BREADBAR is one of the trailblazers, with its focus on "artisanal bread in the classic tradition of French breadcraft...inspired by the French bakers of past centuries, and updated with a contemporary American taste." Combining "tradition and innovation with a passion for good eating", Breadbar first made headlines with Ludo Lefebvre's game-changing pop-up concept at its 3rd street location a few years ago. It's since progressed to Hatchi guest chef series at its Westfield Century City location. The latest in the series, "Hatchi Truck Stop", featuring food truck chefs the last Thursday of every month, rolled into BREADBAR this past week.
"Hatchi," which means 'eight' in Japanese, has the original idea of offering diners eight inspired small plates priced at $8 each as a one-night-only engagement, smartly driving 'urgency to try'. Guests have to order a minimum of 4 dishes each including alcoholic beverages. This needs to add up to a minimum of $32 (which is almost 'one unit of Mozza') - so I did look over the list of trucks carefully before making my reservation for opening night.
The "gastrotruck" kicking off the series is Grill 'Em All, Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race" winner. Grill 'Em All, helmed by Chef Ryan Harkins and Chef Mathew Chernus, is known for its rock 'n' roll persona backed by a menu featuring (I heard) incredible burgers and other comfort foods. I actually didn't watch the show and was drawn purely by the menu items described for BREADBAR's Hatchi Truck Stop opening night, which included such Pavlovian words as "truffle", "foie gras", and "poutine".
A big fan of food trucks as incubators for up and coming talent, who just may not be funded yet to launch their own brick and mortar venues - I see food truck chasing as sometimes involving both an element of rooting for the underdog and the thrill / vanity of discovering new talent. So I was excited about the Hatchi Truck Stop series, as it gives food truck chefs run of a full kitchen to exhibit their skills at producing higher end fare.
Tucked in the back of Century City, by escalators leading to AMC Theaters, BREADBAR has a cosmopolitan vibe that you would expect to see in a bustling neighborhood in Manhattan or San Francisco. I loved that they went with modern / sleek vs. the expected rustic, in line with the traditional bread-making techniques they are marketing.
To meet our minimum, we each ordered 3 dishes plus a cocktail. In terms of drinks, BREADBAR was featuring signature microbrews from Humboldt County's Lost Coast Brewery. Not a big beer fan, I went with the Elderflower St. Germain cocktail ($10), which unfortunately reminded me of what you would get if you hand-squeezed several moist towelettes into a glass, except the citrus is orange instead of lemon. Designer went with an interesting cocktail made of ginger beer, beer and fresh sprigs of mint ($10) - this was refreshing but not mindblowing and not something we would crave.
As for the frisee salad, much as I love bacon, this couldn't save the salad from being as washed out as an 80s' rock star. The bacon vinaigrette did not come through at all in taste, the frisee was barely dressed, and the lardon bits though tasty were also a bit on the dry side - so that the whole thing did not come together cohesively. I ended up just picking at all the bacon bits and leaving the rest.
The pulled pork was actually incredibly juicy and rich in flavor, and possibly the best dish of the night. The rest of the plate fell flat on stage - the sausage, which had so much potential with its exotic sounding meat, was not exotic at all in flavor - there just wasn't much flavor to be had, period. The mysterious sounding 'stadium mustard' was also lackluster in the flavor department.
Even if we had room for dessert after all these dishes, we were too disappointed in the quality of our savory dishes to throw any more money into the meal.
All in all, while I applaud in concept BREADBAR's support of up and coming chefs with these pop-ups, and will undoubtedly be back for others in future - this particular event with Grill 'Em All Truck was not what I had anticipated. And this out of all the food trucks listed is what I would most look forward to trying (I'm already addicted to Coolhaus and chase it down far too often). Knowing that Grill 'Em All Truck's specialty is really burgers - I would still be up to try one the next time they roll into my neighborhood, but as far as more ambitious dishes go - I would say they still have several miles to go before they get 'there', if that is even their goal.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 4.5 bites
Presentation - 4.5 bites
Originality - 4.5 bites
Ambience - 5 stars
Service - 5 stars
Overall experience - 4.5 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark)
Probability of return visit - 65%
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90067
Hatchi Truck Stop - last Thursday of the month March through December 2011
OpenTable (get points!): Look for reservations
Eligible for Westfield Century City Dining Rewards program - bring receipts within 7 days to mall concierge for registration