The Hungry Cat: How Not to Turn Up Your Nose at Fine Dining

A few days after my attempt to be en vogue and eat at Dish, I thought maybe I had been too critical. Maybe I was just not used to eating at fancy restaurants where eating doll-size portions are the chic thing to do. But au contraire – I was correct in my original lambaste. And what solidified my critique? Nothing but a ridiculously expensive dinner at a lauded restaurant.

On Sunday night (yes, it was Valentine’s Day), I dined at The Hungry Cat, a restaurant that has won over way too many official foodies to count. It seemed strange to have a raw bar and seafood restaurant tucked away between a cheesy Italian 50s era lounge and a border amid the florescent glimmer of Hollywood and Vine. The raging tourist glam struck at the edges of their outdoor patio, inviting the un-initiated Hollywood-ite in to partake in the fancified edges of the elite.

But thank god it was anything but that. No tasteless hostess impressing the fact that she had just had her head shots redone or the over-sized tourist trying to figure out who was a movie star. We quickly opted for an indoor seat, as the patio seemed to lap up the orange glow from Border’s wall. Seated we found an acceptable wine list, a bevy of cocktails (probably the most “Hollywood” aspect) and a fixe prix menu for the substantial sum of $70 per person. Of course my funemployed self inwardly gasped, but I was quickly reassured that this in fact was the real deal and we would partake.

Boy was I glad I did. If there was ever a moment where I doubted myself capable of an indulgent lifestyle, all confidence was restored as we ordered away: kenpachi with blood oranges and a vinaigrette and a dungeness crab salad for the first courses; butter poached lobster with seared pork and artichoke and scallops on a bed of risotto and foie gras for the 2nd (we each ordered one dish for each course). But I have gotten ahead of myself: the waiter brought us an amuse-bouche (mouth fun, for the literalists out there), or a mini appetizer to tease the palate, of a rock shrimp ceviche and a cured fish (I was already a bit tipsy from the atmosphere and the price so my memory failed me on the exact details of several things).

This is then what happened: 1. Open mouth. 2. Place food in mouth. 3. Taste 4. “Am I in food heaven?” 5. Swallow 6. Repeat.

Let’s just say this was the ongoing reaction of the night. There was also an appearance of oysters, still dripping salt water, in the magical numeral of 6 (Dish, this should be a lesson – who can share 3?). The first course was delightfully light, both the kenpachi and the crab melting away into the best kind of obscurity: the pit of the stomach and memory. Already it was hard to believe things could get any better. But if the words “butter” and “lobster” aren’t a magical combination, I don’t know what is. The pairings amazing – scallops and foie gras? An immaculate combo of richness and delicacy. I think I can still taste it in my Proustian memory, sans any notion of childhood.

Dessert was shockingly simple when we ordered it: a lemon tart with a berry sauce and a flourless chocolate-peanut butter cake. At this point, I was wondering if this was some sort of elaborate farce – maybe I was actually dead. Everything couldn’t be really this good. But no it was. The desserts were far from simple and I had a feeling I might have to be rolled back to the car like the girl who turns into a giant blueberry in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. After listening to the couple next to us who seemed to recognize all the staff, we learned that the food was ALWAYS this good.

I was definitely satisfied – I’d finally gotten to feel like I had sampled some of the items that routinely appear on Top Chef, but that my culinary skills and budget limit me from trying, and I’d actually gotten to eat a meal worth the outlandish cost of a high-end restaurant. Let’s just say I’m looking for an excuse to go back. And bonus points on the name.

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