Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Stella Barra Hollywood: Just Right, Mostly

Too cheesy. Too dense. Too acidic. Words that describe my usual reaction to pizza of ages past (and maybe myself, in general, but that's a whole different post...).

Pizza has come a long way, especially in LA. I fell for Chef Jeff Mahin's, with its incredible crust made with specially formulated dough allowed to rise to perfection (in individual jars!) at Stella Rossa (name now changed to Stella Barra) last year.  

So I was excited to see chef Jeff opening up a second location recently in Hollywood (on my way home!).

AND parking was easily had at the Arclight cinemas structure - the restaurant is on the corner of the complex on Sunset Blvd. I went on a Monday night to avoid the Hollywood crowd, and while the place is still new to the neighborhood, was able to slide in for a table pretty easily.
 
I started with the Fresh Local Burrata ($10.95) with roasted tomato jam, house-made bread, sea salt, arugula.

All I have to say is, if I only had a month to live and could only eat any of the three ingredients on this plate until then, I would die a happy eater. (Well, I'd have to break for foie, and uni, and truffle...and jamon iberico. But besides those...you get the point.).

Every individual component of this plate was equally perfect on its own and in balance with the others - the fresh made burrata was a perfect consistency, the top broken through to unleash  its soft creaminess enhanced by some fantastic olive oil, in perfect harmony with the amazing tomato jam below - which is also just right - not too sweet as the name seemed to suggest, but somehow exactly at the center of the intersection of savory, tart and sweet. The texture is almost like a marinara sauce but a bit chunkier.  The two could induce foodie ecstasy on their own - but there was still the housemade bread. That incredible fresh baked artisanal bread with the crisply crumbling crust and the flavor packed soft yieldy interior...finishes off the (un)holy trinity on this plate. I actually really can't stop thinking about it, and need to go back soon.


The next thing I had literally left me no choice once I spotted it on the menu: Porchetta & Fennel pizza ($15.95): caciocavallo, parmesan, Calabrian chilies, smoked paprika oil, parsley.

I had fallen in love with porchetta at first bite: Chef Evan Funke's version, put into sandwich form with ciabatta and served with fried pork skin and egg and pesto Modenese and all kinds of juicy crispy luscious deliciousness. I hadn't experienced it in any other form before then - and that became the definitive porchetta for me in my mind. I'd even developed a Pavlovian response at mere mention of the word. So I was kind of expecting something with really juicy pieces of slow cooked pork on it...

Stella Barra's version was beautiful: with their porchetta like shavings of pork baked to crisps - it was still delicious, but just different from what I had in mind (fair comparison or not). Slivers of fennel were softly crunchy, their mildness counterbalancing the bit of heat from the chiles. The mix of flavors made the pizza overall remind me of a sausage/pepperoni pizza - except with 10 times fancier ingredients. The crust still rivals some of the best in town, but I felt wasn't as mind blowing as the ones at the Santa Monica location (because of the lack of wood-fired oven?).  My absolute favorites from the SM location are the Shaved Mushroom (truffle) pizza and Bloomsdale Spinach (yes you read that right) pizza - so think I will try those next time I'm back at the Hollywood location to see how they compare.
 
For dessert: I had to have the Salted Caramel Pot de Crème - a bit more heavy handed on the salt than the one at the SM location, but every bit as richly creamy and delicious.  Everyone also raves about the cookies here, but I was too full to have more dessert, so I got the Sea Salt Chocolate Chip cookie and Bacon Chocolate Chip cookie to go.  Since I didn't eat them til the next day, I'm not going to review them here and will til my next visit so I can have them fresh...
Overall, this is a great new addition to the area and a definite must stop for people looking for good food before or after a movie at the Arclight.
 

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites  
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience -  6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100% 

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Stella Barra Hollywood
6372 West Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA  90028

Parking: $3 for first 2 hours with validation

Website: stellabarra.com

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Stella Barra on Urbanspoon

4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. How are you feelin' lady? Ready for the lil one to get here? Lemme know if you need gourmet pizza delivery! :)

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