Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rockwell, VT via Los Feliz

Rockwell, VT
1714 N. Vermont Ave
(enter off alley behind Vermont Restaurant)
Los Angeles, CA 90027

This weekend I was surprised to see how aged the sign is behind my long beloved Vermont Restaurant. Vermont has been open since I lived in Hollywood, back in 2000-2001, and we used to be regulars there, very regular. At the time there was a dearth of high/middle-end restaurants on the East Side. The Arclight hadn't opened (or was just in the process), Magnolia, Bowery, Mission Catina, Blair's, Edendale...all yet to come. Time flies. And the Vermont sign along the alley ages.

Between my last visit to Vermont and Sunday September 27th, the back end of Vermont has been taken over by Rockwell, VT.  Josh, our wonderful server Sunday, spun a long and drawn out story about how some of the people behind Mark's in West Hollywood are involved. I was unable to keep the story straight, although I am sure T did and will email me the details which I can then insert here.  Per Eater LA, Vermont chef Stephanie Beaucamp is responsible for the menu and Steve Trowbridge of Rhetroactive is responsible for the gorgeous interior/exterior.

Interior/exterior indeed, as very little of Rockwell is actually inside.  Not going to be destination spot during the rare Southern California rain, it is nevertheless beautifully suited (given strategically placed heat lamps) for all two Los Angeles seasons.

Main room downtstairs.

Small covered area in the rear downstairs.

The main covered area downstairs. Not sure how many square feet this is, but someone with the bottom line in mind was wise enough to cover the bar and have several deep comfy booths well covered, and well air conditioned despite the wide open walls.

Main bar, with a small service bar upstairs. Another bar of this proportion is currently in the works for upstairs bar-flying as well.

I became pictorally obsessed with the giant jars of dry goods in the window behind our booth.

Slight sunset light shining through the jars revealed shapes, textures and colors beautifully.

Nothing edible.

Yet the shapes called to me, reminding me of working with dried flowers and leaves for a few years at a florist in Sacramento during my early twenties.

Upstairs is even more square footage, a surprising amount actually.

A lovely loungey booth area in the front as you come up the stairs from the main room.

And if you follow the path around, you come to another slightly more private booth area. This is a perfect spot for a fire pit of some sort, but the hole in the middle of this platform seating is probably just for cocktails.

We visited during their post-soft opening period. Next week is Rockwell's official grand opening party weekend, to which we were invited but are all previously committed. I would have certainly come otherwise.

Next weekend a full Sunday brunch begins.

And I will definitely be hitting that sometime before the air chills.

The food was simple but good.

They offer some lovely cocktails, I am tempted by the Autumn with Hangar One Frasier River vodka, crushed raspberries, basil and lime. And when the weather does cool off, the Lovely Pear made from honey infused Bullett bourbon, pear liquer and chilled pear nectar.

Composed of mostly small plates, we started with rosemary creamed corn white corn, in which I tasted nary a leaf of rosemary. Still, it was pleasant enough.

A simple macaroni and cheese, baked in the oven and served in its own pan. With extremely light sauce, light in texture, I didn't find this interesting at all. It certainly tasted fine, but its not a destination mac & cheese.


Monday Meatballs.  Good. Sitting in a little puddle of tomato sauce and olive oil, sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Mmmm.  Meeeat balllls.

Brussels sprouts were outstanding.  Pan seared with pancetta and balsamic vinaigrette, these had a salty sweet slightly vinegary taste, if these crossed my path at Thanksgiving it would be all over for the turkey.


The now beyond ubiquitous sliders. Sliders are wildly and repetitively beat-me-over-the-head-with-your-A-list-rating popular for a reason. If there were tabloids for food, sliders would appear on the cover as often as Lindsay Lohan falling out of a nightclub appears on the cover of US Weekly. More delicious than Lindsay these days, sliders are big in flavor and small enough in stature for a gaggle of PYTs to share for pre-booze binge tummy coating. Rockwell's are made from Kobe beef, with a delicious shallot marmalade and bleu cheese fondue.

I thought the bun was delicious and did not get unpleasantly drenched from the juices of the beef.  Maybe this is because the patty well cooked and no longer very juicy. These would be perfection in my mouth if they were served medium-rare. Remember to ask.

We were unanimously apeshit for the flat breads. We ordered gouda, goat cheese, shredded parmigiana, mozzarella, roasted tomato sauce and wild arugula. This was no holds barred delicious. Not even a pizza fanatic, I would go back just for this.  Success. A little thicker in the crust than I normally like on a flat bread, the bread itself was light yet supportive of all the wonderful cheesey ingredients. Arugula was sharp and tasty, and the tomato flavor was nicely softened by the roastedness.

Lovely and tropical garnishes at the bar.  The now more and more common lychee nuts, star fruit, lemongrass and sugar cane. Sweet.

I started with a tall Absolute LA vodka and soda garnished with lime wedge and sugar cane...

and finished with a tall Kai lychee infused vodka and soda garnished with an orchid and lychee.  Lychee is my Achille's heel.

The boys demanded dessert and we caved on a chocolate chip cookie skillet, vanilla bean ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauce. Everyone swooned at the warm deliciousness.



To recap: we pressured the staff gently to let us in the open doors at 3:55, though truly they didn't open til 4.  Starting next Sunday, brunch from 9AM to 4PM, then hopefully they will shift to the regular menu.  Atmosphere, outstanding. Service, perfection really. I didn't wax on about service here at all, but we were really well taken care of.  Food, some hits and some misses but overall very good for what I consider to be more of a cocktail lounge/drinking hole.  It's a short bike ride away from my house, an even shorter bus trip and in some situations a brief taxi ride. I foresee myself spending time here a lot with friends in the early evenings before the younger Los Feliz/Silverlake crowd comes out to play. Cannot wait to see what's on offer for happy hour.

And the sun begins to set on the weekend.

Rockwell, VT in Los Angeles


Andrea Torng said...

Sounds like an awesome place to drink and lounge! Great review

Kristine G said...

LOLZ @ your slider/Lohan comparison. :)

Beautiful review ... love all your photos and how you're so thorough and detail-oriented.

H. C. said...

Oooh, don't know why I didn't think to add balsamic on top of some pork product to my brussel sprouts, but that sounds like a winning combo.

And I too am looking forward to eventually checking out Rockwell.

Unknown said...

Great review!

Food, she thought. said...

You hit the nail on the head. Just a great place to hang out.

Thanks KG!!! I feel some fun reviewing opportunities coming up this weekend.

HC, The sprouts were delish! And for you at home, sprout season is upon us!

B, TY!

Diana said...

Have you ever had the lychee martini at Chaya? It's probably the best martini I've ever had! (though I must qualify that by saying I haven't had many martinis - I'm more of a vino girl!)

Anonymous said...

I second you on the sprouts. The best thing we ate there.

Food, she thought. said...


I HAVE had the lychee martini at Chaya. The only place a better one is made is in my kitchen! Sometime I will make us lychee martinis and we can sit on the porch and look at downtown.


Too bad it got too busy for the event you were planning. We were there early on a Sunday and it would have been perfect for a gathering. Did you look at the spaces upstairs?

Anonymous said...

I did look at the spaces upstairs briefly (they had a private party) but it wasn't as nice, I thought. We might still end up at Rockwell anyway, busy or not.

mattatouille said...

i had a lychee gin martini once. i loved it. rockwell seems like a fun place to be, and i'm often in that part of town.

Food, she thought. said...


Go for the drinks and the atmosphere. It's not a food destination.

Unknown said...

I had my birthday there. It was a fun ambiance http://uncouthgourmands.com/2009/10/12/celebrate-good-times/