Who would have ever guessed that a cure for charcuterie ennui awaits on The Sunset Strip, let alone at a reinvention of a forty-year-old restaurant; no less at Mirabelle? The reinvented restaurant is still soft-open in its newly transformed body, with a novel spirit stoked by chef Michael Bryant, the Father’s Office vet who helped bring small plates of Thai alligator and duck neck rillete to Pailhouse last year. At Mirabelle, Bryant’s menu centers on a selection of seafood charcuterie, a procession of smoked and cured creatures from the deep that cracks our own jadedness towards a trend that’s become so ubiquitous, we half-expect it to rear its head any day now at Baja Fresh.
The divinity is in the details here, expressed by tiny slivers of pickled kumquats served with a rum-cured hamachi, in a grape sauce and syrup of pickled blueberries serving as the jam to a monkfish liver’s foie-level suavity in a mock-up of PB&J;, or in the tiny croutons of rye beneath a salmon pastrami drizzled in a horseradish sauce. Among the clever selection of seafood charcuterie, Bryant even manages to wrassles down another gator, serving the cold-blooded killer with crayfish in a hot link.
Mirabelle, the name and owners really now the only connection to its past, embraces an eccentric new personality. The space, still with those rounded windows peeking onto Sunset, mostly achieves an eclectic harmony, somehow balancing a towering goblin of driftwood with Hindu and Buddhist statues, paint drips, and a plaster horse-head, teeth agape, mid-neigh. Okay, so that last one doesn’t work perfectly when you’re tearing into an entree and a few nooks are a little strange, but thoughtful sound design ensures you can hear your companions, while the ottomans, draped with Texas-sized versions of Donald Trump’s toupee, remind you that you may be eating somewhere cool.
Less safe and more successful is Bryant’s menu, one that makes it hard to order in sequence in starters and mains. Seafood obsessives, ever more in summer, we are happy to see Mirabelle ditch what probably could have been an accessible, easier descent into lamb sliders and pig ear salads for a refreshing approach that leads instead to the seafloor.
The undaunted selection includes fish and mariscos starring in and supporting a great number of dishes. Halibut stuffs a selection of housemade ravioli, a terrine of octopus stings with Tunisian chilies, blue crab dallies in hushpuppies, while even lamb loin is served in a salt cod emulsion, lobster reduction lends depth to a carpaccio of grass-fed beef, and pork ribs share a plate with a chopped clam salsa verde. Bryant is currently also playing with pain de mer on his menu, a melding of branzino, salmon, veal, pork, beef, and scallops into a meatloaf. , to be served with bloody mary sauce. The menu’s “magic predatory dust,” spread on French fry orders, happens to be 30-year-aged bonito, which lends a subdued, funky fermented flavor to the spuds.
The boldest directions are the best here; a tangled heap of smoky cuttlefish eclipsing a stripped-down house burger, when only a month ago, this place was mobbed for its five-dollar happy hour burgers (needless to say, many of Mirabelle’s old regulars are turning their backs) or when a familiar tower of avocado-topped tuna tartare bleeds a mignonette of yuzu-maple-sriracha.
Micro-decisions also leave a big impression, as when miniature mustard seeds pop from a gremolata of fine herbs to overshadow the crispy bits of cheek meat on a rose-tinged loin of lamb or the cauliflower puree used instead of cream in a “lobsta chowda” accentuates the sweet meat of its star. Cocktails, which any aficionado might identify as the work of Michel Dozios the second they steal a glimpse of the glaciers bobbing inside, center on the innate qualities of their spirits, which linger long with the tastes of gin, bourbon, and occasionally rum in a long list of house and classic drinks.
Still a few weeks away from its grand-opening and still engineering the menu, Bryant could again be a West Hollywood chef to stalk, poised to shake off Mirabelle’s dust with an unexpectedly novel menu geared more towards the ocean than the ranch. The Sunset Strip still isn’t our favorite place to party, but with the introduction of more intrepid restaurants from the likes of Night Market and Eveleigh, it’s increasingly becoming a place we want to eat again. Let’s hope Mirabelle joins the ranks in those months to come.
Mirabelle, 8768 W Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood.