It’s a little strange to be asked whether you have a reservation for a bar…in the valley…at 11pm on a Tuesday. But you don’t have to be a model to make it past their red velvet rope — yes, a red velvet rope. You just have to dress nicely and make reservations.
Once you arrive upstairs and slip into the dark and comfortable Fiscal Agent, you are really grateful for that red velvet rope, because patrons aren’t three-deep at the bar, and no wild pack of frat boys is going to bust in and hang all over you. Not that Studio City is known for being frat boy stomping grounds.
Besides the comfortable yet upscale atmosphere, the main reason to come to Fiscal Agent is the innovative yet classic bar menu by bar star Julian Cox, assisted by Dave Kupchinsky, Nick Meyer, and Kristina Howald. There is also an amazingly good menu from Michael Kahikina, another member of restaurateur Bill Chait’s dream team, who also chefs at Barrel and Ashes downstairs.
In case everything seems a little too genteel, the staff lightens things up with cocktails bearing names like “Silly Rabbit,” “Crusta Rhymes” and “French as Fuck.” The bar menu combines old-fashioned dark spirit drinks with a definite tiki vibe. Where do we get the tiki vibe from? Tropical fruit juices, rum, and oh, a drink served in a coconut. And my favorite thing about the bar — the house drink is served on fire. I love things on fire! They actually set a separate cup of liquor to burn on top of the glass so that it doesn’t affect your drink’s taste or safety. The “Federal Preserves” contains cured nectarines, allspice, Amontillado, caramelized pineapple, Sauvignon Blanc, barrel-aged gin, and cinnamon. A perfect drink.
The Smoked Trout Rillettes with Pickled Shallot, Lovage, Fennel and Trout Roe is the best smoked fish in town. I am sometimes wary of smoked fish in America, but rilletes is a magic word, kind of like confit. Anything cooked in fat is good by me. Spread on small pieces of sourdough toast, the trout is heavenly, and would be nice for two people to share. I would definitely return to Fiscal Agent just for that dish.
The octopus, which was served almost like a salad, with a lot of frisee along with crispy Toscana salami, saffron aioli and potato confit (Confit!!!), is the most tender octopus I have ever eaten. Ever. I didn’t know it could be like this; it was like an entirely different animal (OK, cephalopod, whatever). I felt betrayed by everyone who has ever served me octopus in the past.
The china, silver and glassware appear to have been picked up at an estate sale. When I held up an unusual butter knife to my server with a questioning look, she replied, “We call that grandma’s knife.” They also have little tiny champagne glasses to serve an amuse bouche of champagne. Adorable. The song list is fantastic, and at certain points, bartenders and guests even start singing along, which definitely removes the last trace of stuffiness.
If I were a single girl in my 30s, I would meet every single date at The Fiscal Agent, because there is a very comfortable and quiet dining area with overstuffed chairs that is perfect for tête-à-têtes. If I wanted to go out alone and feel safe, Fiscal Agent is a controlled environment with a lot of camaraderie and laughter around the bar. It’s also an incredible bargain. All of the cocktails are $12, the trout rillettes are only $10, and the octopus was $14. If you want to splurge, the Peruvian scallops for $16 looked very good.
Disclosure: When I pointed out that my cocktail was not on my bill, the server waved it away, and when I didn’t have cash for the valet they told me to bring it next time. So there were no official comps, but there were a couple of “fuggedaboutits.”