zondag 6 maart 2011

THE QUAFF: Cocktail Hour at the Allston Yacht Club

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Angelenos might be shocked to learn this, but there’s a yacht club in Echo Park, the otherwise landlocked Eastside neighborhood that’s known for its gentle mix of hipsters and low-income Latinos. Granted, there are no yachts at the yacht club, and the closest thing to a marina is a puddle of water at the Walgreens across the street, but it is a yacht club nonetheless. Why? Just ’cause.

Specifically, I’m talking of Allston Yacht Club, a funky neighborhood spot located on Echo Park Boulevard. Run by Bostonians (we’ll try not to hold it against them) Charles Kelly and Bill DiDonna, Allston Yacht Club was named after an old inside joke between the guys who once mused that the most ridiculous venture they could ever embark on would be to open a yacht club in the Boston neighborhood of Allston. That’s why when Kelly and DiDonna had the farfetched idea to stake a claim in Los Angeles’s notoriously difficult restaurant scene, they immediately thought of their own fictional Allston Yacht Club. Hence the name was born.

Last week, I was invited to try the cocktails at AYC as part of a media-comped visit, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. I’d never heard of AYC, but I was immediately intrigued. I mean, how could I resist going anywhere in Echo Park that called itself a yacht club? I was just praying that the servers would have little skipper hats (they didn’t). In fact, if you’re looking for a nautical themed establishment, you’ll have to go elsewhere (ie. HMS Bounty in Koreatown). Turns out the Allston Yacht Club is a modern-looking space (no wooden captain wheels on the wall, sadly) that feels like it was once someone’s small home in another life. It’s not huge, but it certainly can fit many people. And when it fills up (as it did last Tuesday), it can be near impossible to hear anything over the din. AYC ranked as one of the very loudest restaurants I’d been to in LA, a problem made all the more difficult by my drinking companion, Sly, who is a self-professed low-talker. Then again, who needs to talk when you can just drink?

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We started off with nice, big jalape�o margaritas. Tuesday, it should be noted, are Tequila Tuesdays, which means margaritas and all tequila drinks (of which there are several) are only $6 all night. That’s the sort of deal I can get behind.

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Here I am about to enjoy the cocktail. And enjoy it I did. Sly and I both agreed that the first round was a bit too sweet. She ordered a second one and requested that the bartender (who was very friendly) dial down the simple syrup a touch. He did, and the cocktail definitely improved as a result. Also, bonus points for intense spiciness!

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From 5:30 to 7:30 every day, all plates on the menu are just $5. Sly and I naturally went on an ordering spree before our time was up. In the foreground we have duck confit with a fig and goat cheese mousse. Very tasty, and I particularly loved the mousse (wish there had been more!). Also on the table was a fried feta dish that made us very happy.

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This was the point where I decided to say f*ck it and turn on my flash. Sorry everyone: I have an old camera that takes bad low-light photos. Food blogger cred = GONE.

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Side note: we LOVED these glasses. Note the return of low-light mode.

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More food: in the foreground are clams (obvs). At first we thought they were just aiiiight, but as we got deeper in the bowl, we got more broth, which was quite tasty. Definitely elevated the dish. The middle plate is a merguez sausage over a corn succotash. The sausage was decent but nothing special; Sly adored the succotash. Lastly, in the back is polenta, which was easily the best of these three dishes.

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Okay, I know. Blurry photo. I took like five pics of this drink and couldn’t get a decent one. Everyone just deal for a moment. Anyway, this was my second drink, a curious concoction called “The Honey West,” which was made of rum, Canton liqueur, almond syrup & lime. It certainly had a zing to it. I wouldn’t call it my favorite drink ever — the almond syrup was a bit too sweet for me — but it wasn’t anything I’d toss out. Sly enjoyed it more than I did..

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More enjoyable to me was the next libation: Lena’s Holiday, named after Lena Headey (Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, on which she and one of AYC’s owners used to work). This drink is a mix of vodka, St. Germain, cucumber, pear & ginger. Can’t go wrong with that.

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At a certain point, Sly and I realized we were both still hungry. First up, we ordered a tasty mushroom dish that we clearly dug into before thinking of photographing. Here’s what remained a minute later after we had ravaged most of the dish. Definitely a good choice.

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And lastly: brussels sprouts, which I can assure you looked much nicer in person. This was not only the best tasting dish of the night, it was also the best value, given the size of the plate (the largest we had received all night) and the price (a lowly $6 outside of Happy Hour). This is a must-try dish.

All in all, Sly and I had a lovely time at the Allston Yacht Club. It’s a perfect little spot for Echo Park locals, and perhaps a decent option for light fare before a Dodgers game (or after). Thanks again to the staff for being so hospitable!

Allston Yacht Club
1320 Echo Park Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 481 0454
Dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30
Brunch Sunday 10-3

http://www.allstonyachtclub.com

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