BEERS, BITES & FORMIDABLE FARE IN BEVERLY HILLS
From the ashes of the short-lived and underappreciated Delfini Citta comes Carson House—a new and exciting destination on Wilshire Boulevard that is perfect as a go-to spot for lunch in-and-around Miracle Mile and Beverly Hills; a must visit for happy hour; or a soon to be favorite for beers, bites and killer dinner.
“Carson House is laid back, consistent, approachable and not pretentious,” says co-managing partner Scott Paletz, “but at the same time, there’s an emphasis on fun. Carson House will always be the place to go to have a good time, let your hair down and have a great meal.”
The fun vibe is evident as soon as you walk into the welcoming and lovely bar area. It is tailor made to sit, relax and unwind with a drink in hand and a tasty dish in front of you. My only gripe are the cocktails, maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by leading and forward thinking bars like 1886 Bar in Pasadena, or Sadie in Hollywood, but Carson House really seems to miss the mark with its drinks. And believe me, I’ve tried them all. I almost fell over when my waitress acted like she’d never heard of an Old Fashioned. Really, in Los Angeles, how many years after Mad Men made it a leading drink in the cocktail scene?
But here’s how to work around that, and I don’t mean just drink wine or the hard stuff straight up, Carson House, courtesy of Beer Director Kevin Olson, has a first rate beer program. I’m not the biggest beer fan and I’m impressed by his selection.
“When it comes to my beer philosophy, the thing I’m always striving for is that balance of being able to introduce craft beer to the average consumer and blow away their palate, but also have things for the beer aficionado; the guys always wanting to try new things,” Olson explains. “I’m always looking to have bigger, better, crazy beers, but also interesting and eclectic brews. One of the things I’m doing with Carson House is working with smaller distributors and breweries to bring in more specialized beers.”
Now if only I could consistently get Allagash Curieux on tap. Thank you Federal Bar!
Upon opening, Carson House featured 20 beers on tap, along with a healthy menu of 20 plus bottled brews, which will continue to expand over time to feature one-off beers, limited selections and things that only come out once a year.
During my recent visit for dinner, I actually let Olson pair my meal with his army of brews and boy did he hit a homerun (think grand slam)!
I still had to start with a handcrafted cocktail, just to give it that old college try, but I found the El Camino, made with Luna Malvada Blanco Tequila, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, and lime juice, too sweet with far too much juice.
The Palm, a mix of Bacardi Rum, Myer’s Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, ginger and cherry, fared no better. It’s strong but tasteless. There’s nothing worse than a cocktail with no flavor. The Roxbury, made with Absolut Pear Vodka, lime juice and Thyme sprigs, was too bitter.
That’s when Kevin Olson came to the rescue!
We started with the Chicken Lollipops—chicken meatballs with buffalo plum glaze and blue cheese whip—paired with The Bruery's Trade Winds Tripel. Let me tell you, Carson House does terrific bar bites, like the tasty Kobe Corn Pups—mini Kobe beef dogs served with spicy yellow mustard—and these Pops are a newfound favorite.
A hearty and extremely satisfying starter item that’s just perfect to share is the Crispy Crawfish Mac & Cheese—corkscrew tubes prepared with gruyere and cheddar—paired with Drake's 1500 Extra Pale Ale. This beer was spot on with the richness of the cheese overload.
If you’re looking for lighter fare, you may want to go with the Brick Oven Cauliflower—a house specialty. A bowling ball size head of cauliflower served with feta cream sauce, this is a big dish, so share it or plan to take some home with you. The Tar Tar Tacos, served with romaine shell, papaya pico, wasabi guacamole, and seaweed salad, are nice and refreshing but this dish is a little too small for my liking.
Another light and easy selection is the Grilled Watermelon Salad, a perfect blend of heirloom tomato, basil, Dutch feta, and lemon vinaigrette, which was paired with a Firestone Walker's Pivo Pils—a nice combination alongside the grilled watermelon.
Jumping headfirst into some impressive and hearty entrees, we started with the Meathead Flatbread Pizza, a meat lover’s dream come true pie with pepperoni, pork belly, prosciutto, chorizo, and mozzarella, paired spot-on with Prairie Artisan Ales - Hop Ale. This mean pizza takes no prisoners and hungry people will not leave a slice behind. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the Carson House flatbreads I’ve tried, including the Whitey (roasted garlic, baby spinach, ricotta, crispy basil, olive oil), and the Figaro (fig, crispy prosciutto, mozzarella, mascarpone, balsamic reduction), both of which are simply sensational.
Burger lovers should get to know the Carson Pretzel Burger, ‘Boulder Farms’ Angus, horseradish cheddar, tomato garlic relish, on a pretzel bun, which goes just right with a glass of Port Brewing's Mongo IPA. There’s nothing like a good burger and cold glass of beer, in this case think great burger and bitchin’ brew.
The Shake and Bake, ‘6 Point Farms’ Korobuta pork chop, prepared with panko parmesan crust, and apple compote, is full of flavor, especially paired with Flying Dog's Pumpernickel IPA. The richness and boldness of the two combined is a force to be reckoned with.
A delectable dish I had on a previous visit that I savored with a nice, simple glass of white wine was the Local White Sea Bass—sautéed rapini (think broccoli) served with Chef’s amazingly tasty Forbidden Black Rice.
As far as desserts go, we went with the Apple Pie Ravioli but really, we preferred the Black Rhino Beer Cocktail one of the bar backs made for us using Smog City's Groundworks Coffee Porter. Definitely ask for it as it was bold and yet so comforting.
Carson House is located at 8635 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills. Open for lunch and dinner. Call (310) 289-2800.
Photo Credit: Anthony Pino Photo
By: Jose Martinez