a little slip of a place, the uber hip and stylish LA version of a fish shack. A few tables, a couple of bar seats and a small patio are nestled in the center of the fortress-like Sunset + Vine Complex, swathed in labyrinthine condos, Borders, Bed Bath and Beyond and the long defunct Schwabs.
Things haven’t changed much in the last couple of years, as the Hungry Cat became a mainstay of the Hollywood dining scene. Prices have gone up, the lobster roll that Jonathan Gold has raved about is now $30. Though the bun isn’t much larger than its east coast counterpart but it’s beautifully toasted, wonderfully buttery and absolutely stuffed with lobster and herbs (at least tarragon and parsley.) The sauce is utterly pink with lobster-y-ness. It comes with an enormous pile of French fries that are thin and crisp. The whole thing is fantastic. The Cobb salad is good too; arriving decked out in lump crab, rare tuna and split shrimp that pop with a delicate corn-like flavor in your mouth. The dressing never overwhelms, which is key and the goods are served on top of the lettuce. Normally I prefer a tossed Cobb, but this was for the best, as picking the seafood and avocado off the top and eating it was really enough.
The service left something to be desired, as we had to flag down the waiter numerous times. And the Pug burger, with just so much meat, blue cheese and bacon was a little overwhelming for this version of the ubiquitous, Father’s Office fave. All in all though, it’s definitely worth the return trip, especially for that first taste of summer – even if it’s the middle of January.
Hungry Cat, 1535 Vine Street, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (323) 462-2155
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