Saturday, March 14, 2009

Father's Office (Los Angeles, CA)

Father's Office
3229 Helms Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034
Sat 03/14/2009, 11:40p-12:30a

It should come as no surprise that the omakase at Wakasan I had earlier in the night wasn't enough to fill me up. Thus, after making a brief detour at Orchid in K-Town (a restaurant-cum-lounge-cum-karaoke club), we decided to pay a visit to the infamous Father's Office. Believe it or not, despite all the hype and fanfare surrounding the joint, I'd never made it out before.

The place is the brainchild of chef/owner Sang Yoon, former Executive Chef at Michael's in Santa Monica. Although hailing from a fine dining background, Yoon decided against opening a haute cuisine eatery and instead purchased and transformed a dive bar in Santa Monica, turning it into the first Father's Office back in 2005. The place was wildly successful, resulting in long lines and making it difficult for patrons to even get a place to sit (no reservations are taken). Thus, the second location, the subject of this post, was opened on April 21, 2008.

Father's Office is oft described as a "gastropub," basically a bar that offers food a notch above your typical pub grub. Their signature item is the Office Burger, touted by many as the best burger in Los Angeles. In addition, Father's Office focuses on providing patrons with a huge selection of craft and microbrew beers, offering a rotating selection of about around three dozen beers on tap at any given time. The restaurant also prides itself on its selection of unique wines and spirits.

The second coming of Father's Office is located on the site of the former Helms Bakery near Culver City. In addition to housing several restaurants, the complex is home to a large number of furniture stores. Parking, fortunately, is plentiful.

With a capacity of roughly 150, the new location is considerably larger than the original, significantly eliminating the need to "hover" for a seat. The room is dominated by the tap-lined bar, and there's also a private room for 28, as well as a long outdoor terrace. You won't find table service here, so all ordering is done via the bartenders, who can be quite surly from what I've heard.

The drink and food menus are shown above; click for larger versions. The beer selection is truly impressive, easily one of the most comprehensive I've seen. In addition to the beers, Father's Office is known for its rigid "no substitutions, modifications, alterations or deletions" policy, which I find irksome.

The daily specials are shown on an LCD screen at the bar. I guess it works, since we ended up ordering the mushrooms.

To drink, we ordered a 750mL bottle of Foret [$19], a bottle-conditioned Saison/Farmhouse Ale from Brasserie Dupont in Tourpes, Belgium. The Foret is unique because it's Belgium's only certified organic beer, made from 100% organically grown hops and barley and filtered artesian well water, without the use of pesticides or chemicals. Saisons are generally light, refreshing, effervescent beers, and the Foret was no exception. Its flavor was simultaneously spicy, tart, fruity, grassy, and acidic, all intermingled over a backdrop of bitter hops. A great example of the style.

Forest Mushrooms [$12.00]
Hedgehog, Black Trumpet, Shimeji, Asparagus, Bacon, One Hour Egg. This dish sounded promising, but failed to deliver. I appreciated the use of four different types of mushrooms, and their corresponding interplay of textures and tastes. However, the use of bacon made the dish far too salty, all but covering the mushrooms' natural flavors. All nuance was lost, resulting in a rather blunt taste overall. I did like the use of asparagus and egg in tempering the overwhelming savoriness of the bacon, but even they couldn't save the dish.

The Office Burger with Frites [$14.50]
Caramelized Onion, Bacon, Gruyére, Maytag Blue, Arugula. The moment of truth--my first bite instantly told me that this was a burger to be reckoned with. Apparently, Father's Office uses dry-aged meat, resulting in a deeper, bolder, more intensely beefy flavor than your typical hamburger patty. The beef was done medium rare, allowing the flavor of the meat to shine, while still maintaining a tender, juicy consistency in the process. The meat went superbly with the cheese, forming a delicious amalgam, though the Maytag wasn't particularly apparent. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the contrast between the sweetness of the onion, the intense savoriness of the applewood bacon compote, and the bitterness of the arugula. We ordered the burger with a side of pommes frites, for $2.50 extra. They had a nice, herb-tinged flavor, but texture-wise, they were too well-done for me. The accompanying aioli did the fries justice, adding a lemony tang to counter their saltiness.

Frankly, I'm not so sure what the hype is about. The burger was delicious, but the mushrooms fell short, and from what I've heard, the food in general is a step above typical bar food, but that sets a low bar to begin with. So basically, we have a bar with a fantastic beer selection, and passable food. Certainly nothing wrong with that, but people praise the place like it's the Second Coming. What I find more troubling is the draconian menu policy. I can "have it my way" with my Whopper at Burger King, I can substitute an ingredient on the Chef's Tasting Menu at French Laundry, so why can't I have ketchup with my fries? The whole policy smacks of arrogance, of being difficult for difficulty's sake, perhaps to convey some sort of false sense of pretension. Get over yourself Sang--your food ain't that great.


Blogger mattatouille said...

them's fightin' words Kevin! the burger definitely is good, but that no-ketchup policy, while stodgey, does do a good job of giving FO an extra kick of publicity. Personally I'd love to have ketchup in my burger, it muddles the flavor the same way maytag or carmelized onions or even arugula would (or improves it, either way you look at it).

To me, any burger that has more than meat and buns is 'adulterated' so it's fair game to do anything to it. I want to try the bradley ogden burger, it looks amazing (per FoodGPS's recent post). I haven't actually had any other dishes other than the burger at FO, but I know that the sweet potato fries (which I consider a side) are excellent. The beer selection's also commendable.

Monday, March 30, 2009 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

I was eating there last month and this guy next to me was talking about how he doesn't eat cheese cause he gets some allergic reaction. BUT he was willing to eat the cheese on the FO burger cause he likes it so much.


I enjoy their sweet potato fries here, but there's a place in San Diego that is an exact replica of Fo (beer/food) but cheaper and you can substitute whatever the hell you want.

Monday, March 30, 2009 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Hector said...

How do you feel about Japanese restaurant's policy for no substitutions, including allergies, or customer preferences. I haven't seen any opposition to the "nazi" policies that occur with establishments like Nozawa, Shibucho, or Sasabune among others.

As for the burger at Father's Office, it much like the pizza from Spago could be considered the originator of the gourmet burger proliferation seen at just about every restaurant these days. The cult status is there for a reason and allowing change would diminish its value. It may or may not be the best burger or even a burger for that matter, it is however quite tasty, although a bit sweet for my taste (overuse of caramalized onions).

In regard to the mushrooms, they were a special and typically specials need some tweaking until they come out right, so basing your opinion of the restaurant as a whole on a special doesn't really seem fair. Perhaps, the saltiness from the bacon could be regarded as a means of enticing more drinking on your part as bar food tends to push one to drink more.

Monday, March 30, 2009 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Secular Gastronomy said...

It'll never be Urasawa, but sometimes, you just crave a good burger. I can't tell you for how many days now I've been wanting that, and only that: meat, buns, and tasty accoutrement.

Monday, March 30, 2009 2:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a coinky dink. I just went to this location of father's office for the first time yesterday for lunch. I had the burger once before at the original sm location and verdict is still the same. good but def not the best burger in la. I couldn't taste the maytag either. I also had the niman ranch pork belly which was okay but something was missing in the sauce, maybe some sweetness. it was rather just tart and salty although the quality of the pork belly was good. the beer selection on the other hand, was much more impressive.

Monday, March 30, 2009 2:45:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Matt: Matt, you hit the nail on the head. I think a large part of it is all about publicity and generating buzz, not preserving the sanctity of the "chef's vision" as some claim. As for the ketchup, I wouldn't want it with the burger per se, but I think the frites would benefit greatly from the application of a tangy ketchup.

Charlie: Yikes! Was he breaking out right in front of you lol? It's a good burger, but come on, it's not that good. What's the name of the SD place?

Hector: I think Nozawa is past its prime, and is really riding on its reputation and its infamy. As for Shibucho and Sasabune, in my experience they've been rather accommodating actually, so no problems there. I was just at Urasawa on Saturday, and one of the first things he asked us was if there was anything we didn't eat. Even Masa in NY will take the wasabi off his nigiri if required. It's my opinion at the best restaurants are willing and able to accommodate reasonable requests.

Is the Office Burger really what started the whole gourmet burger trend? I thought that a few fine dining chefs were doing it before; the DB Burger from Daniel Boulud comes to mind. I'd be interested in seeing any links that would substantiate this claim.

If the mushrooms were made extra salty in order to encourage drinking, then that's really scary! FO's is supposed to be a "gastropub" not a mere bar right? I would hope that they would be above such tactics.

Secular: Sometimes I just crave a good burger too! But in the end, it's just a good burger. What's all the hot fuss about?

Monday, March 30, 2009 2:51:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Christine, sounds like you had a similar experience to me--good burger, competent but not superlative other food, fantastic beer. Did Matt go with you?

Monday, March 30, 2009 2:55:00 PM  
Blogger Secular Gastronomy said...

So, in your opinions, what IS the best burger in LA. And I won't be a purist on this one, either--it can be foie gras and lobster on Eggo waffle. We'll use the Duchamp theory of burgers: if you call it a burger, it's a burger.

Also, I actually don't find the beer selection is that great. No better than a Whole Foods, or even a particularly classy 7/11 (I'm looking at you, Ave 52 & Figueroa). I mean, it's great that you can get those beers on tap at a bar, but it's certainly not a draw for me.

Monday, March 30, 2009 3:20:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Compared to the recent rise of good beer places around the city, FO's selection does seem to dim a bit, but any town in this country would love to have FO's choices.

As for best burger, the best one I've had was at 25 degrees, with Rustic Canyon and Blue Dahlia shortly behind that. I hear Chateau Marmont has a good burger. Those are my votes for "luxe" burger

Monday, March 30, 2009 3:22:00 PM  
Blogger Secular Gastronomy said...

Ah. There's a 25 Degrees in Beijing, where I'll be next week...Perhaps I'll try it there. As far as beer selection, were you talking about specific bars/restaurants, or specialty beer shops?

Monday, March 30, 2009 3:35:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

bars/restaurants: Library Alehouse, BoHo, Verdugo Bar, Lucky Baldwin's, Blue Palms Brewhouse, El Prado, The Golden State, Daily Pint, The York, Library Bar,..the list goes on and on.

I can't vouch for 25 degrees in Beijing because I would never think of getting a burger there :)

Monday, March 30, 2009 3:38:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Secular: I'm partial to 49'rs myself, though it's definitely NOT a "gourmet" place.

For me, it'd actually be the beer, and not the food, which would bring me back to FO. And apparently, I've been going to the wrong 7/11's!

Matt: Great choices there.

Monday, March 30, 2009 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger Selba said...

The food looks so delicious *slurp*

Monday, March 30, 2009 9:58:00 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

best burger is definitely at bradley ogden in vegas. if you can't make it to vegas, i think fatburger is pretty darn tasty.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Selba: Everything was pretty good save for the mushrooms.

Daniel: Surprisingly, I actually haven't been to Fatburger--I do need to try it sometime. And yes, I've heard of the burger at Bradley Ogden; it's a pretty traditional burger I understand.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 1:30:00 AM  
Blogger thngotiatr said...

F'sO to me is overrated and is so busy its not worth the hassle. The brews on tap are nice but like Matt said there are other bars around town now that offer a good selection. In terms of the burger I think its good but far from the best in town. 25 Degrees and Rustic Canyon has gotta be up there and I have been wanting to try Blue Dahlia's short rib burger as well as the burgers at Hungry Cat and Beacon. There is also Umami that just opened... all these burger places makes me want to go on a crawl.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 2:01:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Somebody should totally do a burger crawl to all the places mentioned here, and try to come to some sort of consensus. Maybe a task for Food Marathon...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 4:28:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Food Marathon's on wordpress fyi...

Yeah, that's a tough marathon since the burgers are usually pretty filling. You want to put one together Kevin? We could do:

Rustic Canyon, Chateau Marmont, 25 Degrees, Hungry Cat, Umami, and Blue Dahlia?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 4:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no, matt didn't go with me. I think we're both on the same page about the burger though

dude, go to fatburger! I'd always say I'd pick fatburger with bacon and egg over FO's burger ANYday. yeah its a bold statement, what? =P

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 5:20:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

agree that you should go to fatburger. arguably the best burger among the fast-food places in LA (tommy's, in-n-out). I like all three in each of their own ways though.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 5:22:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

For a marathon-type event, I figure that we'd have to pair up to split each burger, so that we wouldn't get ridiculously full.

I wouldn't mind do it sometime.

I guess the possibilities are:
25 Degrees
Blue Dahlia
Chateau Marmont
Hungry Cat
Rustic Canyon

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 9:38:00 PM  
Blogger thngotiatr said...

If you are doing Fatburger you gotta throw in Five Guy's then, supposedly it competes with In-N-Out and I am sorry to say imho In-N-Out > Fatburger.

Just reading that crawl list made my heart skip a beat. But that hasn't stopped me ever before. Hah!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 12:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

another great entry! :)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 2:25:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Goldberg said...

Interesting enough, I found a knockoff of the FO burger in Phoenix at a place called Delux Burger. While they don't get any brownie points for originality, they do make it better than the original. Better roll, more balance between the caramelized onions and the applewood bacon - so it's not too sweet. Perhaps they use a little more cheese on their burgers, because you can really taste it. Still not an overpowering blue cheese, but it's in there with the Gruyere. While I still enjoy a FO burger, this has ruined it for me a bit, because now I see what it can be.

Thursday, April 02, 2009 4:59:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Vinh: Yep, I've been curious about Five Guys as well.

Dave: Delux does look like a rip off of the Office Burger. But you're right; if I had one complaint about the FO burger, it'd be that it's a tad sweet.

Thursday, April 02, 2009 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin, you just don't get it and so FO is not for you (that goes for anyone else commenting here about the menu restrictions). The menu is created by a chef who knows his stuff and protects people like you from yourself - not allowing you to soil your food with ketchup and additions/deletions. The chef's creations are as is - removing parts changes the whole. You should try the Counter in Santa Monica, it's great and more your 'style'. Cheers.

Friday, April 03, 2009 1:01:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Oh please. Don't give me that "protecting the chef's vision" BS. It's all a publicity ploy.

BTW, I've tried The Counter in Santa Monica, and found it sorely lacking.

Friday, April 03, 2009 4:28:00 PM  
Blogger thngotiatr said...

Gotta agree with Kevin on this one, If you can make special requests at places like French Laundry, Urasawa and Joel I can't really see your argument of "soiling" the food. Buddy, I don't think YOU get it, its just a burger.

Saturday, April 04, 2009 12:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree you guys should all go to fat burger, in n out whatever...Then I won't have to wait as long to get my FO burger

Saturday, April 04, 2009 4:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow..lots of comments on this post. I went to this location when it opened up...and never been back. the burger is small and too rare for me. the "everything has to be at the bar" response is pretentious. the no substitution's is ridiculous. the place is wholly overpriced. i thought this was going to be a place i could go once a maybe once every 2 years when i forget i didn't like the place.


Thursday, April 09, 2009 1:49:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Paul: Yes, Father's Office is definitely a place people get up in arms about, as witnessed here! Why? Don't ask me.

Thursday, April 09, 2009 3:26:00 PM  
Blogger thngotiatr said...

Just an update, since my last post I've tried Blue Dahlia and Umami. The short rib burger was good but not that special, I hope it didn't have anything to do with being the last customer of the night. As far as Umami I was pleasantly surprised, some have said that the portion isn't enough but I found it just right. Thinking of doing a burger crawl sometime in July but just 4-6 places because of drive times.

Sunday, May 03, 2009 9:21:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks for the update Vinh. Please keep us updated on the crawl!

Sunday, May 03, 2009 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Kevin, any suggestions on where to find a good gourmet burger in Vegas? I'd prefer someplace where I didn't need a reservation since I am going this weekend. I was thinking of DB at Wynn or Burger Bar at Mandalay.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

John, those were the two that came to mind. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon also has a fantastic burger.

Thursday, July 23, 2009 5:16:00 AM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Almost everyone talks about how great Bradley Ogden's burger is. I'm going to try it soon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009 9:21:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks guys -- I will try to check them all out!

Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One step up from barfood" is a ridiculous, sorry. The food is meticulously prepared with amazing, well chosen ingredience. Its is designed by someone who has an haute cuisine backround and you can see and taste that.
As for the ketchup: maybe that is YOUR ego always wanting it YOUR way. When you look at a piece of art or a play it comes one way, the way the artist intended.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 9:26:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Another Father's Office masturbator trying to justify Sang's inane policies on the grounds of "artistic integrity"--nope, we haven't heard that before.

Thursday, March 04, 2010 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

Man, I got busted hard when I started taking photos in FO. Something about other restaurants copying their style/decor and menu. What gives?

Thursday, March 04, 2010 7:12:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Never heard about their photo policy, but that's ridiculous Roger. Just another reason for me not to return!

Saturday, March 06, 2010 3:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

their beer selection is decent, but not as eclectic as i'd like

i mean things like the Trapiste and Karmeliet you can find in most specialized beer shops.

But I was surprised that you didnt try the Supplication, as it's considered by many one of the rarest and best beers in California.

Monday, March 08, 2010 8:49:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anon, I don't recall seeing the Supplication while I was there. Believe me, I do want to try it though.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010 12:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hello pot, meet kettle!!!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 5:40:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

How original. Is that you, Sang?

Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:30:00 AM  

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