Tucked away in an unassuming location next to a gas station on Sepulveda Blvd., Bel Air Bar and Grill may be easy to miss, but it has food that is hard to forget. Walking through the beautiful glass entryway, past the cozy dark wood bar and into the dining room containing a fireplace and modern artwork, I knew I was in for a treat. This restaurant exudes luxury from every angle.
After taking our seats, we barely had to wait before a basket with a variety of aromatic breads and a side of hummus arrived at our table. The soft and warm breads provided the perfect dipping vehicle for the savory, garlicky hummus. Extensive wine and cocktail lists proved too tempting to pass up. I ordered the “Viva La France” – an exciting blend of Vodka, Chambord, pineapple juice and champagne. A tad on the sweet side, the cocktail delivered a fine balance of flavors.
My dining partner Liz and I decided on the Tuna Tartare for an appetizer, and our server suggested we sample one of the house specialties, the Fanny Bay Oysters. Upon arrival, the Tuna Tartare resembled a mountain of tuna atop a bed of avocado. Wasabi caviar and soy sauce crowned the dish along with sides of pickled ginger and crispy wontons. The fish tasted fresh, the piquant wasabi caviar provided a unique flavor (although I still have no idea how you make wasabi caviar) and the pickled ginger was, hands down, the best ginger I have ever had.
Next up were the Fanny Bay Oysters. These are not just any oysters, mind you, but crispy little goodies sautéed with collard greens and walnuts in a zesty sauce.
Our next course featured a sampling of two salads – the Watermelon and Shaved Fennel Salad and the Kale Salad with Roasted Beets and Burrata. Although it seemed a bit odd to have such a seasonal fruit as watermelon appear on a year-round menu, the summertime favorite proved to be ripe and refreshing even on a cool fall evening. The kale salad, recommended by the server, did not disappoint. It contained just the right amount of tangy flavor from tangerines and citrus herb vinaigrette to complement the beets and burrata.
After a brief breather, it was on to our main courses. Liz and I chose the Orecchiette, Bouillabaisse and BBQ Niman Ranch Pork Ribs. Rich and well-seasoned, the Orecchiette came with a pesto brie cream, butternut squash, asparagus and toasted almonds. The Bouillabaisse contained many different types of seafood, all cooked to perfection. Its standout lobster saffron broth proved to be ideal for dipping the accompanying grilled bread.
The BBQ Niman Ranch Pork Ribs, served with skinny fries and pineapple cole slaw, were cooked well and literally fell right off the bone. The sauce possessed just the right amount of sweet, the fries were crispy and the pineapple slaw was light and fresh. Each of the entrées paired rather well with my glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc.
To complete our meal, we indulged in a Warm Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp à la Mode as well as Berries with Crème Fraiche. The Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp provided just the right amount of sweet with a crispy oat crust and vanilla bean ice cream. The Berries with Crème Fraiche offered a light, pleasant and refreshing end to our meal.
Bel Air Bar & Grill offered a great night of food and drinks for a fun girls’ night out, but we could also see how it would be a great choice for a date night or a special occasion.
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