Eating in Los Angeles is having something of a maximalist moment. Two of last year’s best new restaurants offer over-the-top (and out of most people’s budgets) caviar services. Multiple city chefs are employing turn-of-the-century duck presses to crush fowl bones or lobster shells to make showy, complex sauces in front of your eyes. Dining rooms themselves are often huge, and menus go on for pages.
It’s all fun and often quite tasty, but there’s something quietly thrilling about a new place that goes in the opposite direction.
Opened on a relatively quiet stretch of Fountain Avenue in November, Found Oyster has just 22 seats, roughly half of them at a handsome bar. The concise menu is limited to a few raw-bar items, a dozen midsize “plates,” and a single dessert. You could easily try everything on a few visits with a few hungry friends.
It’s bar food, as prepared by chef and co-owner Ari Kolender—a Providence alum—in a carefully designed setting conceived by hospitality consultants who’ve worked with Bestia and Bavel: Found Oyster co-owners Adam Weisblatt and Holly Fox.
A lobster roll avoids the perennial question—Maine or Connecticut style?—in favor of a superior creation in which the lobster is tossed in a rich, tomatoey bisque. The cheesy artichoke brandade marries that artichoke dip you indulged in on Super Bowl Sunday with the Portuguese emulsion of salt cod and potato to create a surprisingly perfect union. A tostada topped with thinly sliced, perfectly fresh scallops, apples, and basil leaves and dotted with citrusy, peppery yuzu kosho is a five-ingredient wonder that’s an early contender for one of 2020’s best dishes.
Kolender works his magic behind the bar, often serving patrons himself. General manager Joe Laraja shucks great oysters, some of them direct from his parents’ Cape Cod farm.
It’s all delightfully convivial and delicious and, if you can get a seat, wonderfully easy. There are no long menus to navigate, no big decisions to be made, no pomp and pretension, just small pleasures. 4880 Fountain Ave., East Hollywood.
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