Thursday, May 5, 2011


Choose the Star Trek seating if you can
I've been waiting a LONG time for a new restaurant and bar to open at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Not that I have anything against their old staples, Pentimento and the Plaza Cafe. Both are decent for what they offer. But since the museum's beautiful expansion --  with it's Contemporary Art wing -- BCAM, the beautiful window-filled Resnick Pavilion, and it's vintage outdoor Urban Light Exhibit, it was time for LACMA to offer a venue where you can not only enjoy creative dishes and colorful libations, but sit surrounded by inspiring energy that only comes when you merge the food world with the art world.

Things that make you go hmmm
There are two components to this experience -- RAY's, the hip restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and it's devilish little counterpart the Stark Bar. The two are located next to each other and when I noticed how happening the Stark Bar was for a Wednesday night, I opted for this patio party instead.  Also, since both have similar hip, "artsy" decor, I felt as though I'd probably be having a similar experience. My dining companion and I walked into the roped around patio that offered a decent amount of seating with lounge-like tables and bar seating if you prefer. We opted for two high-back cushy seats on one end of the patio  and as luck would have it, live performance art was happening ten feet from us in the center courtyard. Just beyond, the view of 202 Vintage streetlamps glowing in the night.  View + actors dressed in dirty capes dancing primitively in the middle of night all for the name of art = added bonus in my book. Granted, the actors were holding very large sticks and after hundreds of incredibly slow rotations, they began to shed their capes for loincloths, but I knew that as long as the food and cocktails were good, I'd be just fine. 

2 of the many beverage options
There are a number of menus at Stark Bar. There's the massive cocktail menu "book" which lists various concoctions in the $10-14 range. There's a separate wine and beer list with extensive offerings of each.  Then there's the Bar Bites menu full of small plates options and flatbreads. And if you are really hungry, there's Ray's menu (the next door counterpart) which Stark servers will gladly allow you to order from. My dining companion opted for a glass of Riesling which was exactly what our server had assured -- mildly sweet and balanced. And while my head was spinning a little from all the cocktail offerings, I finally settled on the Ray's Swizzle. You really can't go wrong with a signature drink, especially one that guarantees fresh lime and orange juice, muddled blackberries, pineapple syrup, and rum. And it was as delicious as it sounds. Completely refreshing without being too sweet. After a few sips the tribal loinclothers were starting to put me into a zen trance. BUT wait -- there was food to be ordered!

Yes my friend, there is goat on that pizza
We decided to hit up both the Bar Bites menu and Ray's. Since their unique flatbreads were calling my name, I chose the Goat Flatbread with slow-roasted shoulder, goat cheese, chili sesame sauce, red onions, and cilantro. From the Ray's menu, we opted for the Gnocchi with Pea Tendrils, Walnuts, and Pecorino. We held onto both menus in case we felt like ordering more. But when the two came out simultaneously, we were pleasantly surprised to see fairly large portions -- certainly enough for two. We tasted the gnocchi first. The tendrils were fresh and the gnocchi had a delicious slight crisp on the outside and a warm soft center. The contrasting textures in each bite were addictive. I think these would have even broken the concentration of the most skilled loin-clothed actor of the group. I then glanced over at the perfectly-sized flatbread with fluffy crust, chock full of toppings, sitting on a nice wood board. As I bit into a slice, I wondered why I'd never had Goat Shoulder, especially on a pizza! It was slightly smoky and tasty. It was meaty but not dense. It was...really good. It meshed well with the flavor profile of the pizza -- the creamy goat cheese, the kick from the chili sesame sauce, the cool from the cilantro, and a little bit of sharp from the red onion. The crust was also cooked to my liking -- not too crispy with a little bit of chew. As a fan of flatbreads and pizza, I was happy to try something that wasn't just unique conceptually but actually worked!

As I continued to sip my swizzle, pop another crispy gnocchi, and watch the actors move through the night air, Stark Bar reaffirmed my belief that it's in these moments you can sit back and take it in -- life is artful, life is good. 

For more info visit: Stark Bar