Monday, November 7, 2011

The Hungry Cat - Feeding Frenzy Worthy to Repeat Over Nine Lifetimes

The Hungry Cat had me at 'seafood' and 'Suzanne Goin'.  Already a fan of Lucques' Sunday Suppers, with its market fresh, clean but boundlessly inventive flavors, I couldn't wait to check out this seafood focused part of her franchise, helmed by her husband Chef David Lentz.  So I was excited when my friend "Teach" suggested the place for dinner a few weeks back.

As if inspired by its name, The Hungry Cat is appropriately hidden away in an alley-like part of the Sunset & Vine Building.  With no prominent signage from the street or around the entrance, those who have not already been there could easily pass by without ever getting to know the gems to be found within.  It was only with Teach's directions (look for Jersey Mike's and turn into that courtyard next to it, go to the end) that I was able to get my bearings. 

With a secluded small patio with tables on one side and rows of wooden countertops and barstools on the other (which incidentally remind me of the setup in retro arcade game 'Tapper'), then a dozen or so tables inside radiating from the corner counter - The Hungry Cat is a cozy nook of a place that serves up amazingly fresh seafood in a comfortable, casual environment.

The menu is arranged by shellfish, seafood platters simply listed by size ('trust-me' style), caviar, raw dishes, entrees and cheese.

We started with a plate of Diver scallop, sea urchin, sea beans, pickled peppers, white soy, yuzu ($14) - I loved the scallops that were thinly sliced, incredibly sweet, tender and smooth, served sashimi style.  But, for me there was a little too much texture layered on top so that the scallops got just a little lost among the sea beans, peppers and radish rounds.  Overall a great dish though with original pairing with briny sea urchin and yuzu.

Knowing we had a seafood feast ahead, to mix things up for our other starter Teach ordered a salad of Heirloom tomato, burrata, arugula, red onion, rustic croutons, red wine vinaigrette ($13) - I'm not usually into salads, but enjoyed the elements of creamy burrata and lovely heirloom tomatoes. 


Then came the piece de resistance we couldn't wait to get our paws on: Seafood Platter - Small ($45) which was actually pretty giant, occupying a good 2/3 of our table, and one of the best seafood platters I've ever had in LA, because each piece tasted so incredibly pure and fresh.  The platter featured oysters (tasting of deep, clean, cold, ocean), clams (perfect texture, not too firm/chewy), shrimp with incredibly sweet, perfectly cooked meat (and head on for those so inclined to suck its delicious brains and organs out. I loved this - the most flavorful part of the shrimp. Since Teach didn't want hers I got to hog both heads!), lobster tail as well as two giant crab legs.

Unlike so many other places that will just give you standard mignonette, horseradish and/or cocktail sauce for dipping (which I usually ignore, as I do with soy sauce at sushi restaurants - why cover the natural flavors of fresh seafood? Sort of defeating the point.) - The Hungry Cat serves up an interesting plate of five different dips.  I couldn't remember what they were (sorry, it was supposed to be a blog-free dinner, so much for that ;P) but pretty much loved them all and made the exception to actually dip some of the crab in the sauces. 
Next up were gigantic Alaskan King Crab Legs in the most incredible butter based sauce that we both wanted to pick up and lap right off the bowl. But we managed to restrain ourselves and use the bread to soak some up instead.

All in all, a great time at The Hungry Cat - the best seafood I've had in recent memory in LA, raw and cooked.  And at under $25 a person for the seafood platter, for the quality and quantity included (volume-wise there was enough for two of us to feel full) it's a pretty good deal.

Even if we had nine lifetimes to live I would definitely want to spend time in each of them here. 

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 5.5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%
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The Hungry Cat
1535 North Vine St, Hollywood, CA 90028
Ph: 323.462.2155

Parking: Sunset & Vine Parking Facility: entrance on Morningside Court off of Sunset one block west of Vine.  Or park in Trader Joe's lot on Vine - 1 hour validation with purchase.

Website: thehungrycat.com
Look for reservations: opentable.com/the-hungry-cat-hollywood

Twitter: twitter.com/thehungrycat
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Hungry Cat on Urbanspoon

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