March 23, 2012
I met an old friend for dinner at The Wood, one of the many casual dining spots in Culver City, a subsection of west L.A. that has its own mayor, city council, and white hot food scene that gives Silver Lake a run for its money. The venerable cook and gourmet food supply shop Surfas anchors the area, plus there are a couple of small storefront cooking schools. Locally, food is on the brain. And indeed the co-owners ran a coffee shop and a cafe, respectively, and met at a farmer’s market. That would be Demetrios Mavromichalis of Venice Grind and Laurent Triqueneaux of Cafe Laurent.
It doesn’t hurt that there are film studios and media companies nearby to keep the caterers and lunch spots busy. Lest you picture quaint streets and adorable areas to walk, I’ll set you straight. Culver City was a suburb developed in the late 40’s/ early ’50’s at the height of L.A.’s love affair with the car, and has wide, bleak streets and pretty ugly architecture. Style-less Moderne, let’s call it. Travel a block and you will doubtless see an auto repair shop. Not exactly Rodeo Drive.
There is mostly outdoor dining at meat-and-potato-centered The Wood, but we ate inside as it was 55 degrees, people! The cafe promises locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible, which is quite easy in California. My rose wine was from Santa Barbara, for example, as was my side dish of kale, but my perfectly medium rare lamb chops were from New Zealand. The amount of garlic in the chimichurri sauce on top of them could only be described as fearless, and very possibly from Gilroy, a garlic-growing center in mid state. The lamb stood up to the garlic. I did, too.
My friend’s pork chop was a shade dry, but the accompanying mashed potatoes were way better than mom-style. We started with fritto misto, since the fried brussel sprouts appetizer would overdo me with a double load of winter vegetables. The tempura-battered veggies and a few shrimp were good enough, but oily, indicating less than fresh or double-used oil, as a general rule. Just a guess. It was served cutely in a cake baking tin lined with parchment paper.
I’d go again and try a burger, and the sprouts, and try to find room for the chocolate pot de creme, too. The desire to go again means this is a good place, and, as my friend noted, way better than the tired greasy spoon that used to be there.
Driving back to the freeway you’ll pass an only-in-L.A. series of storefronts, namely a famous sword and gun collectors shop, a relatively new mosque, the headquarters of nfl.com, a Lutheran church, the DMV and Sony Studios.