Barbrix is the sort of restaurant and wine bar every neighborhood should have; the Silverlake area of Los Angeles is that lucky location.
The chef is Don Dickman, whose cooking at Rocca led Times’ reviewer Irene Virbilia to say that he’d “channeled a Tuscan grandmother.” At Barbrix Dickman has expanded his range of grandmothers from Morocco and Spain to Greece, all centered on the Mediterranean.
Start out with the Cantimpalitos, Spanish sausages, roasted cauliflower, crispy pork belly, and an Asian detour to blistered Shishito peppers. Of course, pick among the sliced meats and well-chosen cheeses.
For a main course, can you resist Don’s Pappardelle with Guinea Hen ragu? I can’t. He has a way with scallops and if his Moroccan-flavored lamb chops are on the menu grab them.
There’s a short list of desserts, but the truth is I’ve always ordered a lot of appetizers, meats and cheeses, so I have to take the word of others that the ginger shortcake and the torta are wonderful.
Sign up for the Barbrix e-mail alerts to Don’s once a month, Sunday dinners. I missed the bouillabaisse but made it to the 3-course short rib meal that started out with Pecorino flan, grilled broccolini, and a chunk of crispy speck jauntily stuck in the flan, followed by the marvelously tender, flavorful short ribs (off the bone, topped with a horseradish crème fraiche) accompanied by apple braised red cabbage and apple dumplings, with a third course of a well-chosen Stilton cheese with home-made spice bread and chestnut honey. The tab was $28.
Plus, of course, wine. Owner Claudio Blotta helped put together the wine lists for La Terza and Campanile. His choices at Barbrix are not the usual suspects. They pair brilliantly with Don’s cooking and are fairly priced.
Another once a month special is a cooking class that Don gives on Saturdays, though you can learn a lot by sitting at the counter right in front of his tiny (and I mean New York tiny) cooking station. At the short rib dinner, as he turned out dozens of meals (careful prep the day before is everything), he explained to the couple sitting next to me at the counter exactly how to make those apple dumplings. I wish I’d had the wit to have taken notes, but I was too busy enjoying the food, and watching the ballet of Don and his right-hand assistant (so that’s how they pick up hot steel pans and ladles sitting in hot broth without burning themselves – they use tongs).
As wonderful as the cooking and wine is the front room orchestration of Blotta’s wife, Adria Tennor. She manages to coddle regulars, of which there are many, while recognizing and taking good care of the occasional visitor.