Welcome to the Good News/Bad News on Hollywood's Birch, an amalgamation of the reviews of Brendan Collins' follow up to the late Waterloo & City. With a four and a half star rating from Yelp and three star review from Besha Rodell, both critics and bloggers alike have primarily positive things to say about the contemporary Hollywood restaurant. So what's the scoop?
Critics agree that it is a restaurant of the moment: In line with modern dining customs, Birch offers a small plates menu with current food trends abound.
Says Gold: "And it is definitely of its moment. [...] Does the menu include kale salad, chicken liver mousse and tuna tartare? It does." [LAT]
And Rodell: "In a sea of shared plates, kale salads and foraged ramps, there might be no restaurant in town as of-the-moment as Birch. [...] If Birch were such a dress, it would be much less Chanel, much more Christian Siriano. It hardly feels timeless. But it feels like right this minute, and that's not so bad." [LAW]
The rabbit baklava is a must order: While there is no doubt Birch offers dishes that are similar to those of other restaurants in town, the rabbit baklava is uniquely its own, and is unquestionably delicious.
"Birch's best-loved dish is probably the rabbit baklava, which is to say juicy scraps of meat folded into leaves of filo with beans. (The crisp, golden pie, molded into the shape of a small brick and garnished with carrots and doll-size double rabbit loin chops, is adorable.)" [LAT]
"But the sweetness of dates and the subtle crunch of pistachio does hint at the dessert that inspires the dish, and the teeny tiny rack of rabbit ribs as garnish will make the right kind of diner — those who don't mind thinking of the bunny as they eat him — smile. The winks and cleverness of the dish aside, the important part is that it tastes fantastic: hearty, meaty and wholly original." [LAW]
"You could pin the baklava's popularity on its oddity, but really it's just a fantastic plate of food, and worth returning for." [TimeOut]
"The presentation on our last dish, the rabbit baklava was also amazing. Having the grilled rabbit fillet and mini-chop on top of the phylo-dough filled deliciousness was a nice whimsical touch." [Yelp]
"Had the Rabbit Baklava, SO GOOD. Not overly expensive. Food is so sexy." [Yelp]
And so is the pork shank: Brendan Collins shows real dexterity with meat, a talent he put on full display at his Culver City gastropub. While many of his dishes at Birch show modernist flair, Gold finds the chef's "joy in his cooking tends to emerge when he lets his inner butcher come out to play," perhaps most clearly in his popular pork shank.
"There is nothing subtle at all about what is probably Birch's great specialty, a giant braised pork shank burnished with mellow palm sugar, served with shredded cabbage that splits the difference between cole slaw and sauerkraut, and served with rolled up sheets of grilled za'atar bread. You tear off a length of the bread, shred some pork, add some thick, herbed yogurt and some slaw — it's Carolina pulled pork barbecue Middle Eastern-style, and you are going to end up eating it all." [LAT]
"The server recommended the Pork Shank and although we weren't looking to eat a lot we did get it and do not regret it one bit! Apparently the pork is marinated for 12 hours in a palm sugar. It's so soft and tender that sharing this was so easy because pieces of pork just fell off the bone. I loved the flatbread that is made in house. We ended up having leftovers and it tasted just as great the next day!" [Yelp]
"Our final savory brought a pretty massive pork shank, an appropriately tender, super porcine preparation with just a smidge of sweetness. Particularly effective when taken with the slaw and its fantastic countervailing acidity." [kevinEats]
The cocktails are on point: Located just minutes from the Pantages and the ArcLight, Birch is a place to belly up to the bar and enjoy a libation by the talented Gabrielle Mlynarczyk.
"I can understand the hiring of Mlynarczyk, though, who for years was responsible for the super-modern culinary cocktails at ink. Her Cinnamon cocktail, made with mezcal, amontillado, lime and rice milk, is perhaps a better match with Collins' cooking than the elegant riffs on classics the bar had been producing." [LAW]
"#7 was the drink of the night that hit the spot. Liked it so much I bought 4 more (3 for friends) and one more for myself." [OpenTable]
"Gabriella Mlynarczyk has put together an exceptional cocktail program at Birch, with drinks that are as pretty to look at as they are to drink. You'll be ordering by numbers, and I strongly suggest the #3, a bright carrot-based drink with Aperol and gin, perfect for pairing with the rabbit baklava." [TimeOut]
There are still service kinks though: Like any restaurant, service is a serious component, and it seems there's still some work to be done on that front.
"Food was fantastic, but service (hostess) left something to be desired." [Yelp]
"Perhaps the most notable thing about the evening is the service. Or the lack of it." [Yelp]