By Michael Aushenker | Contributing Writer
Photos by Rich Schmitt | Staff Photographer
Restaurateurs Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax are no strangers to their profession or even to Brentwood.
From the second floor of Brentwood Gardens plaza, their seafood-dominated Bottlefish (which opened Dec. 8) overlooks the last establishment Rosenfield and Flax opened, right across the landing; a little chain called California Pizza Kitchen (affectionately known as “CPK”).
The owners, along with Rosenfield’s wife Esther, were in the house on the packed Tuesday night we dined on. As Rosenfield explained to the Palisadian-Post, he and Flax sold CPK—which had grown out of the flagship S. Beverly Drive location in Beverly Hills—back in 2010. At the time they sold it, the pair had created 212 CPK locations across North America, plus another 40 worldwide, in places as far as Chile, Australia and Dubai.
Opening Bottlefish, Rosenfield continued, was definitely a different experience than when the pair founded CPK back in 1985.
“I don’t have the same level of fear,” said Rosenfield, now a successful, experienced restaurateur.
Sleek, modern and dimly lit with a nocturnal overview of prime San Vicente Boulevard action, Bottlefish is vast, with a ginormous 5,000-square-foot interior and ample patio space, readymade for large parties.
Despite the CPK back-story, there is not much on Bottlefish’s menu that will remind you of California Pizza Kitchen fare (quality notwithstanding). Bottlefish swims up its own stream, offering a range of delights crafted by the restaurant’s young founding chef, Executive Chef Jackson Kalb, who leads his action-packed staff of cooks out of a transparent kitchen.
The categories here—Starters, Greens, Simply Prepared, Plates and Sides—are refreshingly direct and unpretentious, and so is the food.
Among the appetizers (starters range $11 to $23), we tried the particularly unique offering Black Cod Meatballs, a bowl of (a bit salty but still tasty) fish balls marinated in a precision house-made Marinara sauce and garnished with arugula.
Even better were the offerings from the restaurant’s raw bar: Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, accompanied by a run of Creole mustard sauce, and a nice plate of Yellowtail Sashimi—five heavenly slices. The savory quality is beautifully counterbalanced by the sweetness of orange wedges, plus kaffir lime ponzu, thin slices of Fresno chiles and fried shallots.
Another butt-kicker: Tuna Tartare, a scrumptious mound of hand-chopped sushi-grade ahi with cucumber, shallots and avocado mousse (and a slice of toast on the side). The raw plates are exceptional: The crab cake is light, flaky, flavorful and not overall deep-fried, while the yellowtail—mouth-meltingly delicious—is on par with any that you’ve had at a sushi house.
Bottlefish offers three types of salads: Spicy Caesar Salad, Sesame-Crusted Tuna Salad and Shrimp & Crab Louie (topped with a hard-boiled egg and avocado).
We moved into the Simply Prepared section. Of the grilled items, which arrive with a choice of salsa Roja, Sicilian herb sauce or lemon butter caper sauce—including Eastern Barramundi, Scottish Salmon and Ruby Red Idaho Trout—we went for the $29 Pacific Swordfish. Probably the plainest-looking item visually of our evening, this nevertheless tender, perfectly cooked swordfish steak was so tasty.
There were plenty of
directions to take with our main entrée, as the Plates
portion offers everything from Sea Bream “Tacos” to Lobster Roll to Herb-Marinated
We chose one from each major category: fish (Sauteed Branzino), beef (Creekstone Farms Cheeseburger) and chicken (Rosie’s Organic Half-Roasted Chicken). The Sauteed Branzino, we were told, was Bottlefish’s most popular dish, and it’s easy to see why. Expertly cooked to perfection, the Greek sea bass was not only a delight—from its soft and flaky interior to its crisp, golden skin—but it benefited mightily from an interplay between the fish and the small pool of lightly curried lentils and cucumber labneh which it bathed in.
Truth be told, the cheeseburger was decent, if inessential, but Rosie’s chicken, with its balsamic chili glaze, Corto olive oil and a dollop of Bottlefish’s own Banyuls Vinegar Smashed Potatoes (which can be ordered as a side for $8), made for as sublime and hearty a roast chicken experience as you will find in Los Angeles.
Speaking of sides (priced at $8), there are many here, but believe your waitress or waiter when they tell you the Crispy Brussels Sprouts are Bottlefish’s most popular. This is gospel, and the truth lies in the generous bowl of flavorful veggies, magnificently marinated in an understated Thai vinaigrette.
From the “fish” part, we now move on to the “bottle.” While Moscow Mules, Old Fashioneds and cucumber martinis may seem exceedingly trite for a Westside restaurant in 2017, the drinks here (all cocktails run $14) are nevertheless well made and solidly satisfactory. Naked and Famous, comprised of mescal, aperol, yellow Chartreuse and lime with a grapefruit twist, tastes nice and light. An Eastside, infused with Sipsmith gin, cucumber juice and fresh mint, hits the cuke-drink spot. The biggest alcoholic revelation here though was Dark and Stormy, an exceptional potion of Black Magic spiced rum, Cruzan Black Strap Rum, fresh lime and ginger and ginger beer; sweet, with a nice edge to it.
Consider this Brentwood destination as the start of something bigger to come. While Rosenfield and Flax have not yet found their second location, the plan, Rosenfield said, is to start opening more Bottlefish restaurants by year’s end. So despite its second-floor location, here you’ll feel as if you’re dining on the ground floor of something really special.
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