6600 West Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Eat AND Drink: "Everything they make here is heaven in your mouth" - my dinner date.
Gwen is the new fine dining establishment in Los Angeles from brothers Luke and Curtis Stone. Located at the beginnings of the dodgey end of Sunset, it's worlds away from Curtis' other LA encampment, Maude. Maude is small and focused on one item, woven into every dish for 10 courses. This month is "chicories", November is white truffles. The one thing these two restaurants have in common is that they are both named after the brother's grandmothers - Maude and Gwen.
Both Luke and Curtis started working in a butcher shop so it's appropriate that Gwen has a butcher shop perfectly incorporated into the restaurant. The first thing we noticed as we walked towards the front door was the massive window allowing us to peer into the butcher shop and catch a glimpse of charcuterie and other meats being prepared. You may have guessed from the feet above that I wasn't with a group of friends for our inaugural visit to Gwen. I had convinced my twin 9-year olds to tag along and check out what the Stone brothers had to offer.
For the most part, you want a reservation to visit Gwen but on the off chance that you're not able to plan that far in advance, don't fret - you can sit at the bar or the patio as a walk-in. We arrived as the restaurant opened at 5:30p and were promptly offered a table on the patio. The bar was empty too which may provide a night of fun but I thought the patio would be better suited for us. It was a gorgeous night and the weather was sublime. There is a bit of road noise outside - it IS Sunset Blvd. and all, and the pizza joint across the street decided to play some loud music at one point but nothing could dampen our spirits. The main dining room is very well suited for LA and the upstairs Wine Room was moody and dark - a good locale for date night.
We started quickly, we were all starving, with the Charcuterie, Focaccia, and a Sour Profile cocktail for me. As our waitress identified the four kinds of meat in front of us, I was surprised at the detail. One had rose water! The focaccia description was "salt & smoke" and it was perfectly toasty, buttery and salty. The four cubes disappeared momentarily by my companions. The Anise inspired drink was spot on - refreshing, fun and different.
Up until this point in our meal, nothing screamed fine dining to me but what was about to come really did speak to what I think Curtis Stone is trying to do here in LA - create something bigger than himself, something that lasts. First was the Hearts of Palm salad with Whipped Cucumber and Fizzy Grapes - both created an unexpected experience and delight for each of us. Our only disappointment was we wanted more of those fizzy grapes. The Chanterelle Ravioli was small but powerful. We each immediately attacked the small mushrooms and onions surrounding one good sized ravioli. An explosion of flavor was our reward. The cornmeal under the ravioli was a nice touch - somewhat meaty and satisfying after such a quick bite. I decided to try a Collins Family cocktail of Citrus, Ginger, Rum - another delicious concoction. In guessing the rest of the bar program is just as delicious.
Finally we were moving onto the meat which a restaurant with a butcher shop inside, should do well. And Gwen doesn't disappoint. We ordered the Asador Pork which included Glazed Pork Cheek, Grilled Pork Rack, and Smoked Pork Belly, along with the Filet of Wagyu Beef. You can't go wrong with Wagyu and as expected my meat loving children could not get enough of it. They absolutely felt the filet was the best part of the meal. The steak was great but they overlooked the detail in the pork. Having all three types, cooked so well was a true delight - each one a bit better than the last. I really should have kept it all for myself. There are a handful of fun, whimsical touches the Stone brothers have included at Gwen. One is you pick your own unique steak knife. It was fun to discuss why we each chose the one we did...
We had to end the night at some point and so dessert was upon us. I was fully ready to order every single dessert on their menu and pull my usual "Heather" routine. Much to my chagrin, they had only ONE dessert - a Sweetcorn Semifreddo with Huckleberry Sorbet - so we ordered two even though we SHOULD have ordered three. It was light and refreshing, perfect to cap off the night. Our bill arrived in this very cute tin box.
Overall, Gwen is a completely solid, fine dining option here in Los Angeles with a range of experiences that are sure to satisfy many. Over the course of our two hours on the patio we watched everyone from a 60-something executive arrive in a chauffeured SUV with his beautiful date to a tattooed couple in ripped jeans and everything in between. I think Gwen is finding that LA has a wide range of people who want to eat great food and they're providing excellent opportunities to meet those diners wherever they are. You can be somewhat casual and eat on the patio like us with the a la carte menu, more formally in the main dining room with the 10+ tasting menu, in front of the kitchen so you can watch all the action, or upstairs in the Wine Room for a little more moody ambiance. No matter what you choose, you're not going to go wrong at Gwen. As my 9-year old son said towards the end of dinner "Everything they make here is heaven in your mouth" - I'm sure we will visit Gwen again soon.