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littlefork, Hollywood's Best New Restaurant

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On a nondescript Hollywood corner (Selma and Wilcox) in what used to be Joni Mitchell's 1980s recording studio is littlefork (with a lower case "L"), an intriguing new restaurant celebrating the delicacies of New England and Montreal. Opened in January 2013, and already a bustling hit, littlefork (named for the diminutive cocktail forks used to eat shellfish) is the brainchild of Massachusetts native, Chef Jason Travi (Spago, Granita).

Chef Travi comments,

We experimented on this menu for a long time. This was a concept I was dying to do, but I didn't think we'd find the people who'd be willing to give me the money to do it. We're very proud of what we've created. We hope people give us a chance. The food here is different from anywhere else in town.

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As a native New Englander who lives in Los Angeles, I was excited to dine on a recent evening with a female friend. Every single item was outstandingly fresh, delicious and a menu I want to revisit again.

On the table as we sat down was a lovely jar of pickled mushrooms, onions, carrots with rosemary -- the perfect element to whet your appetite before the meal, and a welcome alternative to being served a basket of bread.

Chef Travi comments,

I'm so over giving people bread. It's a bad way to start your meal. We went to a restaurant in Canada and saw a wall of pickles. My partner said 'why don't we serve pickled vegetables instead of bread?'

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Another highlight is head bartender, Dino Balocchi's, menu of specialized drinks, and hard-to-find beers. My friend ordered a Thai Town Mule, the most popular cocktail served at littlefork. In a Collins glass, it is a refreshing concoction of gin, lime, thai basil, peppercorn, and housemade ginger beer.

The first section on littlefork's dinner menu is "Bar Snacks"- - foods that you would not normally find in a gourmet restaurant. We had heard rumors that they served the best pork rinds ever. Pork rinds? Really? But the rumors were beyond true. This is a total reinvention of the much maligned junk food, and unlike anything you've ever had. Lighter than air -- these malt vinegar-laced ribbons of puffy pork crisps melt in your mouth.

Other stellar Bar Snacks included house smoked nuts, crispy head cheese, kettle corn, and maple eggs.

Maple takes center stage on littlefork's flavor parade (maple onion rings and a mouthwatering buttermilk maple pie are other signature items). Appropriate, since the entire menu is a tribute to maple country.

Chef Travi notes,

Maple is one of my favorite flavors. We buy all of our real maple syrup right from the maple tree farm producer in Vermont. It's worth it to us.

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The regional foods of the North Atlantic can be heavy, but littlefork manages to present age old culinary staples with an irresistible lightness. Take clam cakes for example. Chef Travi and company have perfected this classic northern seaside treat with a soft, delicate, airiness atop a bed of homemade tartar sauce that needs to be savored to be believed.

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My friend insisted on the kale salad, and it was full of unexpected flavors: seasonal blood orange, avocado, red onion, and some finely grated egg white that I thought at first was parmesan cheese -- absolutely the most tasty and satisfying kale salad I've ever had.

Other highlights included Portuguese mussels with chick peas and linguica in a beer broth, roasted cauliflower with pickled yellow raisins, and the crowning achievement, monkfish francaise (Travi jokes "monkfish used to be known as poor man's lobster but there's nothing poor man about this fish anymore"). Any seafood lover will be ecstatic over this dish, which is accompanied by a creamy potato puree and garlic spinach.

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All in all, we ate our hearts out, but because the food is all so light, fresh, and the portions just right, it's entirely possible if you're hungry, to enjoy more on the menu than you expected to eat. Make sure you leave room for dessert because (in addition to the aforementioned buttermilk maple pie) apple cider donuts with apple butter and salted caramel, and chocolate whoopie pies (a Maine staple) round out the must-try trio of sweet selections. Travi's wife oversees the dessert portion of the menu.

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If you are so inclined, Littlefork also offers an impressive, international array of digestifs in dainty little glasses to accompany dessert.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this perfect meal. Based on the packed dining room, it seems that more than just New England/Maritime Canadian transplants are enjoying the best new restaurant in Hollywood. Thank goodness.

Located at 1600 Wilcox. Open daily for dinner til 10pm, and late night til 1am on Friday and Saturday. Soon to be opened for brunch as well. Check out www.littleforkla.com