As of June 11, there's a new flower planted on what might be the best dining neighborhood in the city. Flores, the work of owner Amal Flores and GM Dagny Mendelsohn (Pastis NYC), is now open after a four month transformation from the stodgy yet beloved Sawtelle Kitchen to a fresh, warm dining room marked by stained walnut, smooth marble counters, and golden lighting. The entire design and build out was done by the crafty Flores himself, who was inspired to take over the former art gallery space where his sculptor father once showed back in the late 1960's. In addition to the transformed interior, the front and side patio spaces are refreshed for pleasant outdoor dining.
The 95 seat restaurant's kitchen is helmed by husband-and-wife team Angela Hernandez and Rob Lawson, whose long pedigree includes Corton, Gordon Ramsay, and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in New York, as well as The Bazaar and Hotel Bel-Air locally here in the city. Along with pastry chef Cesar Bermundez Cifuentes, who's worked in various fine dining establishments in Barcelona, and bar manager Serge Milenkovic (RivaBella, Little Dom's), Flores has a solid cast of players who will likely make this one of the most ambitious restaurants to open in this neighborhood for years.
The menu reads like a typical small-plates, farm-to-table type place, but with a bit more underlying creativity. Bites include pig cheek croquetas with a seaweed aioli, as well as a kanpachi ceviche with young Thai coconut, lime and grapefruit. There's Texas caviar with poached egg and smoked ham hock, a wink at Hernandez and Lawson's Lone Star roots, as well as a a skate wing with capers and a hangar steak with pomme puree (remember, the chefs learned their potatoes from Ramsay and Robuchon).
Desserts by Cifuentes also look compelling, with strawberries and vinegar caramel or a lemon posset with almond and cognac to go along with a slew of house-made ice creams. Drinks include a thoughtful list of small-producer wines that are reasonably priced, as well as some craft beers on tap.
The restaurant is now serving dinner seven nights a week from 5:30 p.m. to at least 11 p.m., and perhaps later on the weekends. They'll eventually introduce lunch, brunch, and even breakfast with pastries by Cifuentes. Sawtelle finally scores a casual yet elegant destination worth bragging about.
·Coming Attractions [~ELA~]