Donned in slacks and button downs, Matt and I headed over to Black Market Liquor Bar. Antonia Lofaso, a Top Chef contestant, just opened her own place that's all about sharing small plates. Our last visit to a restaurant with small plates, Pica, set the bar high, but Black Market sure stepped up.
Right on Ventura, it's a convenient spot, but you might pass it if you didn't know that it's there. It's quite dark inside; candles give off a soft glow perched on the brick ceiling... this is definitely a gastropub. We're overdressed, but who can tell? The waitress guides us through the menu with print that is much too small, especially considering the lighting situation. The menu is comprehensive and deep, consisting of dishes from different parts of the world with differing flavors.
First comes the crispy collard greens with a soft egg on top; the runny yolk and pr
osciutto combine for a salty richness. Next came the charcuterie platter, which was excellently sourced. The meats were of high quality, and the pickled in-house veggies were a well-regarded touch.
I must interject and digress about possibly the most eccentric yet pleasing aspect of the whole place: the soda. They have dozens of different types and brands. No Coke or Sprite is found here; instead, they have sodas like Mr Q.Cumber, or Blueberry. A wide variety of beer may be necessary at a pub, but who says soda can't be cool?
Alright, back on topic. One of the best dishes of the night was the softshell crab po-boy. Fried to golden perfection with a cool asian slaw, I could've ordered two more. Peel-and-eat shrimp were seasoned heavily with salt and pepper with a lemony tang to them. Crunchy and messy, always a good sign.
Better than any of the food itself was talking to Lofaso herself after the kitchen calmed down a bit later into the night. We talked of her previous work at Spago, the restaurant she gives credit to teaching her everything she knows about cooking. She seems very pleased with the praise and press she's getting. Her food was all around fantastic and she doesn't need me to tell her that, nor do you. Check it out for yourself by making an online reservation; you'll love the delicate food and classy ambiance.