Fall means Oktoberfest across the beer world, and few are more prepared than The Dudes’ Brewing Co., known across Southern California for their myriads of ever-changing beers that stretch the boundaries of drinkable imagination. To bring in the season and celebrate Oktoberfest in their own right, The Dudes’ has released a seasonal fall beer selection that pays homage to German tradition.
At the helm of the release is Lead Pilot Brewer Marco Leyton, a well-built and well-bearded army veteran who began his brewing career while stationed in Germany. Leyton was quick to note that the fall beer lineup was absolutely a team effort, though it certainly couldn’t hurt to gain influence from Oktoberfest ground zero.
The beirhalle hefeweizen starts off the lineup, light in color with a mild finish but strong in depth and character. Certainly the kind of beer that lives up to its namesake, where with each sip one can visualize the endless communal tables in beer halls across Munich (or Stuttgart, which Leyton notes is as the German Oktoberfest that has far more locals and fewer tourists). Same goes with the Oktoberfest, which has a crisp, clean mouth feel primed for enjoying many times over the course of a day (or four).
The Dudes’ pumpkin ale is the newest edition to the famed juicebox fruit series, and everything that a pumpkin spice addict could ever want in a beer. It’s equally smooth as the rest of the beer lineup, so no overpowering hints of clove or nutmeg, but enough pumpkin essence to easily make the point. And to round it out, you’ve got grandma’s pecan brown, an always-loved icon at The Dudes’.
Each of these beers finds an excellent pairing with The Dudes’ expanded food menu, which is now way beyond the original pizza, salad and pretzel concept that they debuted when first deciding to add a kitchen to select taprooms. The Dudes’ takes as much care in their food as they do their beer, making virtually everything from scratch. House-made bruschetta pairs nicely with the hefeweizen while their pretzels, complemented with an addictive beer cheese sauce (made with The Dudes’ own beer, of course), are a natural fit with the Oktoberfest. The pumpkin ale goes with a house-made burrata and the pecan brown with some excellent steak chimichurri bites.
Pizza remains a staple, with specialties like the sausage mushroom white and the margherita going well with just about anything from the extensive beer lineup. And while beers and food vary by location, The Dudes’ continues to expand with huge plans for new locations. Stay tuned for new opening announcements. TheDudesBrew.com
Pikoh, pronounced in the same manner as the Pico Blvd. on which it resides, transports patrons into a whole new type of ambiance. A living divider of hanging plants separate the bar from the main dining room, with another arboretum of sorts just past the entryway. Servers and bartenders hustle frantically across the otherwise minimalist interior and cute front patio, beautifully crafted dishes and cocktails in hand.
Pikoh’s small plates are ‘inspired by the melting pot that is Los Angeles’ and absolutely embody the ‘sharing’ trend that’s ravaged the contemporary dining scene—namely in dishes offering but a few bites per person. Chef Partner Ricardo Zarate, known as a ‘godfather of Peruvian Cuisine,’ has expanded his culinary range at Pikoh to include a myriad of dishes that reflect more Italian, Asian and Mediterranean influence than anything else. This is aptly demonstrated in his vegetable risotto, a decadent, creamy indulgence covered in a snowfall of delicately shaved Parmesan.
Zarate’s salmon miso shines with a gochujang miso that gives this perfectly-cooked fish an addictive, oh-so-buttery finish, and ventures a step further into Peruvian territory with the addition of red and white quinoa alongside. But Zarate’s roots truly shine in his lomo saltado, a Peruvian staple, with tender hanger steak that soaks up a slightly sweet but boldly earthy spice profile, with rich onions, tomatoes, fries and seasoned rice.
Pikoh’s cocktail program is equally exotic and worldly, with entire sections devoted to reinventing gin and tonics, old fashioned’s, spritzers and rum punches respectively. Then there’s the core cocktails, such as the buck bunny, which combines gin, carrot juice, lemon, honey and ginger into something strangely enticing and curiously smooth.
Dessert keeps with Pikoh’s melting pot theme with specialties such as panna cotta and tres leches cake sporting equally precise execution and subtle novelty in their own right. But it’s the pavlova, a rarely attempted Russian meringue, finished in this case with stone fruit compote and avocado mousse, that takes the cake for the finish.
Pikoh is located at 11940 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064. Open 7a – 10p Mon – Fri, 10a – 10p Sat, 10a – 3p Sun. Dinner service 5 – 10p Mon – Sat. Avg. out-the-door price for 3 plates and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$95/person. For more information, visit PikohLA.com.
The chaos of clustered tables and tasteful music seamlessly comes together with the sight of servers weaving their way through the crowds, in and out of the fishbowl kitchen, where tomato cans, citrus baskets and sugar boxes decorate an even more fast-paced scene. It’s classic LA, and as always you can’t believe the place is this packed on a Tuesday night [does anyone have a family in this town?]. But it’s fun, friendly, upbeat, with everyone at the heated outdoor patio and the communal bar tables doing as the Italians do: sharing camaraderie over food.
North Italia, which is rapidly expanding with locations across the US, prides itself in cooking from scratch. Everything down to the pizza dough and pasta is done in-house, a tall order considering that the menu is substantially broader than what you’ll find in your typical trattoria. From there, North Italia brings in a touch of American influence to make things interesting, adding a few extra ingredients here and there for a progressive approach to classic Italian.
Take their garlic bread, which reinvents the timeless dish by piling two-bite bread cubes into a cast-iron, dousing it in butter, olive and truffle oil, then baking it with mozzarella and ricotta. The result is a small mountain of decadence, perfectly textured. Then there’s the roasted mushroom tortelloni, impossibly meaty in a rich cream sauce, complemented with hazelnut and caramelized sweet potato. And the diver scallops, cooked perfectly with butternut squash, luscious Parmesan risotto and a sprinkling of pancetta. Pair it with something from the Italian wine list, or a cocktail that’s crafted as creatively as it’s named.
There are some growing pains as well that North Italia will inevitably get through. Not all the inventive ingredient compilations came together, namely in a short rib radiatori with an overpowering touch of horseradish [that short rib was excellent though!], and a branzino that was cooked well but lacked a necessary touch of garlic, richness or really anything else to give it flavor. Then there’s the matter of service, where staff are incredibly friendly and well-intentioned, but may all the same make you wait for a full hour between courses.
You’ll finish on a good note though. That salted caramel budino and hazelnut torta are primed for indulgence.
North Italia’s Santa Monica location is located at 1442 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Open 11a – 9p Sun – Thu, 11a – 10p Fri/Sat. Avg. out-the-door cost for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$105/person. For more information call (310) 382 – 2460 or visit NorthItaliaRestaurant.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.