Nook: Neighborhood Bistro

by janet on January 21st, 2007

Ring Ring Ring
“Hi James.”
“Where the fuck is it?”

Exactly. Nook is a difficult-to-find restaurant on Santa Monica in Santa Monica near Barrington. It’s tucked (and I mean TUCKED) away in a corner, sort of out of the way, like, in a secluded little area, gosh, what’s the word for it?

If you can’t find it, look in the corner of the shopping center and follow the blue arrow. You will find a stylishly modern yet comfortably cozy restaurant…with a huge line. We had a wait of a half hour, which I couldn’t believe. It made me think that people enjoy the obscurity of this physical location so they make it their “thing” to come here.

However, now I think they come here for the food. This was my first great meal of 2007 and it was at the end of a looong, hard, hectic week and it was so restorative.

I saw wine on everyone’s table and it made me want it, bad. I wanted a big, Debbie-sized glass of red wine, stat. I ordered the manager’s pour special, which was the Valdubon Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2004. [The wine list and the food menu are substantially more extensive than what’s posted online, and about a dollar or two more expensive, too.]

The wine was a bit lighter than what I wanted, but I guess it serves me right for ordering a Tempranillo. <-- Did that sound like I knew what I was talking about? Yes! I actually didn't even know what a Tempranillo was, but with the help of Google I discovered that it is a varietal mainly from Spain and is rarely bottled as a stand-alone wine. So I guess I got to taste something not so common. The wine was quite delicious, with berry-esque flavors. Menu perusal time. My eye was instantly drawn to the shiitake & gruyere bread pudding under Sides. Doesn't that sound decadent and scrumptious? I ordered that for a starter.

It came out piping hot, fragrant and topped with a gorgeous toasted-cheese top. James, not so into mushrooms, was dying from the odor. I guess mushrooms and cheese can be objectively stinky, but to me this dish smelled unbearably appealing. I started out with my fork but I wanted to experience the decadence of spooning huge chunks of the dish into my mouth, so I did. The cheese was burnt just enough, and the shiitakes were great. It could have ended up tasting like just breaded mushrooms, but the best part was that it really tasted like a bread pudding, just savory! Luscious.

For his entree, James ordered the herb roasted pork chop with baby arugula, Asian pear, Stilton cheese, pine nuts, fingerling potatoes and apricot vinaigrette.

Great choice, James! (Aside from the questionable plating choice of five fingerling potatoes, emulating a hand, ew.) I asked for a mini piece, and he gave me literally a chunk the size of a ladybug. It didn’t matter, though. I popped it in my mouth and my mouth was filled with flavor. When I later cajoled a larger piece from James, wow. The softest, juiciest pork chop I’ve ever eaten.

Also, I ate practically all of his arugula. Whenever salads call for apples, I think they should now be replaced with Asian pear. Asian pears have a texture more befitting of a salad. The sweetness of the pears drew out the sweetness in the blue cheese, and while the salad was a tad overdressed, I couldn’t get enough.

For my entree, I ordered the squash and chickpea stew with braised butternut squash, zucchini, chickpeas, and golden raisins with minted couscous and yogurt sauce. After the heaviness of the bread pudding, I couldn’t have made a better choice.

As Debbie said, in this picture there doesn’t seem to be enough broth for it to be called a “stew.” She’s right. There was hardly any liquid, but it didn’t matter because the vegetables and chickpeas were so soft that they disintegrated into a juicy, delicious smoothness. I’ve never had chickpeas this soft! The couscous was softer than I was used to, but still held its textural own against the stew. I felt nourished and rejuvenated and definitely felt like I was eating something unique. If anything, I think this dish could have been more whizbang by having even more mint in the couscous and even more yogurt sauce.

Three home runs from Nook. I can’t wait to go back. If only I could find it again.

11628 Santa Monica Blvd #9
Los Angeles, CA 90025

2 Responses to “Nook: Neighborhood Bistro”

  1. […] When the plate was set in front of me the steam smelled wondrously garlicky. The vegetables were well-chosen (if a bit tart), with the highlight a beautifully cooked tomato. The fingerling potatoes were much more delicate, and thus much classier, than recent fingerlings we had encountered. These small coins of potatoes, fried to a crisp, were a beautiful complement to the fish. […]

  2. […] Cole and I went on a whim one day, bored with the usual West LA haunts. Bored, even, with Nook – can you believe […]

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