R: We're willing to bet others entering Bluebird Brasserie will experience a similar OMG moment on their first visit to the new brewery located on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. What we found was a standout jewel among brewpubs in Los Angeles. From the dramatic medieval architecture to the food and brews, this was a not-to-miss experience.
Z: Modeled after Le Trappiste, an 800-year-old Belgian brewery in Brugge, the recently-constructed Bluebird Brasserie employs used brick and dazzling, multi-directional arches to recreate the ambience of the ancient brewery. This medieval-style of architecture gives the alluring impression of an ancient communal space with centuries of wizened knowledge. It felt as if we were in an exceptional place with a compelling history, yet the brewery-restaurant just opened on April 2, 2018. The effort to recreate an ancient monastery-style brewery was brought to life after a year in construction, and the result is simply stunning.
Z: Because we enjoy darker beers, we decided to split the Dubbel Dutch, a rich, deep brown brew with a 6.6% alcohol content and ultimately rewarding flavor. While sipping, we noticed there were about seven large, shiny brew kettles occupying the left side of the large room and 16 taps dispensing their draft selections, all featuring Belgian-style beers.
R: Turning our focus to the food, we decided to order a couple of starters to share. About half the menu is vegan, making this an ideal spot to bring friends with omnivore preferences. One of our choices was the Cheese Croquettes at $5, the other Boulette & Stoemp Belgian at $9, both can be made vegan to satisfy all tastes.
Z: We also chose the Merguez-Spiced Impossible Meat, Frites, Sauce Andalouse at $14, an awesome sandwich, along with the Cassoulet at $16, and Housemade Seitan Steak at $19.
Looking enticing and photo-ready was the Cheese Croquette, an egg-shaped orb deep-fried to a perfect golden hue formed with the breadcrumbs covering the melt-in-the mouth potato filling. The croquette was plated on a pewter-style dish accompanied with well-dressed frilly greens topped with a roasted red bell pepper. The finishing touch was a dollop of cashew mornay, a tasty sauce to enjoy with the croquette. Altogether, it was a gorgeous presentation that tasted pretty darned good, too.
R: I found the Boulette & Stoemp Belgian a compelling starter. Because of its hearty portion, it seemed more like an entrée than a starter that consisted of three, plump, mahogany-brown Impossible Meatballs in a light gravy. These were joined by stoemp, a Belgian combination of mashed potatoes and combined with other mashed root vegetables, herbs, and spices. The vegetable-potato mound was garnished with carrots, onions, and leek relish. The flavors were pure delight to the three foodies who were almost tempted to lick the plates.
Z: Our sandwich was the Merguez-Spiced Impossible Meat stuffed into a delightful chewy sourdough roll. Merguez is a Moroccan-influenced blend of spices featuring cumin, chili pepper, sumac, fennel, and garlic. Inside the sandwich were tasty potato fries and shredded carrots. Served alongside was a small bowl of crunchy, marinated carrots, cauliflower, and celery. In addition to its eye appeal, it was such an ultra-tall sandwich, we simply deconstructed it and devoured it in bits and pieces.
R: The Housemade Seitan Steak is a treat not only for vegans, but also for anyone who would enjoy a well-seasoned, umami flavored, steak-like entrée blanketed with tasty garbanzo aioli. This dish comes complete with a steak knife for carving. Ordinary as a serving of fries might seem, these fries were extraordinary and for good reason.
Z: Yes, the fries were amazing. Don't miss them! They're made with Kennebec potatoes, a special variety with thin skin and low moisture ideal for frying. True to the traditional Belgian style, these fries were triple fried. First, they are quickly fried with high heat; next they were blanched in lower heat; and then the fries were frozen. Prepared to order, these potatoes are fried a third time in high heat and brought to table crisp, hot, and oh, so flavorful!
R: Our final delight was the Cassoulet, a homey stew made by a chef who knows how to season everything with just the right blend of herbs and spices. This unique dish was presented on an attractive wooden tray that held a black metal casserole. The top of the stew was formed with a layer of Impossible meat that may have been placed under a broiler to lend a touch of crunch. Underneath were perfectly stewed heirloom beans, roasted tomatoes, and a saucy gravy with captivating flavor. The dish came with two pieces of grilled crusty bread just right for dunking into the saucy gravy.
Z: We also ordered a goblet of Boon Oude Kriek, a 6.5% sour beer for sharing, the perfect accompaniment to an enjoyable meal in an exceptional setting. Anyone visiting Bluebird Brasserie will surely leave with enduring memories of great food, terrific pub grub, and outstanding service.
R: The menu is a mix of vegan and non-vegan items and offers several starters including Marinated Olives, Grilled Country Bread with an herbed dipping sauce, and French Onion Frites.
Z: We could have had a choice of Butter Lettuce or Crunchy Endive Salad and will most likely choose the latter to taste the vegan counterpart to the Roquefort. This clever chef has created a tasty almond cheese for this salad that sparked our curiosity. He also offers four ways to enjoy the delicious fried potatoes: Curry-style with chiles, cilantro, and coconut cream; Provencal with fennel, tomato, and fines herbes; Traditional, with garlic, shallot, and white wine; or Marinieres Traditional with leeks and crème fraiche. We loved them simply fried, but are tempted to explore these delightful variations on future visits.
R: The Sandwich offerings also include Roasted Tomato Verte with an Almond Ricotta along with Merguez-Spiced Impossible Meat as the vegan choices.
Z: In addition to their excellent dinner menu, the restaurant features a Saturday and Sunday Brunch with a Leek, Herb, and Roasted Quiche, tasty Liege waffles, brunch salads, and a couple of tartines and sandwiches. Prices are moderate.
R: And those tasty meal choices are accompanied with special Brunch Wines, Cocktails, and Non-alcoholic Beverages in addition to the well-curated list of draft and bottled beers. At Bluebird, there are choices galore, offering something for everyone to love--and for beer enthusiasts it's like stepping into brew nirvana of olden times.
Z: Parking is a challenge along the busy Ventura Boulevard corridor, but valet parking is readily available.
Reviewed September 2018