Warren’s Blackboard – soon to be The Front Yard
4222 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, CA 91602
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Here in the Santa Clarita Valley, we have a dearth of independent quality restaurants providing fine dining experiences. I’m not saying we don’t have any, as we clearly do and they deserve to be supported. But, definitely not enough choices and sadly, except for a few mainstays, they seem to come and go rapidly.
So, satisfying our culinary needs often takes us out of our little chain-restaurant oriented valley. Unfortunately, this can result in getting stuck in the never ending traffic jam of the Sepulveda Pass to get to the Westside of LA to go to favorites like Waterloo & City, dealing with the crush of getting past the Hollywood Bowl to enjoy trendy places like Ink and Xiomara, or even just facing the stop and go of Ventura Boulevard.
But, here is a great alternative for you.
In North Hollywood, at the Beverly Garland Hotel on Vineland, something very special is going on.
The hotel is undergoing a renovation, and so is its restaurant. During this period, new Executive Chef Warren Schwartz is taking the opportunity to have his restaurant be a work in process as well. With over 20 year of experience and credentials including Westside Tavern, Saddle Peak Lodge, and Patina, Warren refers to the current incarnation of the restaurant as a “food and drink workshop”, essentially a long-term pop-up restaurant a la Ludo Lefebvre, as he experiments with creating what will be the ultimate menu for the restaurant in its final form as The Front Yard in May.
According to Chef Warren: “Warren’s Blackboard is a food workshop where we get to very spontaneously create food, present to our guests and then use their feedback to rework. The thinking is that if we listen to our community, not only will we have a better finished menu when we launch The Front Yard in early summer, but there will be vested interest and a sense of ownership. I think it is a pretty cool thing when I can take all my experience and knowledge and then further refine and focus through our guests’ feedback. All this being said, I think it is a perfect place and time to be doing something like this. My background is classical and I am sustainable and market driven, but I think even more importantly, I am now mature enough that I cook honestly and more focused. In many ways now I cook at the restaurant as if I were at home. I am a native of Los Angeles and was raised in the Valley. I love all cultures and flavors the city has to offer and that influences my cooking. From taco trucks to K Town, it all makes up the culinary fabric of Los Angeles and how I see my culinary world.”
As the place truly is “Warren’s Blackboard” the menu changes daily based on what Warren feels are the best ingredients he has sourced for that day [and maybe what he feels inspired to cook]. Warren is faced with the additional challenge of catering both to tourists staying at the hotel as well as providing cuisine to hold the interest of Los Angeles area foodies who are looking for something a little more challenging. He does this admirably, and at the same time keeps his prices incredibly reasonable. Share plates are provided for those who like to do that sort of thing. On our last visit, Karen and I started with the soup with stone crab and the beef tartare, main courses of ahi and salmon, and finished with a plate of assorted cheeses. I don’t feel teasing you with a bunch of descriptors is necessarily warranted, as the menu changes often enough that these items might not be there next time, but the overriding message I got from everything I tasted was extreme freshness and clarity of flavor. As with wine, one of the most important things to me is that the flavor not only be delicious but true to the ingredients – it should taste like what it is supposed to taste like, and these dishes definitely accomplished that.
Speaking of wine, Warren’s Blackboard has a very well put together list, including a great by-the-glass selection that includes tasty ones such as Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, Qupe Syrah and Justin Sauvignon Blanc. We started our meal with glasses of Hogwash Rose to accompany our perusal of the menus before opening our bottle of Carlisle Zinfandel. [Corkage is $20].
In the interest of fair reporting, my only quibble the evening we visited was the caliber of the wine glasses. They could be categorized as “adequate”, but great food and wine of this quality kind of demand the right stemware to accompany them. I voiced this concern to Warren, and I expect there will ultimately be a change here. I am very excited to see, not only what this change will be, but how the restaurant transforms into its final version. This will of course require multiple visits on our part, but such is the “oh so difficult” job of the wine writer.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. (2013 Update: Eve and Michael announced Eve Wine 101 Consulting. Info is here: http://evewine101.com/press-releases/) Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.