Tuck Room Tavern is the exact kind of posh hot spot that foodie cities need. No, not just another pretty face, with elegant chandeliers hanging over a chic lounge, hot bartenders making a show out of liquid nitrogen cocktails nearby. Sure, at Tuck Room Tavern you’ll be surrounded by hot servers, a vivacious crowd and an insane attention to luxurious detail. But for the food to match—or dare I say, exceed—the mood, from a James Beard Award-winning chef no less? Now that is a truly special foodie experience.
Chef Sherry Yard has mastered the ability to transform backyard barbecue classics into globally elevated masterpieces. Mentored by Wolfgang Puck and taking home two—count ‘em, two—James Beard Awards before taking the helm as parent company’s iPic Entertainment’s Restaurant COO, Yard runs her kitchen with the same seasoned expertise with which she works the crowd. You may recognize the 5’ – 2” Yard from shows like Top Chef, Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen, and you’ll quickly get a sense of her approach to flavor, because she knocks it out of the park.
The enlightenment commences with your first bite of some of the best calamari you’ve ever tasted, made heavenly with a Korean gochujang glaze for just the right spiciness and a blow-your-mind bold kick. It would be nearly impossible to shift your focus before finishing off the plate, if not for the crab cakes, cleverly sandwiched between two of the thinnest slices of crispy brioche for astounding texture and rich seafood flavor. Hard to put to fork down before both plates are gone, if not for that Tuck Moscow mule, with house-made berry-infused vodka and ginger beer.
Keep going with a crisp and colorful gulf shrimp and beet salad, completed with goat cheese and hazelnuts, before settling in on a round of mains that transports you to the countryside. Southern shrimp and [imported from North Carolina] grits and mango habanero baby back ribs make you feel like you’re rocking on a porch swing during a warm summer night, and then that rich cornbread with whipped goat cheese, plus a farmer’s market sangria, takes you right back into Tuck Room Tavern’s new age ambiance.
The haute crowd is often inclined to skip dessert, but you shouldn’t. Not with a red velvet pavlova—a small mountain of earl grey meringue, vanilla gelato and raspberry red velvet cake crumbles all over—staring you in the face. Or the chocolate hot and cold, with gelato, fresh-baked brownie and a pool of chocolate dipping sauce. Did I mention Chef Yard was one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America?
And at Tuck Room Tavern, you’re always dining with extra company, whether that comes in the form of an exceptionally entertaining crowd nearby or the tuxedo-clad elephant [his name is Percy], painted on a wall made entirely of books.
To think that this is just one part of the experience. As noted above, Tuck Room Tavern is part of iPic Entertainment, known for upscale movie theaters with in-cinema dining. While the main dining room and bar attract its own crowd, the movie theater is a whole different entity just a few steps away. Chef Yard has a completely separate menu for the movie-going experience, clearly in need of further exploration.
Tuck Room Tavern has locations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Houston. Westwood location is 10850 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024, open 4 – 11 pm. Mon – Thu, 4 – midnight Fri, 11 a.m. – midnight Sat, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sun. Average out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$81/person. For more information, visit TheTuckRoom.com
Napa Valley Grille, located at the border separating Westwood’s hustle-and-bustle with one of the last quiet and homey neighborhoods in LA, is both a step back in time and a modernistic showcase. This interesting feat is embodied by classic flavors with just enough of a twist to appear all-new, as well as a beautiful layout that still reminds you of home. Even the crowd mixes past, present and future, with energetic couples, business groups and locals who have lived in the neighborhood for decades all dining side by side.
The menu reflects Napa Valley Grill’s appeal to ‘palates distinctive of West Coast wine country’ which also encompasses local, sustainable ingredients. This means that the menu also changes seasonally, with new additions coming in pleasant batches.
Among the seasonal delights is the Kansas City strip, a 14-oz steak with charred onion-thyme jam and green peppercorn-cognac ju, adding a distinct sweetness that melds beautifully. The Ancho-crusted albacore tuna is just in as well, with a sear that releases spectacular flavor. Pair these with some baked cavatelli gratin—think of it as spruced up mac ‘n’ cheese—and you’ve got a heck of a palate-pleaser. All sides, by the way, come out in great portions fit for sharing.
Additional highlights include the crescenza cheese and serrano ham tartine and the charcuterie, led by a house-made chicken liver pate. Sadly, though, these appetizers don’t come out in portion sizes that can justify their price, and the charcuterie could really use some cheese to round it out.
Save room for dessert, because the butterscotch bread pudding and sticky toffee date cake are as decadent as they sound. When it comes to drinks, the wine list is quite extensive but cocktails don’t come together that well; it should be noted, though, that their drinks are strong and do come out in real sizes [as opposed to some menial 4 – 5 oz drinks you’ll get elsewhere].
Service is as pristine as the atmosphere. Thankfully so, because with this kind of experience in this location, that bill will set you back. Good thing there’s an excellent happy hour [and reverse happy hour] menu.
Napa Valley Grille is located at 1100 Glendon Avenue, #100, Los Angeles, CA 90024. Average out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, side, dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$125/person. For more information or reservations call (310) 824-3322 or visit Napa valley Grille online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.