In 2011, I gave the newly opened restaurant Wood & Vine a stellar review. The talented executive chef Gavin Mills was very creative in the small kitchen (I’ve been told it might be the smallest restaurant kitchen in LA). It was built as a gathering space in the historic 1920s brick Taft building to enjoy the 140-seat cocktail bar and restaurant serving farm to table share plates. The 4,000-square-foot of indoor/outdoor space became very appealing to Pantages Theater patrons just across the street.
Mills left Wood and Vine to go work at Tavern in Brentwood and Executive Chef Marc Johnson took over. After a few years, he left to lead the kitchen at Tipple & Brine in Sherman Oaks.
After Johnson left, the food and service suffered a bit, and I heard some complaints from friends who dined there.
Happily, executive chef Marc Johnson is back at Wood & Vine. While attending a preview dinner last week for tonight’s Fifth Annual Sunset & Dine food festival, showcasing some of Hollywood’s newer and established restaurants, I met general manager Wally Moran. He said the staff is gearing up for the opening night of two big Broadway shows: “Book of Mormon” and “Hamilton” at the Pantages.
“We make sure the dishes come out of the kitchen quickly,” Moran said. “When Pantages patrons told us they were seeing the recent hit “Beautiful,” we fed them in less than one hour.”
Sitting at the center communal table on the redwood-decked patio among pepper trees and a fire pit blazing in the summer night air, we sipped glasses of rosé and a craft watermelon mezcal cocktail.
The atmosphere has a bit of a Brooklyn vibe with views of surrounding office buildings, the W hotel, and the night sky.
The restaurant was designed by Kenneth Brown, finding inspiration from old Hollywood, with touches of vintage wood and exposed brick. Johnson was not in the kitchen the night I dined, however the sous chef Natalie Soward took over and sent a bowl of potato chips intensified with truffle oil and sea salt to our table. They were so addicting, that I made a conscious effort to only eat a few chips, otherwise I would have enjoyed the entire bowl within minutes. You have been warned.
The fried chicken and waffles with a maple roasted squash syrup has been on the menu since opening and is one of the most requested dishes. Johnson upgraded the dish by infusing the buttermilk waffles with sage and adding a few flash fried sage leaves on the crispy fried chicken. Pouring a little of the pure, high grade Vermont maple syrup offers a sweetness to the savory protein and starch component.
Guests sitting on the patio enjoy nightly movies projected on the large wall of the W Hotel Residence. The most-requested movie is “Sixteen Candles” with Molly Ringwald. “It’s the most photographed Instagram post,” Moran said.
We raved about the summer watermelon and tomato salad. Rainbow colors of green, yellow, orange and vibrant red melon and tomatoes are served with watercress, cucumber slices and some pickled watermelon rind. On top is a sprinkling of blue cheese and a light blue cheese dressing.
The menu emphasizes that meats served are from humanely raised animals, grass-fed and sustainable ranches and farms. Their suppliers include Mary’s poultry; Rocky’s chicken; Niman Ranch pork and Sunfed Ranch California grass-fed beef.
There are multiple gluten free plates that include a hamachi crudo with strawberries, hearts of palm, red onion, aji amarillo and Thai basil. My favorite dish was the slowly braised short ribs, served in a bowl of corn pudding, cabbage, cherries, chilies and light jus. It was fabulous.
For dessert, try the bourbon ice cream with a sprinkling of sweet thyme crumble on top.
Come back to a fun neighborhood gathering spot for your next pre or post-theater cocktail, relaxed dinner or late-night dining adventure.
The restaurant is open from 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; from 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and is closed Mondays. $$ Valet parking available next door at the W Hotel (Argyle entrance); $10 for first 2 hours. $15 thereafter. Street parking and surface lots also nearby. 6280 Hollywood Blvd. (323)334-3360.
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