Nestled inside the lobby of the Palihotel is The Hart & the Hunter, a Southern-inspired restaurant from chefs Kris Tominaga and Brian Dunsmoor. The cozy space, with kitschy decor and touches like mismatched plates, feels at once both shabby chic and hip, and the blend of comfort with vibrancy extends into the cooking.
We started with an order of butter biscuits, which were served with dollops of creamy butter, pimento cheese and blackberries ($6.00). Each condiment suited the delicate, crumbly biscuits well, but my favorite combination was a dab of butter with a blackberry.
Those who dismiss chicken skin as "too unhealthy" would be sorely missing out on these chicken cracklins ($6.00), crunchy, salty chicken skin chips with the perfect amount of fat.
While kale salads are ubiquitous in Los Angeles, the Hart & the Hunter's version is anything but banal. Apples and dates lent a sweetness to the leafy greens that was nicely balanced by creamy and piquant shavings of sheep's milk cheese while pecans added a crunchy textural note ($11.00).
While I love brussels sprouts ($6.00), I found their flavor in this side dish to be lost amidst the overpowering taste of bacon and sheen of oil.
One of the Hart & the Hunter's unique offerings is their take on a raclette-- a dish of Swiss origins-- consisting of melted, pleasantly funky raclette cheese, butterball potatoes, and ham, served with mustard, cornichons and soft bread ($15.00). Something about tearing into the loaf of bread and topping it with the melty cheese and accoutrements felt hearty and homey.
The fried chicken livers arrived nestled under a mound of arugula, radishes, apples, onion jam and toasted hazelnuts, which nicely balanced the heavier central element ($12.00).
For our final savory dish, we ordered the shrimp and grits, in which plump, snappy shrimp swam with creamy grits, salty bacon and woodsy mushrooms to create a complex bite ($20.00).
With Instagrams of pastry chef Sarah Lange's sweets in our heads, we made sure to save room for dessert and, arguably, some of the restaurant's signature items.
In the lemon ice box cake, pillowy meringue (blowtorched to order) and tart lemon semi-freddo sat atop a buttery, crumbly graham cracker crust ($6.00). This sweet, chilled, mile-high slice felt simultaneously light and decadent.
Gimmicky savory elements can easily doom a dessert, but Lange's apple dumpling is no stunt. In this dessert, apples were nestled inside a soft, golden-brown dumpling and topped with a slice of Hooks white cheddar ($6.00). A scoop of vanilla ice cream rounded out the different flavor profiles and temperatures. Despite being pretty full from dinner, I would have happily polished off one of these on my own.
The Hart & the Hunter is a delicious addition to the LA dining scene and to my personal list of favorite restaurants.
The Hart & the Hunter
7950 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046