3 Places in L.A. to Get Your Raclette Fix
On a backpacking trip through Europe in my early 20's I ended up in the small Alpine ski village of Isola, France. After a long day on the slopes my friend Anne-Sophie took me to a rustic restaurant for dinner -- all dark wood and fireplace and goblets of wine. There I had my first taste of raclette (rah-KLEHT), an easy, gluttonous DIY dinner in which you drip stinky melted cow's milk cheese on a pile of boiled potatoes, ham, cornichons, and in this case, pearl onions and walnuts. Wow. Melty, salty goodness that warmed our frozen toes and fingers and coated our insides like cheesy Pepto Bismol. It was the perfect après-ski treat; I have sought it out ever since.
Chris Jolly Raclette
Los Angeles is a far cry from the mountains of Western Europe but when we get a cold snap sometimes we just need a pile of melted cheese and potatoes. Traditionally, a half-wheel of raclette cheese is mounted at an angle on a stand with a heater above it. When you're ready to eat you lower the heater toward the cheese, place your plate of potatoes beneath it, and scrape the runny fromage down the slope onto your plate. Sadly, the raclette trend has not reached such proportions that you're able to find those contraptions in L.A., but these three restaurants do a damn good imitation of the finished product.
3. Bar Marmont:
Erin Lyall Raclette at Bar Marmont
You wouldn't expect a pan of melted cheese at a bar known for underfed Hollywood scenesters, but you will find it here: a fun, assemble-it-yourself cutting board of oozy raclette and potatoes, a tangle of prosciutto, a pile of purple pickled onions, sliced green apples and nice buttery bread. Chef Carolynn Spence fell in love with it in Austria and has had it on the menu in various incarnations for years. At $20 it's an expensive little appetizer but the flavors are spot on, and the mix-and-matchiness makes it a fun dish to share with friends. A word of warning, though -- the metal pan of cheese & potatoes cools quickly, so eat fast before the it starts to congeal. 8171 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles; 323-650-0575.
2. The Hart + The Hunter:
Erin Lyall The Hart & The Hunter's version
Chefs/Owners Kris Tominaga and Brian Dunsmoor have never had raclette in the Alps. They first ate it at a brewery in Atlanta, but they too fell in love with the simple brilliance of this dish. The version at The Hart + The Hunter, in the back of the Palihotel lobby, is largely pre-assembled for you: a layer of cheese atop potatoes and ham served in a hot skillet with a side of pickles, onions and chewy bread. If you're a newbie you may wrinkle your nose at the smell, but that just shows how authentic their cheese sourcing is -- plow right through and dig in. Smear the concoction on bread with a bit of grainy mustard. Close your eyes. Chew. Wash it down with a gulp of wine. Yeah, that really doesn't suck. 7950 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles; 323-424-3055.