Sometimes a restaurant opens here in LA and it is immediately apparent that it was someone’s dream. You can tell because it has so much heart. But heart isn’t enough to make it in this town; you have to produce. Diners in LA demand delicious, innovative, quality food. The LA Beat first started seeing Knuckle and Claw at local food events, and they immediately charmed us. The owners and employees are so friendly. Each one is personally invested in their restaurant. And they have the food to back it up.
The dreamers were 24 year-old fiancees Nikki Booth and Chloe Dahl (yes, there is a relation to Roald, but not to Jeff). Booth grew up in Hawaii, developing a serious love of seafood, and Chloe grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, where lobsters are a staple. After living together in New York, they packed up their belongings and set off to California, kind of like that popular scene from “I Love Lucy,” without so much singing. Starting out at Eastside Farmer’s Markets, they developed the best recipes and relationships with top East Coast seafood purveyors. Secrecy and mystery surround “Nikki’s Secret Seasoning.” It’s a traditional seasoning with a “new take” inspired by her years in Hawaii. But no one will tell you a single ingredient. Not one.
Knuckle and Claw opened this past March in a surprisingly small space on Sunset in Silver Lake. It still has the slide-down metal door that hints at a past as a blue collar workplace. They have utilized the space well, with a generous kitchen, a counter with stools, a shaded side patio with vines just beginning to climb the lattice, and a front patio for people-watching. Although it smacks of the Atlantic, the restaurant fits in perfectly with the funky vibe of the West Coast.
The decor definitely follows an East Coast harbor theme, with wooden lobster crates and buoys. The walls are a dark, distressed wood that looks like it was made out of the docks themselves. The dining area walls are decorated with pictures of the East Coast. The white tile walls behind the counter remind me of the oyster houses in London. Shelves on the tile wall hold spices and cooking supplies; it is almost like being in someone’s kitchen.
The knuckle and claw of the lobster is the meat of choice here for sandwiches because they believe the meat is more tender than the tail. Their lobster is caught in Maine, flown out of Boston, and on your plate eight hours later. It is as fresh as it gets. They don’t even have a lobster tank.
The lobster stuffed into the roll is sweet and generous. But that’s not all they do. You can also order Maine shrimp, Dungeness crab or blue crab. All rolls are offered full-sized at 6-inches with 1/4 pound of seafood or cute mini rolls at 4″ with 1/8 of a pound of seafood. I prefer the little rolls because I like some variety. All of the rolls are genuine Rockenwagner. They are brushed with melted butter and just a dab of mayonnaise. For special occasions, or when inspiration strikes, they may use truffle butter.
The bay shrimp are as sweet as the lobster, and extremely tender. Just try not to think of it as a sandwich made out of pinkies. I am normally cautious about crab meat, but there was not a hint of fishiness to the Dungeness crab roll. And not a bit of shell. Sometimes a thing is wonderful simply because of everything it is not.
The real showstopper is the Knuckle Sandwich, a lobster sandwich served on sourdough bread with Cotswold cheddar from the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills melted temptingly over 1/4 pound of lobster. I would advise sharing it as it is a hulk of a sandwich. And you will want a little roll too. Or some clam chowder. Or dessert.
What’s that about dessert? Knuckle & Claw has just started serving Carmela ice cream because Carmela also started out at LA Eastside Farmers Markets. Nikki and Chloe really liked the idea of partnering with a local, artisanal ice cream shop. They also serve a rotating selection of craft beer, like Allagash Saison, Scrimshaw Blue Wheat by North Coast and Mission Brewery Small Batch Series. They even have wine on tap.
In spite of my love for Knuckle & Claw, I do have one serious complaint. No one told me there were Whoopie Pies!
All food and drink was comped