Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hidden Gem: Square One

So, as I mentioned earlier this week, I spent much of the last two weeks at the giant Kaiser Permanente facility on Sunset Boulevard. My two culinary saving graces while running back and forth from the various rooms we were stuffed into were Yai on Vermont and Square One.

Square One sits in the shadow of two colossal motherships, the aforementioned Kaiser complex and the Los Angeles Scientology Center which takes up a full city block between Sunset and Fountain. Undaunted by these vast institutions, Square One has a distinct philosophy: locally sourced food done well. Like a little, casual Chez Panisse right in our backyard, the produce is from local farmers' markets and the meat is from places like Niman Ranch and Nueske's meats which offer grassfed beef and heirloom pork. Don't believe in their commitment, just take a look at the creed etched on the specials board.

At Square One Dining, we believe the highest quality meals come from the freshest local ingredients. By taking care in sourcing our ingredients, we hope to connect our customers, purveyors, and staff through the most basic of human needs: food. We utilize organic, local, and small farm produce when possible. All of our meat products are hormone free. Natural is always best and basic is not a trend.


As a polemical ideologue in my non-food life, I must admit that I love the idea of a a restaurant with a creed. Even if you're not into creeds though, you can be sure that Square One is not part of some fleeting culinary trend or another LA cult. Rather, this humble, casual eatery which doesn't even serve dinner is one of the most consistently excellent restaurants in town.

In my experience, nothing on the Square One menu disappoints, but the breakfasts served all day (well, for breakfast and lunch, which are the only meals they serve), are the highlight. The baked egg dishes, which change regularly, are cooked in mini-cast iron skillets with flavor combinations like mushrooms, garlic and rough ground grits. The bourbon french toast is to-die-for, with big, rich slices of soft french toast buried in pecans and whip cream.

But my favorite dish is the salmon eggs benedict. The eggs are served on crisply fried potato pancakes with Square One's fabulous home cured salmon, which has a fresh and clean taste to it, much less salty than commercially cured salmon. It's topped with a light hollandaise and comes with a choice of sides, but get the grits or cheese grits if they are offered.

And of course, I love the sweets, so I have to give a shout out to Square One's excellent desserts. The cookies are as big as your head and almost as thick; be warned, one cookie is definitely enough for dessert for two if not three hungry diners.

The delightfully chewy peanut butter cookie explodes with buttery goodness, and I usually don't even like peanut butter cookies. The chocolate chip cookies have so much chocolate that one wonders where the line between chocolate chip cookie ends and cookie dough flavored chocolate bar begins, and the slightly smaller chocolate brownies are likewise rich and chocolaty. The only cookie I didn't care for was the oatmeal, which was dry and bland.

I ate at Square One often during the last two weeks and I never tired of it. I can honestly say that Square One joins a short list of places I go in which I have never had a dish that failed to impress.

1 comment:

Tanaka, Ken said...

Salmon Benedict is the best. Also steak and eggs is great.
Frittatta, and breakfast sandwich are my least favorite.

For lunch...burger and the steak sandwich are both good.

Haven't had grits yet.