Let’s get one thing out of the way: Bar Restaurant, the mostly-French spot on Sunset in Silver Lake, is pretty weird. We love it, but if you told us you didn’t, we’d sort of get it - the name is silly, the interior looks like an art co-op on acid, and the menu reads like it was made by Mad Libs. But we’re going to try and change your mind, because those (admittedly) bizarre aspects are what make this one of the most interesting restaurants to open in LA in recent memory - and one of the best.
For starters, there are some surprising combinations on the menu. But the most inventive dishes here are also, generally, the best. Take the chicken liver mousse, for example. It’s a fairly traditional mix of gamey whipped liver and tart cranberry, only with sweet white chocolate and shaved peanuts added. Their version of moules frites comes with curly fries - just, like, grocery store curly fries. But that’s not a knock: The high/low combination of seasoned lunchroom fries, sweet mussels, and bright Dijon cream sauce is near-perfect. The same goes for the frisée salad appetizer, served over what’s essentially a homemade tater tot - it’s great, especially if you add the shaved truffles for $10. (At that price, Bar Restaurant is also the kind of place that basically encourages you to add truffles to everything.)
Even when the dishes aren’t entirely perfect, they’re still pretty great. The pork tonkatsu - a deep-fried pork cutlet doused in a seaweed Béarnaise sauce - lacks balance, but you don’t care while you’re eating it. The pork is pounded thin, crispy, and tender, and that nori Béarnaise, while heavy, is also unlike anything we’ve tasted. The same goes for the NY strip. There’s probably too much going on (we don’t really need the acidic tomato Bordelaise sauce), but we’re not going to complain, because this is an absolutely massive, well-cooked 16 oz. loin for $59 - a steal compared to all the overpriced steakhouses in town.
We’re also not going to complain about the space just because it seems permanently unfinished. Stepping through the front door feels like entering an art exhibit that’s six weeks from opening, with largely empty walls broken up by the occasional human-sized sculpture of a woman’s head smoking a cigarette (from California artist Ruby Neri). Yet Bar Restaurant also has a huge, plant-covered patio (with its very own wine cart), a fun bar filled with people you want to be friends with, and a lively dining room that also offers a bit of privacy, thanks to small walls that separate the tables. You could bring your parents here to confront them with your 23andMe results without worrying about ruining the date at the table next to you.
In fact, Bar Restaurant is great for a lot of different situations, from a first date to a big group dinner. The wine list is long, the cocktails are impeccable, and there’s even an affordable prix-fixe - $47 for the vegetarian option, $61 for a meal that includes an impeccable duck confit we wish was available a la carte - which is ideal if you’re dining solo. When it comes down to it, any reasons you might not like this place are purely superficial: Maybe you hate the name, or the weird smoking head, or the fact that they serve mussels with curly fries. Forget about all that, and just focus on the fantastic and creative food being served here. Everyone deserves to get a little weird sometimes.
Maybe you’re still staring at that smoking head, but make sure you don’t miss the top left corner of the menu, which contains a tiny list of shareable plates like raw cheeses, boquerones (white anchovies), and a few different kinds of jamón Ibérico. We wouldn’t blame you for ordering any one of these dishes, but the best is the cinco jotas - which is oily, sweet, nutty, and perfect.
This huge tentacle is crunchy but tender, and comes with a yam-and-pumpkin-seed mojo - which is not your uncle’s gourd-themed folk band, but a heavily spiced garlic and yam sauce. The two go together perfectly.
The Mad Libs-iest of all the dishes here, and an essential starter. You spread the chocolate, peanut, liver, and cranberry on bread, and finish it before your date gets back from the bathroom. We do wish the bread was slightly better than grocery store-quality, though.
On the other hand, we appreciate how much the fries in this moules frites resemble frozen curly fries, an art form Ore-Ida perfected long ago. The creamy Dijon sauce, the sweet brine of the mussels, and the paprika-heavy fries all work together to complete this ideal dish.
It comes out looking like a beautiful little wreath of Brussels sprouts with orange pumpkin goop in the middle. Mix it up, and, voila!, like a reverse Ugly Duckling, it turns into an incredible, citrus-y take on a Caesar salad.
This dry-aged 16 oz. steak is always cooked just-right, and is absolutely big enough for you and your date to split. In a town where steaks this big can cost more than your kitchen table, this $61 one is (relatively) affordable.
While this dish isn’t perfect (it’s a little too saucy), we do love the combination of crispy fried pork, wakami Bearnaise, and smoked apple enough that we’ll happily order it anytime.
This custardy brie Anglaise is served with what’s basically apple French toast. They go so well together, they belong in a French novel alongside Jean Valjean and Cosette.