Ted Hopson’s tuna crudo is fanned out above a node of flavor-sharpening Calabrian chiles. His skin-on fries? They are the culmination of a three-day process that leaves them stupendously crisp and moist. That taste you can’t put your finger on in the roasted vegetables is the schmaltz the chef lifts off his chicken stock. Hopson and sister-in-law Ann-Marie Verdi have partnered in a restaurant that represents the growing maturity of the Valley’s dining scene. There’s not a whit of pretension in the sleek interior, where you can sit at the counter and watch chef de cuisine John Cho shave fresh horseradish over a seared flatiron steak while football plays on the TV. You can come on a Tuesday with the kids and return Friday for a romantic night of clinking glasses on the Ventura Boulevard terrace. A broad choice in $40 wine bottles and the Negronis on tap smooth the transition from traffic.
The Vibe: Sharp and neighborhoody. (Aka, bring the kids early, bring your date late.)
The Crowd: Thrilled and eternally grateful Valley dwellers of all ages.
The Must-Have Dishes: The menu changes nightly, but the dishes on the R&D “works in progress” section can include some unexpected gems. If you want to play it safer, the carrots, chickepas, and french fries are broad palate pleasers.
The Drinks: Co-owner Ann-Marie Verdi helped run the bar program at Father’s Office, and leads the shaking and stirring operation here. You can score a great local craft beer, cocktail, and even wine on tap.
Getting a Table: It’s the best new place in the area, and locals are showing their support, but not so much that you can’t score a good table on a Friday night with short notice. It’s usually possible to walk in or make same-day reservations.
Insider Tip: The open kitchen is the restaurant’s centerpiece. Sit at the counter for dinner and a show. – LBS
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