Flocking to Redbird…

Redbird Restaurant  photo:gfumdesign.com
Redbird Restaurant photo:gfumdesign.com

People are flocking to Redbird, the new downtown Los Angeles restaurant from Chef Neal Fraser.

Redbird is a tongue-in-cheek name referring to papal cardinals which relates to Redbird’s location, situated within the rectory of the grand Vibiana Cathedral.

Thank the lord, the food is very good.

Redbird Dining Room
Redbird Dining Room photo:zagat.com

The building’s bones are fabulous, but the team of chef Neal Fraser, his wife, Amy Knoll Fraser and restauranteur Bill Chiat have raised the roof and created an impressive space .

There are two rooms, a lounge area for cocktails conceived by cocktail maven, Julian Cox. Decorated by Robert Weimer, Redbird is filled with vintage and repurposed furniture. Some pieces are from Grace, Neal Fraser’s former restaurant.

The main dining room with retractable roof is highlighted by a bar, wood burning oven and lovely seating arrangements.

We were seated promptly and I knew from hello that our server was not going to set our dining experience on fire.

Fedora and Georgian Wine
Fedora and Georgian Wine

We perused the cocktail and wine list and found a very interesting wine from Georgia…not the peach state, but from one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world, Georgia as in Russia.

The wine turned out to be amazing. My husband started with a Fedora, a cocktail consisting of cognac, bourbon, jamaican rum, orange curaçao and gimme syrup ($12).

I proposed a new moniker…rock ‘n roll. I took one taste and vivid recollections flooded in reminding me of all those years on the road with a multitude of rock bands. I drank in some darn good memories.

Tempura Smelts
Tempura Smelts

Redbird’s modern American menu serves market-driven, seasonal dishes. We kicked off the meal with a favorite of Mr. Devil…tempura-crusted smelts with grilled lemon and spiced aioli ($12). They were crispy and tangy. I sampled one and then let David consume.

My grandmother used to whip up smelts with eggs for my grandfather at Sunday brunch. I never indulged, but I was enlisted as a server with apron and ordering pad. The Duchess set the menu prices and I made a fortune off of these delicacies. In the 60’s smelts went for $20 a dish in her private establishment.

Delicata Squash Salad
Delicata Squash Salad

Our next course was a delectable Delicata squash salad with hazelnuts and goat’s milk feta and sherry vinaigrette ($15).

Lobster Gnocchi
Lobster Gnocchi

The Gnocchi Sardi with maine lobster, nettles, and black trumpets ($22) followed and it registered high on the fabulosity scale…a must. We savored the dish because it took 45 minutes before the main course arrived and I had to hunt down the assistant manager to ascertain its’ whereabouts.

The best part of the long delay was chatting with our charming dining neighbors as well as meeting up with Jason Cervantes, Redbird’s assistant general manager. He insisted on another pour of the lovely Georgian wine, engaged in conversation, thus rectifying an annoying situation.

Salmon
Salmon

The main finally arrived. The Norwegian salmon with roasted beets and pomegranate was prepared to perfection ($28) and accompanied by a tantalizing side of Pomme Aligot ($9).

Pomme Aligot
Pomme Aligot

My husband went to the savory side for dessert and ordered black walnut cake with Humbolt Fog ice cream which was surprisingly delicious.

Walnut  Cake Dessert
Walnut Cake Dessert

Other menu highlights include Chicken Pot Pie with thigh, heart and thyme ($14), Thai-style Dungeness crab soup with cauliflower flan ($16), Santa Barbara ridgeback prawns with uni, nori and a wasabi snow made with liquid nitrogen, Rabbichetta, purportedly similar to the rabbit dish Fraser served at Grace ($28) and a rack of Red Wattle pork with roasted apples and turnips ($39).

Redbird Dining Room
Redbird Dining Room

Along with Chait, the Fraser’s teamed up with Julian Cox for the bar program and Diane Pandolfini for the wine. Inside, the space seamlessly transitions from 66 courtyard seats complete with retractable roof, lounge seating for 25 and 24 seats at the bar.

Redbird needs to be seen. At the very least, drink in the impressive surroundings and then settle and in for a sumptuous cocktail and sample the lounge friendly kickshaws.

Redbird Restaurant 114 East 2nd Street. Reservations on OpenTable. Open Tuesday-Sunday 5-10:45pm. Metered street parking as well as valet parking ($8.50).

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