Heavenly Hock + Hoof
Source: Beverly Press
Partners Kat Hu and Justin Yi turn offals and vegetables into gourmet fare at Hock + Hoof, next to the historic Hotel Alexandria in downtown Los Angeles. The restaurant, which opened last May, has already earned quite a following because of its creative options blending French techniques with Asian ingredients and flavors.
Between the two of them, Hu and Yi have quite an impressive resume. Yi, who specializes in Korean food, perfected his craft in the kitchens of Bouchon at The Venetian in Las Vegas and Patina Restaurant Group at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Hu, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu, and worked at The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live and Café Pinot, is an expert in offal – meats like tongue, heart or liver – and believes in respecting the entire animal. With Hock + Hoof, the pair hopes to make food approachable for everyone and transform the unfamiliar into the familiar.
To pair with its offerings, the restaurant also has innovative and visually enticing soju cocktails. I kicked off the evening with a lavender-colored Petit Pea drink made with lemon juice, elderflower, butterfly pea flower and lemon bitters. The cocktail was beautiful with its dainty glass, purple flower and pinkish purple color – a result of the butterfly pea flower and acidic lemon juice combination.
My husband also enjoyed the Reyes Especial cocktail made with toasted spice soju, lime juice, tamarind, blackberry, demerara (a dark rum fermented from molasses) and mango bitters.
We started with the oysters en croûte, which arrived on a plate of salt. Each oyster had a layer of buttery pastry baked on top, similar to an oyster Rockefeller.
Steak tartare on toasted focaccia followed next. The chopped red meat was topped with green garlic from the Santa Monica Farmers Market, as well as radish, pickled cauliflower and dumpling carrots. We were advised to take a bite of the steak tartare and then one of the pickled vegetables to cleanse our palate.
We also tried the creamy chicken liver mousse, and although I’m typically not a fan of chicken liver pâté, I took a big bite of this inviting dish, which featured bright red hawthorn berry gel dots and two small puffy pieces of frybread. Once I spread the mousse onto the frybread and topped it with the gel, I was delightfully pleased with the silky flavors.
It’s not all meat at Hock + Hoof. Taking inspiration from her gardener mother, Hu also features vegetarian dishes at the restaurant. During this time of the year, for instance, the chef brings together turnips, beets and fried Brussels sprouts with crispy shoestring potatoes, scallion crema and smoky guajillo salsa. It’s delicious.
To enjoy with the rest of our meal, my husband ordered a local Angel City Pilsner, while I selected a Raeburn Winery chardonnay from the Russian River area with fruity notes and a creamy vanilla finish.
Next arrived a long bone, cut down the middle and topped with lap cheong panko. The marrow was spongy and rich. It tasted slightly like melted butter, but with a lighter, sweeter and nuttier flavor. The delicacy was served on top of an egg crêpe. Spreading the marrow into the crêpe, we rolled it like a spring roll and added fried scallions. Pickled cauliflower and carrots were again served on the side for a palate cleanser. The dish is a tasty treat for diners and any dogs waiting at home – the staff allows guests to take the bones home as a special surprise for furry friends.
Many of the dishes also have an artistic flair, such as the squid plate. Midnight black squid ink was smeared on the side of a white bowl before it was filled with black rice, sautéed squid and three different types of mushrooms, including hen-of-the-woods, meaty king oysters and shimeji. Topped with lemon juice, this was another winning dish.
Feeling adventurous, we agreed to try Hu’s favorite menu item, seared and braised beef tongue. To prepare the meat, she sears and braises it before placing it in the oven for hours. She then pulls off the tough skin to reveal a beautiful and supple piece of red meat. Hu dresses the plate with three different types of celery – a root purée, sweet and savory roasted celery, and braised celery. Finally, for a touch of sweetness, she adds bright red and tart pomegranate seeds. Surprisingly, I thought the dish tasted similar to slow-cooked beef short ribs.
After several rich dishes, we enjoyed the lighter Asian pear and creamy white burrata salad. Little sprigs of watercress gave it an earthy essence. A drizzle of osmanthus honey and slices of Asian pear added a zing of sweetness, while a sprinkling of pine nuts brought saltiness and crunch. I would recommend this salad as a good starter dish or dessert.
For another dessert option, there’s osmanthus gelato, prepared by a local gelateria for the restaurant. The treat is creamy with hints of apricot, and is an ideal ending to a unique dining experience.
Hock + Hoff is for the adventurous who yearn to try something different.