Faith & Flower is like a model without make-up–stunningly beautiful without being intimidating. Rarely does a new restaurant exude such grace on its first Saturday night with every table seated. From the minute we walked in the door we were swept up in the charm and elegance with a welcome undercurrent of relaxed casualness throughout the evening.
Our waiter, Peter, with a charmingly messy ponytail, dapper bow tie and rolled up sleeves of his denim shirt took us into his care the minute he saw us perusing the little hard-cover black book menus looking for the wine selection. He told us he would send over the sommelier with the wine list and then he let us know that the menu was meant to be enjoyed “family style.” I so much more like that term than “small plates.”
It didn’t take long for us to decide on Sautéed Monterey Calamari; Oxtail Agnolotti made with Butter, Tangerine Salsa, Beef Tendon and Chicharrones; English Peas and Gold Beets; and Glazed Tender, Boneless Short Ribs. Kudos on the creativity, presentation and deliciousness to Executive Chef Michael Hung, formerly of San Francisco’s Michelin-starred La Folie.
Fahara, the lovely and attentive sommelier, guided us through the wine options in French and California whites as well as Pinot Noirs. We settled on a bottle of Cargasacchi, a Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir –which she decanted into an antique glass vessel which helped awaken each of the four levels to the wine: earthy, silky, woody and bright. Sure, we could’ve opted for one of the great values on the wine list but who wouldn’t be seduced to indulge with this kind of ambiance and service– $84 was kind of a splurge for us, but you can also easily go larger, too.
There are a few small elements of the restaurant that are works in progress–the veranda that you cross to the front door has huge potential for sipping and nibbling on a warm summer night with the vines taking hold on the overhead trellises. Inside, there is a glassed-in marble area that’s soon to be a full raw bar with fresh oyster shucking and all varieties of shellfish–a signature feature when Faith & Flower eventually opens for brunch.
The name Faith & Flower comes from the restaurant’s location on Flower Street but also it’s an acknowledgement to the history of Los Angeles in the early 1920s when this street was allegedly named “Faith.” It embodies the old and the new elements that have come together in what must have been an expensive renovation of a previous restaurant that was in the ground floor of this building just east of Figueroa.
During our meal, management briefly stopped by and asked how our evening was going and made what was already a perfect evening even better by bringing us something else to try–the Roasted Young Carrots and Brassicas, Smoked Yogurt and Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette. I’m not a carrot fan but these tender whole baby carrots were so good they could’ve been dessert.
Tonight we passed on dessert but the menu created by Executive Pastry Chef Ben Spungin (Bernardus Lodge) is another reason to bring us back. Maybe after an event at L.A. Live–a high table in the bar with a glass of champagne and something artistically composed and decadently sweet to indulge in?
The bar space at Faith & Flower makes everyone look beautiful. It’s large but still intimate and the glowing candles, reclaimed doors that panel the walls and the black & white, Robert Vargas mural of a sultry woman’s face lure you in and could quite easily get a hold of you for a very long time. There’s a certain cocktail that we noticed people experiencing involving an empty snifter that’s “treated” with a liquor that emits invisible vapors. Your server holds the snifter with a thickly folded napkin over the top–a thin straw sticks out which one sips. In the center of the table is a stout tumbler of a caramel-colored slightly viscous pour. First a sip of the vapor, then a sip of the liquid–then a sigh… the next thing you know, that report that’s due on Monday has totally loosened its grip on you. Michael Lay (Restaurant 1833, Rose.Rabbit.Lie.), who helms the bar program as Lead Mixologist, gets all the credit.
We sat along the center banquet–it was a row of rightly-spaced two-tops that evening. We told the two gentlemen next to us not to miss the Agnolloti. They didn’t spend as much time as we did over dinner…I had the feeling they had somewhere to go. Being the chatty one that I am, when they left I asked them what their plans were for the rest of the night. They told us they are reggae musicians and they had a gig to get to. Sharing a bit of conversation with them was just another one of Faith & Flower’s pleasant surprises.