Tasting menus can be a tricky proposition for clean eaters and special dieters. Often, they’re no-substitutions affairs that leave you totally at the mercy of the chef’s whims. If you’re not down with, say, the gluten in the pasta course, or you’re ethically opposed to foie gras, too bad.
At the recently opened Scratch Bar in Encino, chef Phillip Frankland Lee (whom you might recognize from this season’s Top Chef) is turning the tasting menu concept on its head. The cuisine is seasonal, forward-thinking New American, but instead of serving you only what he wants to make, Lee and his cadre of cooks (who double as servers—there’s no waitstaff) ask you what you want to eat, what you don’t eat or are allergic to and then whip you up a custom tasting menu (6 courses, $40/person; 11 courses, $80/person; 18-20 courses, $120/person). Lee sources primarily organic, local produce and organic, pasture-raised meats, so no matter what you taste, it’ll be clean.
This is the second iteration of Scratch Bar (the now-shuttered original was in Beverly Hills), and the founding concept of everything-from-scratch remains. The dishes are as enjoyable to eat as they are to watch being prepared (counter seats have a front-row ticket to the action). You might start with a sake-lime shooter over avocado mousse, move on to warm seasonal veggies with cashew curry and goat gouda and then savor warm turmeric-spiced salmon “salad” (chunks of salmon mixed with Greek yogurt and vegetables) over carrot puree, followed by hanger steak with baby kale, button mushrooms and potato “foam.”
There’s an à la carte menu too for those feeling pressed for time or just wanting a specific dish, but the chefs (and we) strongly suggest you go for the tasting. It’s a one-of-a-kind, choose-your-own adventure.
16101 Ventura Blvd., Suite 255, Encino