Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Perch - Paris Meets Manhattan in DTLA

From the moment I heard about Perch, I had been dying to go check it out.  Something about rooftop dining, in a bloom of greenery amongst concrete/glass skyscrapers, sounded amazing to me.  It reminded me of Manhattan, or Sevva in Hong Kong, a little bit of home.  But with a French twist.  So basically perfection, towering high above Pershing Square. 

Last weekend, 'Designer' and I decided to head over on a whim after the Korean BBQ Cookoff.  We were in 'day wear' - jersey dress / shirt and shorts - and smelled like we just came from a BBQ, so drinks / dining outdoors in a chic but casual space - just minutes away from Ktown - sounded great to us. 

It was a fabulous adventure from the start - Perch is located at the top of the historic Pershing Square Building, which has an amazing vintage vibe, with a welcoming gold-gilded, glass chandeliered lobby.  We had to take two sets of elevators to get to the restaurant, both of which felt as vintage as the building itself.  The first one was marked with a gold bird silhouette plate next to the button for "13" - which launched our already overactive imaginations into overdrive - hardly any buildings have "13" anymore, thanks to longstanding superstition, and the combination of the unlucky number with the slow-moving vintage elevator triggered thoughts of Being John Malkovich.  We half expected the doors to open out to a 'half' floor, where we would have to crawl out through a low-ceilinged hallway to the second elevator bank.
But alas the 13th floor was full-sized, and we were greeted then escorted to our next ride to the 15th floor.  Perch, we learned, occupies two floors - the restaurant and bar is on the 15th, and a open-air rooftop bar with amazing 360 degree views of downtown LA was on the 16th. 

Our excitement to experience the space was deflated when our hostess let us know that the restaurant was booked full for the night, and the 16th floor reserved for a private party. 

Ever the optimists though, we decided to go for drinks at the bar, enjoy the ambiance of the space and go for a quick look around while putting our names on the waitlist in case of cancellations.

The bar/ lounge was beautiful, even tucked inside the building.  The designers definitely spared no expense with attention to even the smallest detail - everywhere you looked, there was some exquisite embossed wall panel, rustic table or chic amber chandelier that exuded Paris through and through.

We parked ourselves at the bar, where bartenders styled with a 20s/30s look greeted us warmly and asked about our drink preferences before proceeding to create delicious off-menu cocktails for us!  It was a hot day, so I wanted to start with something refreshing and light - and got a cucumber-mint gin drink - that I unfortunately can't remember the name of but that was fantastic.  Designer got an Aperol Spritz (with prosecco and aperol).
As we were finishing our drinks, the hostess came up to deliver great news - they had a table open up, but we could only have it for two hours, and did we want it?  Did we want it?  We practically leaped off our barstools.

They gave us an incredible table on the rooftop terrace that stretched along two sides of the bar/lounge area, with breathtaking views of the surrounding art deco / sleek glass structures.  We were in love with the place before the food ever arrived.

We noshed on baby baguettes, churned butter and olive tapenade while perusing the menu. 
Our eyes lit up while going down the list - though light in its first weeks, it had some unusual offerings that really fit the French theme.  I wanted to try more of the things that are hard to find elsewhere, so I went with a few small plates.  The first of these was the Shake N Bake Drumsticks ($10) which were buttermilk marinated frogs legs with lily root and garlic chips, and a Calvados honey glaze.

I was so excited to try this, as I grew up eating frogs legs cooked the Chinese way and love seeing how it's prepared in other cuisines (and of course the French are famous for theirs).  The Cantonese words for frog are 雞, which if you take the words individually, translate literally to "field chicken" - and chicken is very much what the legs usually taste like, but with much more intense flavor, juice and a lot skinnier and more veiny. 

Perch's presentation of the dish with uniquely shaped lily root chips was great, and we loved the crispness of the batter coupled with the juicy, yieldy meat underneath - though we wanted the flavor of both the batter and frogs legs to be a bit more pronounced.  I think the flavor was intended to come from the honey glaze, but the small dots of it on the plate were so thick and sticky that they weren't really conducive to dipping.

To go with our meal, we ordered a second round of cocktails - this time I went for something on the menu, a Fancy Navel ($12) with Cognac, Creme de Peche, lemon, OJ and fresh muddled peaches, jalapenos.  This was slightly too syrupy and bitter at the same time, and I definitely liked the first off-menu cocktail much better.


Next up was Roasted Bone Marrow ($16) - I had been disappointed a few times with the way bone marrow was prepared at other restaurants (way too oily), but for some reason was in the mood to give it another try.  And Perch didn't disappoint - this was probably the best dish of the night, with the bone marrow nice and fatty but not oily, with a unique consistency that was not quite creamy but almost like softened butter.  This was great spread on the slabs of melba toast that came with the dish.  For accompaniments, there were braised plums, elephant garlic, fleur de sel and wild rocket.  The plums to me were much too thick, sticky and chewy, but designer liked it and thought it went well with the marrow, adding sweetness and a slight tang.
Apres, there was the Duck Duck Goose ($9) three mini clubs layered with seared duck breast, apple wood smoked duck bacon, gooseberry jam, mustard frills, roasted tomato on pain au miel (honey bread).  This was unfortunately one of the biggest disappointments of the night - should have been named, Duck, Duck, Sucker.  I was expecting juicy fatty pieces of duck with a nice char from the seared crust, and had looked forward to the taste of the duck bacon, where fat would again be key. 

I got a plate overrun by dry toast, with pieces of duck that verged on undetectable, except for the fact that it was almost drier tasting than the toast.  The duck bacon fared no better, but was denser in consistency and reminded us of jerky.  There were perhaps two small cherry-tomato sized roasted tomatoes that didn't really taste farm fresh.  I really wanted to love this dish, but could not bring myself to.  That said, I know it'd only been a bit over a week since opening, so have hope that the kitchen will work out the kinks soon.

The entrees on the menu were pretty much all slabs of meat - which suited Designer just fine.  She was torn between the filet and the short ribs dish - and at our super friendly and fantastic server's encouragement she decided to go with the Boeuf Bourguignon Deconstruit ($29) - braised short rib, thumb nail carrots, pork belly, candied garlic, potato lace & chives.  An uber-carnivore, it says a lot that Designer enjoyed the veggies on the plate far more than the meat.  This was the other big, and much more pricey, disappointment of the night.  Braised short rib is usually soaked in flavor, and so tender the meat should fall away with a light flick of the fork.  This was more like well-done steak that looked like it was rare (in color).  At least Designer really did enjoy the vegetables.  With so many places doing great short ribs around the city, in order to compete - especially at the hefty price tag of $29, Perch will really have to up its game with this one (unless they want to just trade entirely on the views from the terrace).

We decided to skip dessert due to the disappointment with some of the other dishes, and that the descriptions of the offerings from beignets to pot de creme to apple tart did not really inspire us. Also, we thought we could come back another time for just drinks and appetizers, or dessert if they step up their game as they get into their groove. And we loved that our server took the time to get our feedback on the meal, stating that the kitchen is really looking for honest opinions so that they can adjust accordingly, since they had just opened.
As we were getting ready to leave, we got our second piece of great news - the private party that was occupying the top floor (with 360 degree views) has mysteriously been cancelled, so we were free to visit upstairs!

The rooftop bar offered fantastic views of the DTLA buildings, and seemed like a great place to hang out with a date or with friends - especially at night with a symphony of lights in the distance, and firepits and heat lamps casting warm glows over the seating areas. A petit, cozy bar with two bartenders is tucked into one corner by the stairs.

All in all, an amazing space that to me seems to marry in the best way, iconic qualities of Paris and Manhattan, vintage and sleek, old world and modern.  It's instantly become one of my favorite scenic spots in LA. 

Also loved the all round fantastic staff and service as well.  Looking forward to returning next time I want to venture downtown for drinks, appetizers and perhaps even a full meal again further down the line, when the kitchen finds its groove.

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5.5 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 5 bites
Ambience - 6.5 stars
Service - 6.5 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$$ (4 bite marks mains)
Probability of return visit - 100% (for drinks & appetizers)

[For more photos from Perch, check out the full album on my Facebook page]


448 S Hill St, 15th & 16th Floors, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Ph: 213.802.1770

Parking: In open-air lot across street for $6


Perch on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this thorough review! The bone marrow dish does look great. Beautiful thing about BM is that there's no fat in it whatsoever--it's 100% protein--however, most of the time it's prepared with added fat, so indeed it does end up being pretty fatty. Nevertheless, delicious.



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