Yes, the Valley does have good places to eat. Maybe not as many as West Hollywood, Santa Monica and, more recently, the Arts District, but the restaurant scene here is growing quickly. Case in point – The Bellwether in Sherman Oaks.
Recently Eater added The Bellwether to it’s list of 38 Essential Los Angeles Restaurants; the L.A. Times’ Jonathan Gold said, “You can laugh at the Bellwether's on-trend menu, but Ted Hopson's cooking is no joke;” and even Gordon Ramsey instagrammed his dinner there last week. But before all this, we got wind of this neighborhood gem and decided to check it out.
Dinner began with a dish of roasted Beets, soubise, charred leek pistou, candied pistachio, and red sorrel. We toasted with a “Ventura Boulevardier” – roasted apple and cinnamon infused bourbon, Luxardo Bitter, and Punt e Mes – before diving into a steak with chimichurri and a side of French fries.
When a menu says “French fries,” you don’t always know what you’ll get. They could be skinny, steak, curly, seasoned, or any variation thereof. What arrived at The Bellwether were somewhere between skinny and steak fries, crispy on the outside and flaky inside with a hint of seasoning. Joe Bob declared them “the best French fry ever!” Typically, we prefer skinny fries, but are open to all types. The best to date were more of a wedge than a fry at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Kauai Grill. Likely baked and then fried, they achieved that almost impossible crunchy, flaky texture…until now.
Jonathan Gold described the process at The Bellwether, “Even the steak fries turn out to be a project — soaked overnight in acidulated water, blanched, frozen, tossed with a bit of their own starch, fried, and tossed with spicy salt — but they are perfectly crisp on the outside and almost liquid within. And when a customer complained that they weren't close enough to the ones at In-N-Out Burger, a waiter confided, he just smiled and comped the fries. He knew.” And Chef David LeFevre of M.B. Post recently told Los Angeles Magazine that these fries were one of his top five dishes to eat in Los Angeles.
It didn’t take much encouragement from the server for us to return and try The Bellwether brunch. The main draw for us was the Nashville Hot Chicken Sando, a fried chicken sandwich with pimento cheese and green tomato chow chow. The salty fried chicken with the creamy cheese and spicy chow chow created a perfect bit. We shared Mama Betty’s Bloody Mary which was almost brunch in itself complete with bacon salt and even a mini BLT on top. That turns heads! Of course, we had to try the “best French fries ever” again. They were still delicious, but slightly overcooked this time unfortunately.
Chef/Owner Ted Hopson and Beverage Director/Owner Ann-Marie Verdi come to The Bellwether via Sang Yoon’s Father’s Office, home of our favorite burger in L.A. What they’ve created in Studio City is an elegantly casual restaurant that elevates some very easy-to-eat cuisine. Sipping a well-crafted cocktail from a seat at the expansive bar gives a prime view into Hopson’s open kitchen where the kitchen staff makes it look so easy to cook food so good. A great Los Angeles dining experience…in the Valley!