Don’t Knock the Valley

As a native Los Angeleno who was raised in Studio City, it was “cool” to be a valley girl in the early 80s. But then it passed and by the time I was a teenager, it wasn’t as “cool” anymore.  Fortunately, I grew up in the hills close to Mulholland and had a ‘323’ phone number and was able to deflect any negative valley remarks as I “lived in the Hollywood Hills”.

Despite this stigma, Studio City has always been a great area.  It is a community of professionals and artists, singles and families of all ages.  Over the years, boutiques have opened along Ventura Blvd between Laurel Canyon and Whitsett that equal those found on the west side.  And now, great restaurants and bars are opening their doors in the east valley, drawing a thirsty and hungry crowd who are as happy as I am to have tasty local neighborhood spots.

During a recent remodel to my place, I moved back to the valley for a month and began to explore, and become a regular, at a handful of great new spots.  One of my favorites is Black Market Liquor Bar, in the former spot of the Wine Bistro.  With a cocktail list created by Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni of La Descarga and Harvard & Stone and a menu prepared by Antonia LaFosa, of Season Four Top Chef and Top Chef All-Star finalist fame, Black Market, managed by James Michael Bobby, is an inviting local neighborhood spot that I happily frequent whether for a drink or dinner with friends.

A cocktail made by Ray at Black Market

Creme de mure, tequila, lime juice, cucumbers

For cocktails (where I always like to start), my two favorites on the menu are the spicy and biting Red Hot and Bothered (Jalapeno infused vodka, strawberry, blood orange, agave, gingerbeer) and the creamy yet tart and Fields of Gold (bourbon, lemon, orange juice, orgeat syrup, grated cinnamon).  However, I like to try different things and typically ask bartender Ray Ewers to surprise me with something – and am never disappointed! (as per the photo above)

The sophisticated menu offers thick-cut dill chips with fresh herbs and a creamy, vinegar-and-salt based sauce and Deviled quail eggs with ahi tuna and dill which are great to have at the bar or start out the meal.  Even if you are not a deviled eggs fan, like me, you will devour these!

Ricotta Gnudi

One not to miss dish is the insane ricotta gnudi with savory brown butter and pistachios that just melts in your mouth!

Other favorites include:
Ahi tuna poke, charred pineapple, yuzu, cilantro, mint
Chicken bao, pickled shiitake mushroom, kohlrabi, carrot, savoy cabbage
Fennel salad with apple
Seared scallops, romesco, cavolo nero, chorizo, pumpkin seed
Oxtail ragu, perciatelli, pecorino
BBQ shortrib, raisin, jalapeno, heirloom confit tomato, brioche

Black Market Mussels
Mussels, fennel, chili, garlic baguette
The mussels are tiny but flavorful.  The broth, with caramelized onions, has a sweet flavor and is perfect to dip the toasted garlic baguette.

And, for dessert, there is the playful deep fried fluffer-nutter with fresh bananas.

Black Market Deep Fried Fluffer-Nutter

Black Market is a great neighborhood pub but you don’t have to live in the neighborhood to enjoy it!

Black Market Liquor Bar
11915 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Price: Cocktails, $9 to $12; small plates $5 to $18