Artichoke's Heart
9010 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90048
(310) 385-2222

Remember that standard date-place, Café Figaro on Melrose in West Hollywood? Too young? How about the Mexican restaurant that lasted a nano-second, or the chic but empty Murano’s? Well, what’s old is new again, and this incarnation looks like it has a chance to stick around for a while.

Established in Mexico, restaurateur Carlos Anaya and his family have set up the first United States branch of Artichoke’s Heart, and the aromas have breathed new life into this old location.  The Anayas wanted a restaurant where one can have amazing food and still be greeted liked family. They interviewed over 90 folks for the 7 positions, looking for experience, but also for people skills where passion, warmth and hospitality shine.

The moment you enter, you realize someone’s put thought into the décor. Gone are the stark white walls, white chairs and blazing red Murano chandeliers (we did love those chandeliers, however), and instead there’s a modern look with nods to old Mexican style; heavy grouted used brick walls, hand-carved beams (original to the building and found by accident when renovating), wood floors and burnt orange leather seats that are comfortable to sit in for long visits.
On the walls are fabulous oversized artworks that make bold, dramatic statements, painted by Enriqe Monraz from Guadalajara, Mexico; add Michael Buble smoldering in the background, and you have a backdrop for some terrific taste treats.

The concept is “market conditions”. Rather than loading up foods to fit a set menu, and then getting stuck with excess for days, the chef shops daily for only the freshest fare. Whatever that is, in whatever small quantity that exists, that’s what appears on the handwritten menu that is wheeled to your table. Don’t be surprised to come early and find there is only one piece of fresh halibut, because if the chef deems that to be the only acceptable piece, then so be it. Order, and the number of remaining items is immediately changed at your table.

Two types of bread are rushed to your table, along with a mayo spread of garlic aoili. That gives you a moment to peruse the drink list and order one of their very unusual concoctions. We tried two of them, and both were delectable. The Creamsicle, a blend of vanilla Stoli, apricot puree muddled with thyme ($14), tasted like an old fashioned 50/50 ice cream bar, but with that extra special kick you never got in grade school. The Blood Orange Mojito, a blend of fresh blood orange juice, Bacardi Superior and pomegranate juice ($14), was so good we sucked it down in a gulp, wanting another. If tequila is your thing, there’s a separate menu of tequilas, and we happily sampled one of the best on the list called Herencia Mexicana Blanco, an aperitif from agave that was muy fantastico!
Just about everything is made from the oak burning grill, sending wafts of amazing smells into the street. On one of our visits, we started with the grilled artichoke, which was beyond amazing. Don’t even think about not getting your hands filled with greasy delight with this one, and make sure to lick your fingers afterwards ($9). The grilled asparagus was also delicious, and the accoutrement of goat cheese set it apart from the rest ($9). We recommend starting with the Beef Carpaccio ($16), traditional, but, of course, it is topped with artichoke hearts that accentuate the scrumptious wafer thin sliced beef.
The restaurant is still in its “soft opening” stage so there are growing pains. The trout was so over salted it had to be returned. It came back out with a sincere apology and was prepared correctly this time, bursting with flavor—not salt. The waitress on our first outing was dynamite and extremely attentive; but the second time the waiter, albeit friendly and knowledgeable, kept disappearing for extended periods of time. No one seemed to be around when we needed things, but when we finally got someone, they were just as nice as could be, so we were more forgiving. Try their house made pastas, especially the superb artichoke fettucini ($19), definitely enough for two. Braised short ribs ($29), were made by the horseradish creme fraiche.
Make certain to get a side of the organic creamed corn ($6), prepared in a light cream and stacked with smokey BBQ flavor.

The desserts were interesting, but not sensational. Michael enjoyed the Cheese cake which was a sort of brulee ($9), but Scott thought that since the food was so good, they ought to pay more attention to the dessert selection so that they shine with equal intensity. All in all, it’s great to have a new player in town that is stylish and novel in their cuisine choices. The Dining Duo recommends it whole "heartedly".

Did you hear the Dining Duo on KABC AM 790 Saturday night?  Thanks to Steve Valentine and Susan Irby --The Bikini Chef (who looks hot in a bikini, by the way), we had a blast on their show, and we're already looking forward to the next time we can dish the dish.

Listen to Steve every Saturday at 8 p.m.
as he co-hosts, "Bikini Lifestyles" with the hot Bikini Chef Susan Irby and the equally hot Denice Fladeboe Mock on KABC AM 790

Posted by The Dining Duo | 6:17 PM | , , ,

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