Its always nice when a friend wants to take me out to dinner, and even nicer when its someplace new, so she suggested the Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City. This little bar/restaurant sits between Colfax and Laurel Canyon on Ventura, and if you blink, you will miss it (like I almost did last night, I would not suggest trying to back up to get to the valet).
Anyway, I have been in this type of place before, one room with several tables, well as many as they could fit in, and very loud. There was nothing much to suppress the sound, that I could see anyway. But aside from that, it can be a cozy place for a date, or a great place to bring the friends down after work. The liquor menu is pretty diverse with several, if not all of the beers, that I have never heard of. One of the beers that I got to try was Moose Drool; think of a Newcastle without the aftertaste. Very clean and didn’t prohibit me from tasting any of the other flavors to come.
This is a tapas restaurant, with some very interesting things on the menu. Grilled baby octopus, Ricotta gnudi,, and even baby beets. One thing that I didn’t notice was the cheese plate that my friend always has to order at every place we hit. And this time was no different, the board was filled with hard and soft cheeses, fruit, honey comb, and baguette. I always enjoy a cheese plate, it seems to clean my palate and get me ready for what is to come.
For our main dishes, we decided to get a variety of tapas including the Charred Baby Octopus, Ricotta Gnudi, Oxtail Ragu, and Mussels, each presented in a simple dish. The ricotta gnudi was kind of a surpass to me, these were little ricotta balls served in a butter sauce, totally decadent. Barring the butter, it was more like a dessert to me and could have easily finished my dinner with them, but since they were first out, I didn’t complain. The charred baby octopus came under a mountain of diced kale. Most of the places I visited where I have had octopus has always tasted chewy and bland. This octopus had a bit of a crunch to it as well as a tangy kick thanks to the olives and pickled turnip. Good choice. Mussels are mussels, there was nothing spectacular about this dish, other than I like mussels and the sauce is always great for bread dipping. The fennel made it more distant and tasty. And then there was the oxtail, served over noodles, which impressed me. If I wasn’t told it was oxtail, I wouldn’t have noticed. Every time I have had oxtail, it has always been VERY fatty and therefore not very appetizing to me, this was fairly lean, and what fats may have lived on the meat had been rendered out. Very nice presentation as well as a great dish.
All in all, I liked this place. I could see myself with a date or hanging out with the guys for beer. I think that the dishes are a touch expensive for what you get, but that will not discourage me from going again and trying more of their tasty food. If you are going to go here, I would suggest coming from Colfax going north on Ventura because there are not a lot of opportunities to turn around to try to get into the valet queue. And for $5, its worth letting someone else park your car.