03/13/2012 10:46 am ET Updated May 13, 2012

Public Kitchen & Bar: Food for the People

Water. Although it's the predominant substance on the surface of the earth and within our own bodies, most of us (in America, anyway) probably don't spend too much time thinking about it. We may prefer it from the tap, the bottle or a filtration system. We may make that choice for reasons of taste, environmental factors or convenience, but rarely do those three factors align so that our choice is the best of all possible worlds.

I mention this because I recently attended a water tasting (you heard me), and learned that there is a way to get the best-tasting water which is both environmentally sustainable and as convenient as tap water. The water you drink influences the taste of your wine. This is the level of detail that owner Tim Goodell puts into the water at Public -- a gem of a restaurant in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. So, as you can imagine, when it comes to the food, this is a restaurant that does not take shortcuts.

Founder Robert Hahmann introduced me to his Nordaq Fresh Water purification system, which Public and other forward-thinking restaurants have begun using. At the demonstration (which you can try for yourself sometime), I was given three glasses -- one with red wine, one with tap water and one with the filtered water (you can also use a fourth glass with bottled water). After clearing my palate with the filtered water, I tried the wine, recording the taste in my mind. Next, I cleared my palate with the tap water and again sipped the wine. This time, there was a slight acidity, it tasted tighter as the tannins became more evident.

So after a few glasses of great-tasting water, it was time for lunch. Goodell and executive chef Vartan Abgaryan have created a menu that is short and sweet, and yet there's something here for everyone. There are a dozen unique cocktails, and it doesn't matter if you're a gin drinker, a whisky drinker, a tequila drinker or sparkling wine drinker (or a water drinker, for that matter), there is a drink here you're going to enjoy.

The small plates are a must. I urge you to consider the burrata with roasted cherry tomatoes. The Neapolitan meatballs, with pine nuts and currants, are also spectacular.

The soups and salads options are highlighted by a family-recipe matzo ball soup to kale, served with pine nuts, currants, pancetta bread crumbs and a garlic vinaigrette. Soup can also be added to a sandwich (consider the grilled gruyere and short rib with caramelized onions) order for a small price.

The entrees include heartier salads, as well as chicken, steak and seasonal fish. There is also the fromage blanc omelette and fish and chips. But I would be remiss if I did not mention the Public Burger. It's served a little pink with four-year-old cheddar, bacon and hatch green chile. And for a couple bucks more, have it served with an egg on it. Yum. Hand-cut Kennebec fries accompany this unforgettable burger.

Public is the rare restaurant where you will want to try everything on the menu. And restaurants like those are as essential to the culinary landscape as, well, water.