Acabar is celebrating its one year anniversary by featuring a Marjolaine birthday cake for dessert, and a tiki-style Zombie, which naturally is served on fire. The Zombie is complimentary for dinner guests on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We skipped the cake, but the rum Zombie will knock you right on your ass. Seasonal spices such as cinnamon take the cocktail from island breezes to Winter’s chill.
If the ownership team behind The Little Door, The Little Door Santa Monica, and Little Next Door had continued in the same vein, Acabar would be named Gigantic Silver Door. The design of Acabar keeps the opulence of the previous occupant, Dar Maghreb, intact, including that impressive door. The rooms are opened up, and the central fountain has become a fire pit, but the gorgeous tilework remains, along with a Moroccan themed interior. Heavy draperies and upholstered banquettes strewn with pillows muffle the sound even when the room is bustling, and maintain a warm and cozy feel in spite of the grandeur.
The management aims for the chic and creative types, and they certainly succeed. On the evening we visited, well-dressed diners with a variety of accents table hopped and hugged each other, giving the dining room the feel of a dinner party. Yet the room maintained a quiet elegance for couples enjoying romantic dinners. Even the music was unobtrusive, with quiet strains of Bob Marley wafting in from the bar.
The original menu for Acabar was developed by Octavio Becerra, and the cocktail program was designed by bar stars Josh Goldman and Julian Cox of the Soigne Group. Chef de Cuisine Kevin Luzande and Mixologist Quiana LaFleur have taken their cue and run with it. We have been following Chef Luzande for several years, and he never fails to impress. Plus he has bitchin’ hair.
The restaurant’s theme is “global – local,” global cuisine that is locally sourced. The menu starts with a nice selection of oysters on the half shell from Portland, Washington, and BC, served with red wine and shallot, and miso and shoyu sauces as well as the traditional mignonette. The remainder of the menu consists of small plates and large plates. Everything is meant to be shared family-style. The server does more than just take your order; he helps to curate your meal. They adjust the serving sizes for the table to avoid that “who gets the last egg roll” fight.. Our server also selected two outstanding wines to pair with our meal.
The entire team of chefs sits down periodically and updates the menu to follow the seasons. Besides Chef Becerra and Chef Luzande, Chef Oscar Torres and Chef Maria Saldana contribute to the brainstorming sessions. The menu’s descriptions are sometimes whimsically vague, offering “purple chips,” “dirty sauce,” and “olive soil.” Still, when you are in the hands of a truly skilled chef, you don’t really care what you are eating, because you know it’s going to be good.
One of the current seasonal specialties is Fried Buns with braised lamb. The bun is similar to Indian Fry Bread, rich but not greasy, and the perfect vehicle for the intense filling. It is an art to balance such intense ingredients as cotija cheese, sriracha, and pear chutney to create such an explosion of flavor. The Fried buns are my new Death Row last meal.
Another new seasonal offering is the New Zealand Snapper, vermouth poached with truffled potato and leeks, and purple chips. The fish is lighter than whipped butter, extremely tender and without a trace of fishiness. It arrives bathed in a savory sauce that seems more suited for chicken, but somehow works magically with the subtle fish. Finally, the dish is covered in a flurry of purple truffled chips
In addition to the new dishes, Acabar’s menu is globally influenced, weighted a little more heavily toward French and Asian. There are still vestiges of dates, harissa and falafel in a nod to the building’s history and decor.
The Kanpachi Crudo is a light, refreshing dish perfect for whetting the appetite. Amber jack and cucumber are sliced thin and rolled into little pirouettes. To create a seasonal twist, shaved pear pirouettes are interspersed between the fish, which is then sprinkled with salmon roe. The only seasoning is a whisper of plum vinagrette and a dusting of olive. Crispy Shrimp Toast retains its Thai influence, but is reminiscent of fried Japanese tofu pockets. Other appetizing small plates are the Charred Octopus and Skewered Spicy Prawns.
One of thes large plates serves two to three people. You will want to bring a large party so you can try more of the dishes. Crispy Pork Belly Cubes are fried just so, and paired naturally with apples. They are served over white grits with a dusting of braised kale and a dirty sauce. The Lamb Tagine is absolutely a must-have. Braised lamb is served with couscous and garbanzo beans with just a hint of preserved tangerine that gives you a little slap in the face now and then. The large plates are all about the protein with just a compliment of sides. They are not going to fill you up with empty carbs; they save that for dessert.
We sampled two “deconstructed” desserts, a “S’more” with shards of brûléed white chocolate, a salty chocolate pudding, graham cracker crumbs and a perfect quenelle of ice cream. The S’mores dessert is Chef Luzande’s creation. Sous Chef Oscar Torres was inspired by banana cream pie to create his masterpiece, a sticky sponge cake with adorable little meringue puffs that give it an almost woodsy look, along with another perfectly formed quenelle of ice cream.
Acabar also has a number of vegetarian selections and offers a happy hour Tuesdays through Fridays from 6pm – 8pm. Make reservations by phone at 323-876-1400 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org You can also make reservations via Open Table.
All food and drinks were hosted