21 Jan The Fiscal Agent – LA’s Best New Bar Is In Studio City
The venerable Julian Cox has done it again. Along with his equally talented team, including Kristina Howald, Dave Kupchinsky, Nick Meyer, Eric Costantino and PJ Myers-Chase, they have put together one of the best new bars in Los Angeles, The Fiscal Agent.
The Fiscal Agent is an intimate bar located above Barrel & Ashes in Studio City. There is no sign out front, but you will see the doorman standing just next to Barrel & Ashes. Despite having a doorman, there is nothing pretentious about The Fiscal Agent. It is warm and inviting with cool music playing. There is limited seating, with a handful of small tables and comfortable lounge chairs in what is like a living room. And the marble bar is like sitting at the kitchen counter, where you can watch the bartenders create drinks while chatting with them. The back bar is beautifully lit with a disco ball adding just the right amount of light.
No matter where you sit in The Fiscal Agent (I prefer a seat at the bar), you will be welcomed with a cocktail amuse bouche. The amuse could be a simple glass of sparkling wine or a small Champagne cocktail, made with elderflower, tonic and Champagne. This is a lovely touch and rather enjoyable to wet the palate while perusing the menu and selecting your first cocktail.
The Fiscal Agent is named after a 19th century cocktail of the same name. While all recipes have been lost and there is no record of what exactly The Fiscal Agent cocktail was, it is believed to be related to the Julep.
At The Fiscal Agent, the drink menu is a collaboration from the talented team and represents different styles of drinks. The cocktails are all interesting, creative, inventive and delicious. There is something on the menu that will please any palate. And, if you do not know what an ingredient is or are not sure about something, just ask. EVERYONE who is trained by Julian Cox is knowledgeable about cocktails, spirit brands and historical references to drinks. They are happy to explain anything to you in a casual, conversational way. There is no preaching or pretense. They are there to make you a good drink so that you can have fun.
The drinks are all priced between $11-14. I do not think you can get drinks of this quality and caliber, in a setting like The Fiscal Agent, anywhere else in the city.
And, as you enjoy your drinks, you cannot help but marvel at the exquisite vintage glassware being used.
Kiwifruit (Gin, Ransom Dry Vermouth, Kiwi, Lime, Yellow Chartreuse) – This is a colorful, refreshing drink to start with.
Crusta Rhymes (Lustau Imperial Spanish Brandy, Earl Grey, Muddled Lemon, Palo Corado [sherry], Kirschwasser [dry cherry liqueur]) – The Earl Grey tea is subtle but brings all of the ingredients together.
Silly Rabbit (Carrot, Denizen White Rum, Banana, Coconut & Kaffir Lime Foam) – A favorite on the menu, this drink also provides you with vitamins. The carrot imparts a vegetal sweetness and combined with the coconut and kaffir lime foam, the Silly Rabbit tastes like a curry Thai dish.
Sour Peche Kid (Armagnac, Peach Brandy, Egg White, Malic Acid, Saigon Cinnamon) – The name is a fun play on words but in addition to the playfulness of the name, the drink delivers on taste. Tart and sweet, rounded out by the richness from the egg white, this is also one of my favorite drinks on the menu.
Algonquin (Rye Whiskey, Pineapple Shrub, Caramelized Pineapple, Dolin Dry Vermouth) – Pineapple is presented three ways – pineapple shrub, caramelized pineapple, dehydrated pineapple – resulting in a savory and sweet drink that is creamy on palate with just a touch of citrus hitting the top of the tongue.
Tequila Para Mi Amante (Strawberry infused Tequila, Vermouth Di Torino, Lemon, Thai Chili) – This drink has amazing aromas with sweetness on nose and tartness on palate. The Thai chili is added with a few drops on top, instead of infusing it in the drink. This allows the aromas of the chili to be highlighted and just a hint of spice on the palate.
Fall Menu: Bottled Gin and Tonic (Ford’s Gin, Cherry Bark, Chincona, Citrus Peel, Cinnamon, Burdock Root, Star Anise) – Pre-bottled, this gin and tonic is poured over ice and the aromas from the spices jump out of the glass. It is refreshing but also has warm notes from the rich spices.
Quarter Deck (Black Grouse Blended Scotch, Appleton Rare Blend, Lustau East India Sherry) – A smooth sipper, this drink has beautiful aromas of dark fruit and smoke with a slight oxidized note from the sherry.
Pig Ol’ Bitters (Pig’s Nose blended Scotch, Giffard Banane du Bresil, Angostura and Orange Bitters
Banana Highball (Roasted Banana, Acidulated Seltzer, Rye Whiskey, Tiki Bitters)
The Fiscal Agent Manhattan (High Proof Rye Whiskey, Coocchi Vermouth Di Torino, Fiscal Agent House Aromatic Bitters)
Bartender’s Choice – If for any reason you do not want one of the drinks on the menu (or if you have tried them all and want something more), go for Bartender’s Choice. Tell the bartender the spirit(s) you like and a flavor profile you are in the mood for (stirred and boozy, shaken, refreshing, crisp, smoky, rich, etc) and then let them show you their stuff.
The Fiscal Agent also offers a small menu. Chef Michael Kahikina from Barrel and Ashes downstairs has put together small plates, ranging from plates of cheese or charcuterie, small bowls of smoked almonds, marinated olives or feta cheese to arancini, Peruvian scallops, steak tartare, duck breast tartine, octopus and smoked trout rillette.
Arancini (preserved lemon, smoked tomato, crispy sage) – Not as dense as arancini can be, these rice balls are light but filling.
Peruvian Scallops (cilantro, cucumber, nuoc cham) – The scallops are are beautiful to look at as to eat and the nuoc cham adds a sweet, sour and spicy kick to them.
Steak Tartare (shimeji mushroom, jingle bell peppers, red frill mustard, hen egg emulsion) – Sweet and tangy with a little crunch, this is one of the best steak tartares I have had of late.
If you want to visit The Fiscal Agent, it is best to make a reservation. This is not because they are trying to create an exclusive bar. It is because they want to make sure that your experience is the best it can be. There is very little standing room and you will never see three- or four-deep at the bar. With a reservation, you can come in to simply enjoy a cocktail or two with friends at one of the 35 seats available. If you do not make a reservation, you can try to walk-in but be sure to go at off hours if you want to make sure you get in.
The Fiscal Agent is a complete experience, from decor, service and ambiance to drinks and food. They have thought through every little detail so that your experience will be familiar and enjoyable. This is by far one of the best bars in Los Angeles.
The Fiscal Agent
11801 Ventura Blvd
Enter Through Side Corridor
Studio City, CA 91604