Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Sunset (West Hollywood, CA)

One Sunset
8730 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Tue 04/21/2009, 07:05p-10:25p

One Sunset's web site describes it as a "lounge" (a somewhat nebulous term to be sure), which instantly sets off red flags in my head. As we all know: lounge = more about the scene than the food. The place is an offshoot of One Little West 12 in Manhattan, and both restaurants are part of the One Group, which also owns the STK steakhouse franchise. Now, as you'd imagine, One Sunset isn't the type of place I'd normally frequent. So what happened? Food event planner Abby of Pleasure Palate had organized a complementary blogger dinner. In attendance were Aaron of Food Destination, Alli of Alli411, Cathy and Vernon of Gastronomy Blog, Christine of Folie à Choisauce, Danny of Kung Food Panda, H.C. of L.A. and O.C. Foodventures, Javier of Teenage Glutster, Jin of Seeking Food, Laura of Bites and Bolts, Lizabeth of Food, She Thought, Mike of Right Way to Eat, Ryan of Only Eat What Feeds Your Soul, Tara of When Tara Met Blog, Tony of SinoSoul, and Wandering Chopsticks.

One Sunset Exterior
One Sunset is situated on the ground floor of the Sunset Towers office building. BLT Steak is actually located immediately east of the restaurant. You can pay $9 for valet parking, or, do what I did and park in the lot behind the adjacent Sunset Plaza, for free. To avoid a ticket, just make sure their guards don't see you step off the property.

One Sunset Champagne Bar One Sunset Champagne Bar
I arrived shortly after 7:00, and hung around in the Champagne Bar near the entrance for about half an hour, waiting for everyone to arrive.

LUSHious Raspberry
While milling around, we were provided apéritifs--one of One Sunset's signatures drinks: the LUSHious Raspberry. It was a combination of Raspberries, Gloria Ferrer Champagne, and Leblon Cachaça (a rum-like liquor distilled from sugarcane juice). The raspberries made up the dominant flavor here, giving the drink a pronounced sweetness. The Champagne, meanwhile, added an effervescent body to counter the weight of the berries, while the use of cachaça provided some rum-like notes; other than that, there wasn't much heat to the cocktail at all. Not complex, but refreshing and easy to drink.

One Sunset Dining Lounge
Penned by Lionel Ohayon of New York's ICrave studio, One Sunset definitely looks the part. The space is divided into different areas, each distinct, but part of an integrated whole. The main dining room is pictured above, while we were seated in the "Lower Candle Lounge."

One Sunset Menu One Sunset Menu
Designed by Executive Chef Jason Ryczek, the menu serves up New American cuisine with "Spanish and North African influence." It focuses on shared plates, and we were presented with "ONE of Almost Everything," which is basically a shared tasting menu, à la XIV. Click for larger versions.

While Corporate Chef Todd Mark Miller kicked off the night, Ryczek came out to speak with us many times over the course of the meal. He told us that, although many of the items are borrowed from the New York menu, he's installing lighter, fresher fare at One Sunset, utilizing the abundance of ingredients we have access to here in California. Interestingly, I asked Ryczek what his favorite restaurants in the area were, and he named Go's Mart in Canoga Park (an unconventional choice, but one that lends instant credibility), Animal in Los Angeles, Riva in Santa Monica, and Fraiche in Culver City. Outside of Southern California, he also spoke very highly of David Kinch's cuisine at Manresa up in Los Gatos.

One Sunset Drink Menu One Sunset Drink Menu
The drink menu is shown above; click for larger versions. In addition to the cocktails, we were provided a choice of Beringer wine (they had a promotion going on--one bottle per two people for only $1): Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Cabernet Sauvignon. We ended up getting two bottles of the 2008 California Collection Sauvignon Blanc and one 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

'The Master Cleanse'
We kicked off the meal with "The Master Cleanse," made from Belvedere Vodka, Fresh Lemon Juice, and Maple Syrup. It was an interesting drink, with a pronounced citrus nose, followed by a short, spicy finish. FYI: the Master Cleanse, a.k.a. Maple Syrup Diet, refers to a diet and detoxification program wherein an individual consumes only a concoction of water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and pepper.

Breakfast on a Plate
1: Breakfast on a Plate | Pancake, Bacon Foam, Apple Caviar, Maple Syrup, Crème Fraîche
The first course was actually a special off-menu item, meant to recreate the sensation of eating breakfast. The overall effect of eating this was pretty much like eating a pancake with syrup. There was definitely a clear-cut sweetness to the dish, and though tasty, I would've preferred a stronger savory counterpoint. In addition, the pancake itself could've been served a bit warmer.

'Adult Candy'
2: 'Adult Candy' | Bacon-Wrapped, Blue Cheese-Stuffed Dates
Here, I first experienced the savory flavor of the bacon, before being inundated by the date. The dates themselves were quite sugary, and thus their bacon wrappers were absolutely key in tempering their sweetness, creating a pleasing contrast. The arugula was also a vital ingredient, providing a bitter foil that balanced the weight of the dates. The blue cheese was almost invisible.

Spicy Tuna Tartare
3: Spicy Tuna Tartare | Tempura Eggplant, Kecap Manis
The tartare here was quite different than most versions I've had. Ryczek actually described it as a "South East Asian" teriyaki, and emphasized the use of kecap manis, an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. There was an intense sweet-sour-spicy interplay going on, but unfortunately, the flavor of the tuna was completely neutralized. The tempura eggplant, however, provided a great textural counterpoint to the fish.

Burrata and Strawberries
4: Burrata and Strawberries | Cinnamon Bruschetta, Pistachios, Pink Pepper, Basil
One of the stronger dishes for me, the flavor of the strawberries actually went well with the soft, creamy, slightly-tangy burrata cheese. The use of pepper, basil, and cinnamon provided a nice tangy contrast the sweetness of the strawberries, giving the dish a spicy finish.

BBQ Short Rib Sliders Onion Rings
5: BBQ Short Rib Sliders | Crispy Shallots, Smoked Cheddar, Onion Rings
Sliders seem to be showing up en masse on menus these days; hell, even Burger King and Jack in the Box are doing sliders. With the example here, even though the shallots and cheddar were inconsequential, the meat itself was immensely juicy, tender, sweet, and flavorful (albeit a bit blunt)--quite delicious actually. The sliders were served with onion rings: a competent preparation, but the horseradish dipping sauce had nary any horseradish flavor.

Korean Chicken Satay
6: Korean Chicken Satay | Barbecued, Kimchi, Cashews, Kejap Manis
Korean satay? Seems like a contradiction. Ryczek likened this to Korean BBQ, intended to serve as an "introduction" to Korean cuisine. The result had a sweet-smoky flavor going on, which was too one-dimensional for me. Fortunately, this was balanced to some extent by the kimchi (a very mild one), which Ryczek ferments for a week.

Salade Niçoise
7: Salade Niçoise | Pistachio Crusted Albacore, Caper Aioli
A Niçoise salad is one that traditionally contains tuna, anchovies, capers, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, garlic, potatoes, and eggs. Most of these ingredients are present here, though Ryczek purposely excludes the anchovies, a concession to One Sunset's target audience. Interestingly, Ryczek described the dish as having "three elements" (tuna, salad, aioli), but designed so that any two could go well together. The tuna itself was fairly nondescript, though the pepper crust provided a lovely relish to the fish. I did enjoy the salad, especially its tangy flavor and use of hard-boiled quail eggs. Overall, an enjoyable dish.

Turkey Meatballs
8: Turkey Meatballs | Marinara, Parmesan, Basil
These rather large balls contained, in addition to turkey, Parmesan cheese, bread, herbs, and mirepoix (a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery). The result was a very moist, very tasty, very good meatball.

Tropical Sidecar
Our final cocktail was the Tropical Sidecar, with Hennessy, Pineapple Chunks, Cointreau, and Blueberries (a traditional sidecar is Cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice). This was the most complex of the trio, and also my favorite. The attack was intensely sweet, thanks to the liberal use of fruit, but this then gave way to the sophisticated flavor of Cognac.

Roasted Clams on the ½ Shell
9: Roasted Clams on the ½ Shell | Chorizo, Chowder Sauce, Crushed Oysters Crackers
The idea behind this was to shoot the shell, creating a clam chowder-esque experience in your mouth. The effect worked fairly well I suppose, though the clam's flavor was overpowered by the saltiness of the chorizo. Texturally, this seemed a bit incongruous.

Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta
10: Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta | Raspberry Sorbet, Lavender Syrup, Poppy Seed Crisp
Moving on to desserts, the mild sourness of the panna cotta here was tempered by the sorbet's bracing sweetness, while the poppy seed crisp added a crunchy textural contrast to mix things up a bit.

'Velvet Rope' Cupcakes
11: 'Velvet Rope' Cupcakes | Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Frosting
I believe Ryczek called this One Sunset's signature dessert. The cream cheese in the frosting provided a bit of sourness to offset the cloying sweetness of the cake. Tasty, but this looks like something I'd make at home and bring to a bake sale.

Godiva Chocolate Sorbet
12: Godiva Chocolate Sorbet | Disaronno Shot
The sorbet itself was pedestrian, though it did have a very rich chocolate flavor. We were instructed to pour on the Disaronno Amaretto shot, which did liven things up, augmenting the chocolate with subtle hints of herbs and almond. What was interesting was that Ryczek pointed out that the dessert was actually vegan.

So in the end, One Sunset was about what I expected. The food is never going to compete with the likes of Mélisse or Providence, but at the same time, it isn't meant to. The focus here is on the lounge-ish aspects of the place: the bar, the booze, the babes; the cuisine merely has to be competent, which it is. If you keep that in mind, you'll be fine. You can complain that the food is dumbed down, but you know what, so is the target clientele.


Blogger MyLastBite said...

Now that's a "Master Cleanse" that I could actually stick to!!

Beautiful photos, as always.

: )

Saturday, April 25, 2009 7:46:00 AM  
Blogger Food, she thought. said...

Thanks so much for posting this, Kevin. Great analysis. Next time I see you, we need to talk shooting specifics. Most of your shots came out so bright, so clear. Only a few of my shots were really worthy, and my opinion of the meal was was less diplomatic than yours. Surprisingly, we seemed to like opposite things in the meal. I really liked the liteness of tha tuna nicoise, and found the clam chowder really interesting. Hated the meatballs and the sliders. It was a great opportunity to say hi to you though, and I look forward to dining together again, at the same table next time!

Saturday, April 25, 2009 8:14:00 AM  
Blogger Right Way to Eat said...

"You can complain that the food is dumbed down, but you know what, so is the target clientele."

Zing Zing! You hit the mark with that line.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 3:59:00 PM  
Blogger TaraMetBlog said...

Great photos, nice job!

pleasure meeting you too

Saturday, April 25, 2009 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Jo: Amazingly, that night was the first time I'd heard of the Master Cleanse. I didn't really "get it" until someone explained the whole concept of the drink to me.

Lizzie: Yep I saw your censure of the place on Yelp. ;) I guess that that's the beauty of food: it's so subjective and personal. As for the shooting, what ISO did you have your camera at? It would've been tough for me had I not had my DSLR. And let's not forget Photoshop!

Mike: Indeed. I think we do need to put the restaurant in perspective.

Tara: Thanks Tara. As for the photos, the shooting conditions were fairly challenging. Unfortunately, for courses 9-11, I accidentally set my camera to its highest ISO setting (hence the noise); most other shots were at ISO800 I believe.

Sunday, April 26, 2009 1:54:00 AM  
Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

I liked the clams. Thought the sliders were way too sweet. For a hip scene, seemed kinda slow that night, even for a Tuesday?

You didn't get the Long Island iced tea-ish drink?

Sunday, April 26, 2009 8:09:00 AM  
Blogger ila said...

ooooh my. that last line made me laugh.
seems like a great place to have dinner before heading off to the clubs.

Sunday, April 26, 2009 9:41:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I noticed a big difference with the new camera. These shots are so nice, it makes me not want to post about One. I didn't put enough attention into my photography

Sunday, April 26, 2009 1:14:00 PM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

I was a bit shocked the place was slightly dead when we arrived.

Overall, the place was just OK. I doubt I'd ever come back here to eat, even if the Tuesday night special of $45 + $1 bottle of wine seems to be a pretty decent deal with respect to the neighborhood.

It's great to see you rocking out on the dSLR as well. See you @ Providence!

Sunday, April 26, 2009 2:50:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

WC: You're right about the place being surprisingly slow. The sliders were very sweet indeed, but oddly enough, I didn't find the sweetness overpowering. I was never served the Long Island Lolita, though I believe I may have had a sip of HC's. It wasn't bad.

Ila: It's funny but true. ;) You're absolutely right though that this would be a good place to dine before hitting the clubs along Sunset.

Aaron: Yeah this place would've been hard to shoot with my little Fuji. You can borrow my photos if you need to, à la Pizzeria Ortica.

Danny: I think we're on the same page regarding One Sunset. It's going to be hard to go back to using my P&S after being out with the DSLR. I just ordered a new lens in fact, which should arrive in time for Providence!

Sunday, April 26, 2009 6:33:00 PM  
Blogger me said...

hi kevin,

that master cleanse cocktail is a riot! i've actually done the well-known detox program a few times over the years (before it got hollywood fame) so i got a good chuckle from your latest report.

It's commonly known as the "Lemonade Diet," though, as correctly detailed, the concoction comprises maple syrup...organic grade b maple syrup, to be exact!

mouth-watering review, as always!


Monday, April 27, 2009 1:46:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Hey Jane, so does the Master Cleanse work???

Monday, April 27, 2009 2:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful shots(as expected). It was a pleasure meeting you and the whole group for dinner.

Monday, April 27, 2009 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

by just the looks of the food - this looked awful -- I think you were being kind

Monday, April 27, 2009 2:06:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Laura: It was great meeting you too. I'm looking forward to your post about the place!

Anon: I think that the food was passable given the context of One Sunset.

Monday, April 27, 2009 6:14:00 PM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

What kind of lens did you get?

I'm still playing around with the kit lens and the 50mm 1.8f. I'm def gonna get something nice in the coming months....

Monday, April 27, 2009 7:10:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Danny, it was a Sigma 28mm f/1.8 macro. Recently, I've been using the Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro, but the lens is a bit slow in certain situations, such as at Church & State. My hope is that the faster f/1.8 will perform better in those types of low-light environments. The 28mm is a bit short though. What I really want is a 35mm f/1.4 macro, but such a beast doesn't exist.

Monday, April 27, 2009 7:15:00 PM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

The new lens should get you some nice shots tonight.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 11:42:00 AM  
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