Tart, an open air restaurant on the patio of the kitschy Farmer’s Daughter boutique hotel, invited us to take a sneak peek at their new brunch menu. Chef Keith Shutta, an LA native with a multicultural background, has previously worked at such prestigious locations as Ciudad, Nick & Stef’s steakhouse, the Montage and “Shutters on the Beach” in Santa Monica. Along with sous chef Aloise Keifer, he has created a seasonal menu of internationally influenced American comfort food. The brunch is served every day of the week, so it is perfect for early meetings or for playing hooky.
Other than a few eyebrow-raising menu items such as the brussel sprout sandwich, the traditional menu is pretty standard — country biscuits, pancakes, a breakfast burrito, numerous egg dishes, chicken and waffles, salads and a burger with bleu cheese. Nonetheless, Chef Shutta is definitely taking advantage of this chance to flex his creative muscles. We were intrigued by eggs “in papillote.” Normally only fish are cooked in these little paper packages. The eggs were soft, like shirred eggs, and the potatoes were still crispy and sweetened with caramelized onions. The bacon may be a little soft for people used to the crunch, but it was thick and flavorful.
The morning’s favorite dish was probably shrimp and grits with andouille sausage, okra and maque choux (fresh corn, bell pepper, and onion). The still-crisp vegetables added a farm freshness that contrasted well with the creamy, smooth grits. The large, butterflied shrimp were absolutely decadent, and the andouille added just a little heat to spice things up.
The new summer menu is where Chef Shutta really has fun. Although he brings in old-fashioned brunch favorites like a German pancake with lemon and powdered sugar, dishes like pork belly hash with bell peppers, red onion, home fries, Tabasco sauce and two poached eggs look exciting.
The new sandwiches are fairly bursting with personality. The kimchi grilled cheese is made with a mellow white cheddar on flavorful sourdough bread that is perfectly crispy and buttery. The freshly made kimchi brings a welcome crunch to the dish. The pieces of cabbage are a little big though, so this is not a first date dish. The sandwich is served with a house made tomato and roasted red bell pepper soup that gets the acidity just right. The turkey meatloaf bahn mi is garnished with shaved carrots, cucumber, daikon sprouts, pickled jalapeño and yuzu citrus aioli. At first turkey meatloaf seems like a puzzling choice for bahn mi, but the grind is so fine it mimics the pate of a standard bahn mi. The accompanying fries come with an addictive ketchup that is spiced with achiote paste.
There is only one menu item we will miss. The gigantic Crab Benedict will only be offered as a special on weekends now, so call ahead to make sure they have it. Don’t fret the changes though, they still have their bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys, and their enormous punch bowls. We recommend the Black Ballin’ Punch, a delicious blend of blackberry vodka, orange, and cranberry juice. For diners needing their caffeine fix, iced tea comes in a giant mason jar, and coffee is served with its own personal French press, so you don’t have to constantly ask for refills.
Plus, you still get your food for half off if you jump in the pool with your clothes on. If you do it ten times, you join the Hall of Fame and get your name on a bronze plate on a giant wooden plaque. How else do you ever expect to get your name on a big plaque without donating millions to the opera or going into space?