They say it’s important to know what you want in life. On this Wednesday afternoon in July, while it’s a dry 102 degrees in LA, I know exactly what I want; to be seated on a cliff over looking the Mediterranean, drink dry white wine and eat fresh seafood. Limitations of time, space and money force me to make minor compromises to my vision. So I drive to intersection of Laurel Canyon and Ventura, one of the most congested crossings in the Valley, to explore the Laurel Point happy hour.
The junction of Laurel Canyon and Ventura is the main artery of Studio City. You’re in walking distance to scores of restaurants, shopping, and CBS Radford Studios, (the home to many great television shows over the years: Seinfeld, That 70s Show, Hill Street Blues, Will & Grace to name just a few). It’s also easy access to the 101 freeway and the Crescent Heights drive through the Hollywood Hills and into Hollywood. A storm of lights and lack of thru roads means that any time of day, heading north on Laurel is impossibly slow moving. You can often see me melting down in traffic as I creep through. Laurel Point is located on the second floor of a small shopping center on the north east corner. Precisely the Mediterranean fantasy I had in mind.
Somehow I have never made it to Laurel Point. A barback of mine from my last restaurant gig was moonlighting here when it first opened about two years ago. More recently, one of my buyers makes it his second home working nights as an assistant manager. He planted the seed a few weeks ago: happy hour oysters and wine specials. In I stroll.
An escalator ride up, you turn a corner and when you first come upon Laurel Point, it looks unmistakably like you’re on the second deck of a ship. It has a Hamptons meets Jabba’s sail barge vibe. Inside it’s open and bright. It gives off the feeling of a modern boat house. You expect to see a state of the art futuristic marina if you look out the window. Instead, it’s a parking lot and bustling Ventura boulevard. But really, why look out the window? The elevated nautical theme is reflected in the decor. Playfully the entrance to the kitchen is marked, Galley; the bathroom marked, Head and the happy hour menu dubbed, Low Tide. The ceiling lights are encased in pristine gold lobster traps. 4pm on a Wednesday the place is sparsely populated. I saddle up at the bar. Lucky me, there’s baseball on the TV.
I taste two Sauvignon Blanc’s but the New Zealand is the knockout winner over the Santa Barbara. “Everyone picks the Giesen”, the bartender tells me. I relax into my bar stool, swirl and sip the Giesen Sauvignon Blanc (pale yellow, green apple, lemon, crisp acidic finish). It’s the perfect tonic for this dry, hot day. The bartender informs me she’ll be leaving shortly and turning things over to the nightime bartender. I recently commented to a friend, after spending some time with my Dad, that in his old age he seems compelled to make a corny joke with every person we see. “I think that’s just what old guys do”, my friend replied. Well, I appear to be ahead of schedule when I reply to the bartender’s news with, “I plan on taking it personally”. She smiles and tells me it’s personal but I shouldn’t take it personally. I pause to see if her joke (?) gets better with age. It does not. But I appreciate the effort. When she sneezes 4 times in a row I start by saying “God bless you”, but end with “Now you’re just showing off”. “I like the attention”, she replies. Getting better.
I have 1/2 dozen Fanny Bay Oysters and the Ceviche. None of the happy hour prices are anything to brag about, but discounts none the less. The oysters are meaty and briney. I pepper them with horseradish and cocktail sauce. The Giesen washes them down perfectly. The Ceviche is marinated in mango, lime, coconut and cilantro. Some of the fish is a little dry, but overall the taste bold and refreshing. Below is a bed of bing worthy taro chips. By the end of my second glass of wine I’m half way to accomplishing my goal. I found the flavors I was hunting for. The cliffs, blue sea and the rest of my Mediterranean will have to wait.