Kettle Black: The Right Formula for Silver Lake

Another star of the menu is Black Kettle’s pappardelle. Photo: Pat Saperstein.

Another star of the menu is Black Kettle’s pappardelle. Photo: Pat Saperstein.

SILVER LAKE—A few months ago, we took a look at Sawyer, one of the newer additions to Sunset Junction. Now we visit its sister restaurant, Kettle Black.

The side-by-side restaurants share the same kitchen, though the menu and decor are completely different. At Kettle Black, the chef is Sydney Hunter III, formerly of French standouts like Petit Trois.

The pair has in common a similar grasp on what the area’s diners seem to want right now: eye-catching interior design, solid cooking and a casual, buzzy atmosphere.

Kettle Black is perhaps an unlikely name for a rustic Italian restaurant.

The small front patio is enclosed on three sides with a heater, so even in cool weather it’s a fine place to watch the passing fashion parade on Sunset Boulevard.

In the center of the room, a long tall table with backless stools might not be the best place for a lengthy dinner, but it’s fine for catching up with friends over drinks.

As at Sawyer, there’s a full bar available, so start with a refreshing gin, cucumber and Thai basil cocktail, or bourbon revved up with tea and amaretto. Happily, happy hour runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week, with $4 Italian beers, $6 wine and several $8 cocktails along with a few snacks.

The dinner-only menu focuses on vegetables, pasta, pizza and a few mains like branzino, a flat iron steak with a pleasant char along the edges, or roast chicken.

Pizzas with toppings like potato and egg or prosciutto and arugula are fine, but we like to concentrate on the jazzed-up vegetables, and the very competent pastas.

Vegetables are some of the stars of the menu, with vinegar, salt and chiles giving a flavorful oomph.

Eggplant is charred to amp up its soft lusciousness, then slicked with tart-sweet saba vinegar and doused in garlic and chili flakes. A simple arugula salad is the perfect lemony foil to rich pasta dishes, topped with a flurry of almonds, pecorino cheese and pickled chilis.

Cauliflower goes far beyond the familiar roasted or fried preparations that have redeemed the once-boring vegetable’s reputation. Fried capers, pine nuts, pickled raisins and savory bagna cauda (anchovy sauce) turn the vegetable into an umami bomb.

Another star of the menu is pappardelle, with housemade noodles that have just the right bite and a dusky sauce of maitake mushrooms swimming in nasturtium butter.

For dessert, Italian-accented sweets like limoncello cake strewn with fresh berries or panna cotta with stone fruit keep things light and refreshing.

Kettle Black’s menu isn’t large, and the food isn’t incredibly ambitious, but the restaurant does exactly what it sets out to: create a lively spot that works for both drinks and snacks or a full dinner, with food that won’t leave you feeling weighed down.

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