Los Angeles is surprising… just when I get a feel for the lay of the land, I learn that LMU is actually down the street, and that Playa Vista is an uncharted territory for me. California’s size allowed the estimable Huell Howser to wander the state for so long and never run out of stops. LA is California writ smaller, but still inexhaustible. Setting up lunch with a friend in the wine business, another person with screwy hours, I decided to check out The Humble Potato, and start plotting its coordinates.
My first trek into the Playa Vista/ Westchester neighborhood and it was immediately reminiscent of the rapidly developing UCI landscape in my native Orange County. Upscale tract housing shading into any adjacent land, the area was new but familiar; as a microenvironment very different from OC, but similar too. I arrived at the corner of 83rd and Lincoln Blvd at exactly 1 PM for our lunch appointment.
A busy lunch crowd was drawing to a close and De La Soul was playing in the background as we ordered our wide assortment of menu items including: Hambàga, Battle Royale, Curry Fries and a Little Tokyo Doggu to be shared.
Tentative at first because of a similarly themed concept in Hollywood that had haunted me a couple years ago (such bland food, poorly integrated dishes and classless presentation, I couldn’t even post my review!), but from the onset it was apparent that The Humble Potato was less about attitude and more food-driven.
I decided this would be the time to test drive a holiday gift of govino wine glasses, christening them with a pour of one of the wines from my friend’s portfolio. We each had a glass of the 2010 Ferrer Ribiere Côtes Catalanes Rouge to be partnered with our food, which we would take to go.
We began with the hotdog; an inviting presentation of sauces were crisscrossed over the beef frank. The bites were smoky sweet with the applewood-smoked bacon adding extra protein. Not to mention the soy pickled jalapeño that delivered a measured dose of piquancy and the grilled onion lending more depth. An intelligent combination of flavors.
We started to dig into the fries before we would tackle our respective burgers. The curry sauce reminded my friend of a Japanese take on Poutine Fries. Each bite was messy but delicious.
Then it was time for the main attraction. My burger was simple and flawless. A fresh and perfectly toasted bun sandwiching a tender and well-seasoned 5 oz patty, with finely chopped romaine for texture, tomato, pepperjack cheese (by choice), and their secret sauce woven together cleanly. The Hambàga was stellar, delivering its flavors precisely.
On the flipside, there was the Battle Royale—a big burger—that presented a challenge as to how my friend could possibly eat that cleanly. The fried egg, bacon and avocado were included to make it the kitchen sink burger. It looked great and became napkin fodder.
Best part was how well it all meshed with our chosen French red. The dark fruit was brought out and the acidity tamed the spicier components of the meal. Everything a success!
It was like I had seen it all before, from my drive through the new neighborhood to the Japanese infused American restaurant. The real difference was the food, which stood out, delicious, and put my themed-food fears to rest. The menu showcased a smartly crafted board of culinary delights. The atmosphere was stylish and better served the food, in comparison to that Hollywood establishment that left a lot to be desired. The Humble Potato warrants a repeat visit and I can’t wait to get back and find out what else has been hiding in Playa Vista.