A few days ago I received a generous invitation to join fellow food blogger Kevin, of KevinEats.com, and review The Six, a new Gastrobistro located just east of West L.A.'s Overland and Pico Boulevard intersection. Joining us would be four other L.A.-based food bloggers: Ryan of Epicuryan, Tsz of Gastrophoria, Helen of NelehLovesFood and Amy of PandaliciousForMe. I happily obliged, as I'm always on the lookout for great new restaurants in our neighborhood.
The Six, co-owned by Jake King (Rix Cafe) and Will Karges (Johnnie's Pizza & Jones Hollywood), took over the 10668 Pico space previously occupied by Jack Sprat's Grill, a popular neighborhood eatery capitalizing on L.A.'s low-carb craze. As culinary trends fade in and out, so did Jack's, providing a prime opportunity for King and Karges to finally make their market-driven, "The Six" restaurant concept a reality.
Inspired by The Society of Six, a notorious group of six Northern Californian artists who revolutionized the Modernist development in the 1920's, The Six aspires to follow suit, succeeding through a similarly unified sense of visual purpose and independence. With a market-driven menu focused on locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients – the mushrooms are "hunted" for in Topanga Canyon, for example – Executive Chef David Gussin, supported by Sous Chef Daniel Somoza,
Menu aside, one look at the restaurant's interior – crafted from almost all recycled materials – makes it clear that The Six intends to compete with other popular L.A. gastropubs, e.g. Westwide Tavern, 8oz. Burger Bar, 3rd Stop and Ford's Filling Station. A rustic tin material, originating from a disassembled Paramount movie set, constructs the restaurant's ceiling and frames abundant mirrors. Impressive light fixtures made from hanging pot racks adorned with Edison bulbs give the space a warm glow. A stand-alone bar is tiled with wine crates, while the walls are lined with photos and collages of the owners' favorite six people (see if you can guess them from the photo below). Overall, the vibe is lively, welcoming and just dark enough to enjoy a microbrew at the bar with friends or unwind anonymously at a corner table.
King and Gussin welcomed our table and presented us with a custom-tasting menu. And what a tasting menu it was. Comprised of 15 courses – an amuse bouche, twelve savory and three sweet – it represented an excellent range of what Gussin's kitchen is capable of. While we were there for just over four hours, leaving long after the last patron had cleared out, The Six's staff was wonderful. Were they tired? Sure. But they were full of heart. Between King's initial warm welcome, Gussin's humility and passion for his cuisine and each wonderfully friendly server, everyone at The Six is working hard to make sure this local establishment doesn't just succeed, but thrives. Sure, there are kinks to work out – some dishes are stand-out hits while others are clear misses – but for a 2-month old gastropub competing with some of L.A.'s best, The Six will be standing on its own in no time.
Soon after being seated we were offered a complimentary glass of Mumm Napa Brut Rose, a blushing sparkling wine beauty. While I personally prefer dry sparkling wines with more complexity, this fruit-forward bubbly was a lovely start to the evening. After a cheers', the official tasting began.
1. Amuse Bouche: Hamachi Ceviche | Pancetta, tangerine 3-ways, pickled jalapeno, crispy red onion.
Executive Chef Gussin trained under Douglas Rodriguez, adopting the Top Chef Masters alum's penchant for short marinating times. Unable to find amberjack, Gussin substituted supple hamachi, aka young yellowtail. The fresh hamachi had wonderfully bright citrus flavors from the 3-way use of the tangerine – juice, zest and candied zest – and was cut nicely by the smokiness of the pancetta. However, I'm on the fence about the shortened marination time; the fish wasn't as melt-in-your-mouth as I've experienced from other ceviches. Perhaps a single bite of fish (making it a true amuse bouche) or a longer marination period would have helped.
2. Wild Mushrooms | Chantrelles, black trumpet, hedgehog, maitake, shitake, oyster, poached egg.
This dish was an absolute winner. The earthiness of the wild mushrooms paired perfectly with the rich, oozing egg yolk. The bread was perfectly grilled, with each bite offering a taste of a delicious, almost-grassy olive oil. My only suggestion would be to cut the bread a bit thicker, allowing the toast's crisp exterior to contrast against the soft, spongy center. That would be especially good for mopping up the extra egg yolk.
The wild mushrooms were served with Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, whose initial hit of coffee was followed by a sharp soy sauce-like tang. A good pairing.
3. Beet Panzanilla | Mission figs, ricotta superfina, bacon, wild rocket, sherry almond vinaigrette.
This dish was Gussin's "Winter spin" on a classic Italian Panzanella, traditionally served with tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. Another hit with our table, if not controversial. Beet lovers felt that the sweetness of the figs was overpowering, while the beet-averse felt the figs helped to temper the "beetiness." However, you just can't go wrong by topping a crisp chunk of grilled bread with sweet beets and figs, peppery rocket, creamy ricotta, crunchy Marcona almonds and smoked bacon. I was in heaven.
Draught Stone India Pale Ale was offered as a compliment to the beet panzanilla. The ale's hoppiness gave the dish more depth and was a refreshing palate cleanser after each flavorful bite.
4. Crispy Jidori Chicken Thigh | Butternut squash apple hash, sage, pomegranate gastrique.
The chicken thigh is hugely under-used and under-rated, especially in Los Angeles. But when properly prepared - as it was at The Six – the dish takes on an incredible textural contrast between the crisp skin and wonderfully moist dark meat. The flesh itself was the winner, but when paired with the fried sage, slight sweetness of the squash/apple hash and syrupy-pomegranate reduction, the dish was elevated to an entirely new level. We all got our own portions of this dish; a good thing as there wasn't one bit left.
5. Prince Edward Island Mussels | Spanish chorizo fumet, confit garlic, grilled ciabatta.
These mussels were so sweet and succulent, they practically melted in my mouth. Most importantly, they were 100% grit-free. The rich fumet, with hints of spiced Spanish chorizo, was made from the bones of Santa Barbara-caught halibut. Paired with the buttery garlic confit, which Gussin blanched in milk to bring out the garlic's natural sweetness, it was one of my favorites. When the mussels were gone, we were left with skimpy, hard pieces of toast. These did the sauce an injustice, as the dish would have benefitted from a more liberal cut of grilled bread.
6. BBT Pizza | Louisiana applewood bacon, basil, oven-roasted tomato.
The bonus round: a great pizza. The crust was thin but perfectly crisp, neither too doughy nor dry. The oven-roasted tomatoes were both earthy and sweet, complemented by the fresh, pungent basil. The show-stopper was the bacon. Gussin gets his applewood-smoked bacon from a small Louisiana farm, and the passion comes through in every flavorful bite. It's easily the best bacon I've ever had, and Gussin is proud to say the bacon beat Thomas Kellers-preferred Hobbs Applewood Smoked in a taste test. It was his team's taste test, but still...
The pizza was served with New Belgium's Ranger India Pale Ale. Medium-bodied with light citrus notes, this was a great match. But really, you can't go wrong with a great pizza and frosty beer.
7. Six Burger | Red onion rings, Maytag blue, thousand island, butter lettuce, tomato.
Since our tasting menu involved so many courses, Gussin prepared slider-sized versions of his house-named Six Burger and Vietnamese Banh Mi. I was really, really wanting to love this burger, but as Gussin himself admitted, "Eh, it's just a burger." Gussin could really have a knock-out here, as the beef is wonderful. Juicy, tender and flavorful. But honestly, the rest just falls flat. Not particular flavor stands out. I'm a huge fan of great burgers – Father's Office, 25 Degrees, etc. – so I really hope that Gussin applies the fantastic flavors and creativity of his other dishes to this burger.
8. Banh Mi Slider | Roasted pork belly, jalapeno ham, cilantro aioli, sweet pickled carrots, cucumber.
Another disappointment was the Banh Mi burger. A traditional banh mi is made with pork and packed with basil, garlic and spicy, Srirachi-esque flavors. Paper-thin slices of carrot and daikon radish, marinated in sesame oil, sugar and rice-wine vinegar give a great crunch and refreshing contrast to the heat. I make this at home and it's one of my favorites, so I had high expectations and was really looking forward to this course. Sadly, this dish was practically flavorless, even with the pork belly. Gussin has huge room for improvement here.
9. Scallop | "Scalloped" kennebec potato, chive jus.
Now we get back on track. This dish, a creative "scalloped" spin on both the crustacean and starchy varieties, was wonderful. While my scallop was a bit overcooked, the potato "scallop" was hot, creamy and topped with a gorgeous Mornay sauce. Taking a bite was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. The garlic and chive puree added a pungent bite, giving the dish extra depth. Overall, a winner.
New Zealand's intensely fruity 2009 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc – think unabashed notes of melon and pear – worked well with the lightness of the scallop and successfully cut through the rich potato.
10. Local Halibut | Truffled artichoke puree, Topanga mountain chantrelles in natural jus.
Prior to presenting this dish, Gussin arrived at our table with another specialty of the house: Topanga Mountain-farmed chantrelle mushrooms. As an L.A. native, I was excited to see that these fungal gems were practically growing in my backyard. The particular specimen we saw was huge, although Gussin shared it was on the "smaller side of the bunch." Amazing. The chantrelles were cooked down and, along with a truffled artichoke puree, served as a bed for the halibut. The halibut was gorgeous, if not slightly overcooked (a recurring theme at The Six) with a crispy, pan-seared exterior. Sadly, I had two bones in my halibut, so there needs to be increased attention to detail in the deboning process. But the rest of the dish was superb; the truffled artichoke flavor was wonderfully tangy, cut by a hint of citrus. I'd personally prefer less rocket, as it physically got in the way and made eating the dish somewhat messy. All in all, a wonderful seafood menu option.
Topanga Mountain chantrelles
11. Broccoli Rabe Bisque | Cheddar tuile, Framboise head.
This soup was our table's least favorite dish. Overwhelmingly bitter, the broccoli rabe was almost offensive to the palate. Gussin did not have the quality of cheddar he preferred for the tuile, thus substituting it with parmesan. Oddly enough, the women found that the parmesan tuile enhanced the soup's bitterness, while the men found it acted as a temper. The Framboise, while a lovely, bubbly raspberry cocktail on its own, didn't work with the soup. I was eager to move on after this dish.
Broccoli rabe photo courtesy of KevinEats
12. Grant Achatz Hot Potato | Cold potato, truffle, butter.
Definitely the winner of the soup courses. This soup's consistency reminded me of a creamy, cold potato milkshake. The hot potato skewer was a great contrast to the chilled potato puree. If there was truffle in the soup, I wasn't able to taste it. As a truffle lover, this would have resonated with me if the taste was more prevalent. Side note: We actually combined spoonfuls of the broccoli rabe and potato soups and found that the broccoli rabe soup was much improved by the starch and creaminess of the potato.
13. Pastrami Spiced Prime NY | Caraway spaetzle, "fresh" sauerkraut, roasted veal jus.
At this point in the tasting we were all experiencing some palate fatigue, but I powered through because this dish was fantastic. Essentially a deconstructed pastrami "sandwich," Gussin has a huge hit on his hands. I dare you to close your eyes, take a bite and tell me that this is not a hot, juicy pastrami sandwich. The caraway spaetzle is a dead ringer for fresh, warm rye bread, while the juniper-sauteed sauerkraut, smoked salt and pepper-rubbed Prime NY and roasted veal jus seal the deal.
Strong notes of raspberry and currant from California XYZin's "10 Year Old Vines" red paired perfectly with the "pastrami." At $16/bottle, it's a great bargain for those looking for a medium-bodied, fruit forward red.
And finally, the dessert trifecta...
14. Peanut Butter Cookie | Bananas foster ice cream, candied pecans
15. Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich | Strawberry-smoked pepper ice cream
16. Beignets | Powdered sugar, fig jam
Gussin's desserts are entirely house-made. In fact, the only menu items not made in-house are the burger buns and baguettes. The ice creams were fantastic; rich and teeming with creative flavors. I'm not sure if the execution mimicked the menu, as the strawberry-smoked pepper ice cream seemed to be paired with peanut butter cookies. A great mistake (if indeed it was one), as it reminded me of a giant PB&J sandwich.
The Bananas Foster ice cream was excellent, but the cookie "sandwich" was hard as a rock. We had an incredibly difficult time breaking the cookie, eventually attacking it with forks and knives. The cookie's flavors are apparent; Gussin just needs to find a way to make his cookies soft and chewy.
The beignets were piping hot from the fryer, dusted with confectioner's sugar and accompanied by fig jam. Just wonderful and everything you'd expect from fresh fried dough.
10668 Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064