Hungry Hungry Kitty

Hungry Cat Hollywood 21.March.10
eat: Crab Cake Benedict with Pancetta and Black Kale, Tweety's Herb Scramble, Fresh Pastries, Pug Burger, Fish & Chips, and Asparagus, Pancetta, and Crispy Egg
sip:Blanche de Bruxelles, Bloody Marys, Grapefruit Michelada

In Los Angeles, a city where looks matter more than substance, paradoxically some of the best culinary gems are actually hidden - behind generic storefronts, in dingy mini malls, or off the beaten path. Hungry Cat is one of those eateries; although it's located in a mundane, cookie-cutter complex of chain stores and apartments, the food is anything but bland. In fact, the restaurant excels on so many levels - amazingly fresh seafood and fish (oh ,the oyseters!) , artisanal cocktails, amazing brunch - that one forgets about the unfortunate mall setting. I have two preferred ways of dining at Hungry Cat. Firstly, I like sitting at the bar, which provides a great view of libation creation and glimpses into the busy kitchen. Secondly, I love sitting outside for a leisurely brunch, which can last for hours once the Bloody Marys start flowing. Here's a few of my favorite things....

Unlike dinner, where dessert ends the meal, I like to start off brunch with some sweets; they're the sugary yin to coffee’s acidic yang. Thanks to the opening of Tavern, another fine Suzanne Goin establishment, Hungry Cat now serves fresh-baked pastries from Tavern’s bakery. Monkey Bread, the baked-good love child of cinnamon rolls and sugary donuts, is comforting goodness. The Pain au Chocolat is pure Paris; flaky and napkin-stained buttery with a bitter, dark chocolate. If you’ve never been to Paris, here’s your chance to taste the City of Lights.

Tweety's Herb Scramble With Fines Herbes, Shallots, Jack Cheese and Crème Fraiche This dish reminds me of how good simplicity - like grilled peaches or a tomato flecked with salt & pepper - tastes. I rarely order scrambles or omelettes because they often are over-sized, ingredient-heavy ( do I really need chorizo, avocado, cheddar, cilantro, tomato AND onion), and over-cooked so that the eggs are bland and dry. In this dish, eggs are celebrated as they should be, and brightened by fresh herbs and tangy crème fraiche. The breakfast potatoes, some of the best in town, are generously roasted in olive oil and tossed with hefty slivers of garlic and woodsy rosemary.

Crab Cake Benedict with Black Kale and Pancetta
A perfectly executed dish with each component combined to create umami, brunch-style. Moist, succulent crab cakes, salty prosciutto, perfectly poached eggs, velvety hollandaise and black kale, which when charred, is heightened to a crunchy, briny accoutrement.

Beer-battered Fish and Chips This popular pub dish is elevated to gourmet status with a chunky, fried caper aioli, fresh parsley, and fried lemon slices. The fish is moist and fresh, while the batter itself is surprisingly light and crispy. The super-salty, double-fried fries are frigging delicious, whether they are eaten unadorned, swimming in mussel broth, or dipped in the condiment of your choice.

The Pug Burg
er with Bacon, Avocado, Blue Cheese, and Fried Egg. Since the menu at Hungry Cat abounds with aquatic treasures, I rarely order meat here, but thanks to my carnivorous friend, Russell, I got to taste the burger. Now, I may be biased because I tend to like a flatter, puck-like patty and this version is more tennis ball-shaped, but I find the burger to be so-so. The problem for me lies in the meat itself; although it is high-quality ground beef, it is overwhelmingly fatty and rich. Plus, the burger "ball" is so tall that it's impossible to eat it with your hands - and a fork and knife takes away from the finger-licking grease of the burger experience.

Grilled Asparagus, House-Made Pancetta, Walnuts, and a Crispy Egg I love the purity of this dish; each ingredient on it's own is delicious, but when combined, the eggy, porky, green, nutty blend is wonderful. Although I've sampled versions of this dish around town, the breaded egg and the homemade pancetta make Hungry Cat's stand out from the crowd.

Blanche de Bruxelles Witbier. With hints of bitter orange and coriander, this refreshing Belgian white beer is a great brunch beer thanks to it's light, citrusy finish. Bloody Marys are garden-fresh-good and come in many versions like the Maryland Mary rimmed with Maryland Spice Mix and garnished with an oyster. In the summer, I'm a big fan of the Grapefruit Michelada, a tart, refreshing mix of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, tecate, in a salted-rim glass.