At Cooking Panda, we like to think we're pretty good at eating. But every pro needs practice, so we decided to train our tummies at LA's Sycamore Tavern, a new bar offering dizzyingly good drinks and seriously addictive grub.
We suggest you approach this place -- or any tempting tavern, for that matter -- with a hungry stomach and an expansive appetite. You won’t be disappointed.
We sat down and got right to business by ordering five appetizers, which, in retrospect, was an ambitious but certainly appealing choice.
"How are you going to eat all of that?" our waiter asked, clearly unbeknownst to the impressive capacities of our stomachs.
We just laughed.
Moments later, out came one appetizer after the other, and we were already looking at quite the feast. Our table was laden with a truly #spreadgoals array of pimento cheese, broccoli tempura, shishito peppers, meatballs and ceviche. Here's a breakdown of the bounty.
Extra spreadable pimento cheese got a boost from smoky peppers and was served with my favorite casual cheese vehicle, the Ritz cracker. The creamy, crunchy combo whetted our appetites for the delights to come.
Next, we moved on to a sizzling bowl of broccoli tempura: savory little bonbons of lightly fried broccoli with Asian accents of miso, scallions and toasted peanuts. The crispy exterior of each piece gave way to a soft, flavorful and somewhat healthy interior.
Simple shishito peppers cooked with ginger and garlic were a nice break between heavier appetizers. Sabba's favorite thing about the peppers is their element of surprise; sometimes you’ll pluck a milder one, and sometimes you’ll get a real zinger.
Fresh salmon ceviche with cucumber, jicama, lemon and cilantro -- flanked by a few crispy mini corn tortillas -- was a welcome cold and refreshing addition to our otherwise hot spread.
My favorite? Four hefty meatballs served in a generous helping of tomato basil sauce and buttery garlic knots on the side. Each element was strong enough to stand on its own, but for a few bites, I got fancy and made mini meatball subs with a bite of knot, a bite of meat and a spoon of sauce.
We were already near full (and if we'd had beer, eating more may have been impossible), but we weren't going to skip out on the entree portion. From a tempting menu of salads, sandwiches like an Italian muffaletta and a Cuban cubano, and pizza, we selected a tomato basil pie big enough for our table of four AND leftovers.
It was artfully drizzled with basil sauce and served piping hot, tomatoes bright with flavor and cheese melting off in lengthy strings with every bite.
Were we satisfied? Yes. Could we have gone home with happy tummies? Absolutely. But Sabba and I agreed that our "work" at Sycamore Tavern would be incomplete without sampling some sweets. The human body has a separate chamber for dessert storage, after all. So we ordered two more treats.
First up was a deep-fried fluffer-nutter, which was as excellent as it sounds. The peanut butter, marshmallow fluff and banana sandwich was fried until sweet and crispy and finished with sea salt for contrast. Let’s take a moment of silence for that oozy marshmallow goo melting down the sides.
Finally, we cooled off with a not-so-typical ice cream sandwich, made with a rice crispy treat and strawberry ice cream. It tasted like childhood.
With full bellies and happy hearts, we congratulated Sycamore Tavern on a fantastic bar meal -- and ourselves for enjoying the ride. Check out the Hollywood spot when you're in LA for a fun meal with friends.