March 15, 2012
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
[NOTE: THE RESTAURANT REVIEWED BELOW IS NOT KOSHER. If this offends you, please don’t keep reading. However, two points: The vast majority of Jews don’t eat at exclusively kosher restaurants, even if they follow some kosher precepts. Second, if you are strictly kosher, reading about how non-kosher restaurants prepare and serve food may inspire you, and lead to better food and service in kosher restaurants. Which couldn’t hurt…. ]
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is a pop up restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Capri.
After you read this review, just get in the car and go eat there. If you wait much longer, you’ll likely wait forever.
For as long as we’ve lived near Abbot Kinney Blvd.—15 years—Capri was the place we went when no place else would have us. It was dependably empty. Valentines Day, Mothers Day—it was our oops-we-forgot-to-plan-ahead restaurant.
Aside from the fact that the food wasn’t that good, or original, or fussed-over, it was always good enough. They made a decent pumpkin ravioli with sage butter. They could grill a piece of fish and toss some lemon and capers on it. It was walking distance from our house. They had wine. And best of all, it was quiet.
As Abbot Kinney filled up with the city’s hippest new restaurants, where you had to hack into Open Table just to get a 10 pm reservation in three months (Gjelina), and then, once seated, you had to scream over the sound of 4000 people all gushing at once over their hand-squeezed cocktail (Tasting Kitchen), at Capri what you gave up in terms of food, you gained in solitude. The place was never exactly packed. We’ve eaten there practically alone some nights.
Even so, it never had that happy-to-see-you atmosphere. And for me, a restaurant has to feel welcoming. Fancy or fast food, it has to feel at least a bit like home. Capri, with its stark white walls and stiff mesh metal chairs, was tantalizing close to home, but nothing like it.
Then this new pop up restaurant moves in and: bam.
Last night we arrived at 6. By 7 you couldn’t get in the door. By 8 people were standing on the sidewalk waiting for a table. For good reason.
The chef/owners, who are renting space from Capri’s owners, are from Joe’s and Axe, and cook a gastro-bistro take on Southern food. But they aren’t orthodox about it. There’s pickled shrimp with fried green tomatoes—four large crisp shrimp spiraled around perfectly fried, ungreasy slices of tomato. But there is also raclette with potatoes and cornichons. The chef broils the potato slices in the melted cheese, so it’s a very good goo.
Housemade pickles are big here. You can order that day’s selection as an appetizer (6 bucks, do it) and they come with the potted smoked trout with avocado toast, and the raclette.
The South rises again in the quail with corn cake, which features a crisp and juicy little bird atop a pudding that has sponged up the juices. The vegetarian standouts are a polenta cake with mushrooms and parmesan, and a kale salad (who doesn’t have a kale salad these days?), in which the kale is chiffonaded and tossed with dates and sheep milk cheese.
For dessert we had the apple pie with artisan cheddar, a hybrid crumbly, tart, cakey pie , all good.
The servers are excited by the food, and they care, as does the chef with the tattoos up to his neck and the dagger-like knife in his belt. It all costs about the same as Capri, around 25-40 bucks per person with wine or one of their curated beers, but you get to eat food cooked by owners who really, really care.
Yes it’s crowded and popular and it’s only going to get busier. But it feels like home.