After several high-powered months of serving their brand of rarified barbecue, Timothy Hollingsworth and Rory Herrmann’s Barrel & Ashes has finally received the review treatment. Not only did Jonathan Gold file on the pair’s meaty endeavor with serial restaurateur Bill Chait back in November, but LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell turned in a two-star rating just yesterday. That means it’s time to check out the good news on the popular Studio City space, and the bad, as quoted from folks from around the city.
High-End Pedigree: There’s no denying the star power packed into Barrel & Ashes, thanks to Chait, Hollingsworth and Herrmann, who collectively have been within the ranks of some of California’s best restaurants. Which, in one sense, makes the medium-brow barbecue restaurant play all the more curious, though chef-driven takes on everyday fare is nothing new to L.A. Perhaps Barrel & Ashes is just a waylay to the next big thing?
- "Barrel & Ashes is a barbecue restaurant with serious star power, helmed by chefs Timothy Hollingsworth (former Chef de Cuisine at The French Laundry) and Rory Herrmann (former Chef de Cuisine at Bouchon)." [LA Mag]
- "I also get the sense that Barrel and Ashes is a way for Hollingsworth and Herrmann to remain busy while waiting for the Broad, and perhaps a way for Chait to make good on his (probably sizable) investment in the two chefs." [LA Weekly]
- "Los Angeles, in the last several years, has become something of a paradise for what I’ve taken to calling Chefs Without Portfolio, highly skilled young cooks, killing time between major projects… CWPs are presumably OK with underachieving, because they know that stardom waits in the wings." [LA Times]
The Indistinction of Styles: Barrel & Ashes serves everything from hushpuppies and Frito pie to Texas-style smoked brisket. There’s no orthodoxy here, just a reliance on technique.
- "(The menu) reads like an all-time favorites list compiled by two chefs with a serious love of smoked meat. "We’re taking the knowledge from our culinary background and combining with things we learned from professional pitmasters." [LA Mag]
- "Are classically trained chefs and barbecue a felicitous combination? They could be; Boneyard Bistro down the street, run by a Charlie Trotter’s alum, is still going strong." [LA Times]
- "Like many barbecue restaurants outside of the barbecue belt, the style is kind of amorphous, though Texas is obviously the main influence." [LA Weekly]
Superlative Chicken Sandwiches: Named the ‘Best Damn Chick’n Sandwich Ya Ever Had,’ Barrel & Ashes’ fried bird version is certainly out to ruffle some feathers, one way or another.
- "I've not found anything so far that can unseat Son of a Gun. That being said, the one here still made a strong showing for itself." [Kevin Eats]
- "The skin on a chicken breast was crispy, but the fat had congealed in such a way as to make it completely unyielding" [LA Weekly]
- "Then there's "The Best Damn Chick'n Sandwich Ya Ever Had" (yeah, it's called that). Topped with coleslaw, pimento cheese and jalapenos, it lives up to its name." [Our Ventura Blvd.]
An Issue of Space: One of the most common gripes about this popular new restaurant is that, well, it’s so damn popular. Getting a seat (let alone fitting into the seat you’ve gotten, elbow-to-elbow at a communal table) is near impossible, and the place reads to some like an unfriendly eat-and-leave operation, lest the rest of the waiting diners begin to riot.
- "Overwhelmed hostesses will tell you the wait for a table is 30 minutes long, then 30 minutes later point to a table that’s been empty all along and say you can have it — if you eat and leave in time for another party that’sarriving in 45 minutes. Don’t want that option? It’ll be another 30 minutes "at least." (Reservations are limited, and in no way guarantee a wait-less experience.)" [LA Weekly]
- "**no seating /waiting area. if you want to wait and avoid the crowd your choice is to stand outside (which was freezing and no heat lamps), or wait inside and stand awkwardly in the way of EVERYONE who's trying to go ANYWHERE and I'm not exaggerating." [Yelp]
- The seating is really awkward and uncomfortable, making it seem like they want you in and out of there as fast as possible. Community dining would be okay if the music wasn't so loud you couldn't talk to your table mates. [Yelp]
The Price of Good Barbecue: There’s no other way to say this: Barrel & Ashes is an expensive restaurant, which may seem at odds with the aesthetic at first. But consider the chefs, the location, the quality of the products they use and the animal protein-rich menu, and some of those dollar signs begin to make more sense. Still, not everyone is amused at the hit one’s wallet can take.
- "But if a meal for three (including three cocktails) rings in at around $200, you tend to want more than a loud, hurried, harried meal where 20 percent of the food was problematic and the hostess and standing guests have been staring you down to get up and out since the moment you took your seat." [LA Weekly]
- "Traditionalists who are fine with paper plates and mountains of meat may find it a little fussy, and more expensive than what they’re used to paying. But choice is a good thing, and it’s great to have another winner in the SFV." [SFV Media]
Dining Inside Americana: The decor has won over many folks with its rustic, wood-hewn sensibility. And it’s always a pleasure to see into the open kitchen as notable chefs prepare the night’s food.
- "The former Spark Woodfire Grill space has done over with bright tiles and high tables. There’s a small bar that serves craft cocktails and a counter that overlooks the kitchen. Country and rock music rotate on the sound system." [SFV Media]
- "The feel of the restaurant is suburban barn chic: There are wooden tables and wood-paneled walls, chalkboards over the open kitchen and a wooden sign that says "rodeo."" [LA Weekly]
- "Try the tables instead, both inside and outside (a rear patio also holds a Texas style food trailer); if you want a front seat to the action, there’s also a kitchen counter with minimal seating." [Time Out]
- "There is a centerpiece open kitchen with a chef’s counter, refined wood tables (communal, raised and traditional), a full bar, rustic lighting, kitsch décor like a vintage-looking American flag, Texas sign and a hog in a barrel sketched on the wall. A wall of windows keeps an eye on the street patio lined with picnic tables." [Our Ventura Blvd.]