2128 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90027 (map); 323-661-0055; littledoms.com
Cooking Method: Wood Grilled
Short Order: A neighborhood Italian restaurant wood fires a burger that will haunt your burger dreams
Want Fries with That? Yes, but don't don't call them fries; the fried potatoes here are a masterful reinterpretation
Prices: Wood Grilled Burger (w/fried potatoes), $12 at lunch, $15 at dinner
Notes: There are loads of right turns on Little Dom's menu, but if you want an additional side for your burger meal, I'd go with the excellent rice balls
Among the many dreams cradled in the landscape of my Los Angeles, there exists a range of possibility. On one end lives a young man's desire for achievement and recognition. I've spent years working in the movie and TV businesses, and with that comes a de rigueur fantasy life of what may come; mayhap a screenplay that punches my ticket for a first class Hollywood ride? On the other end is the dream of a simple life in a pleasant neighborhood that has some decent shops and great burgers that are in walking distance of my home.
The problem is, in this city the latter can seem like the fantasy end of the spectrum. That's why a recent walk up one of the retail drags of my neighborhood that ended at a restaurant called Little Dom's seemed like the stuff of dreams. The mid-range Italian restaurant has, since it first opened, positioned itself as the neighborhood restaurant of choice for those with a little taste and few dollars to spend on it, but I'd been steered away from the burger by a friend. Of course, when it comes to burgers, I can only stay away for so long.
The Little Dom's Wood Fired Burger would likely be described by most as fusion cuisine, but when chatting with chef/owner Brandon Boudet, it's clear that this one is more of a mash-up. Despite being still relatively young, Boudet has a cooking career that has an impressive breadth and lineage. He's from New Orleans and came up under Emeril and Paul Purdhomme, but has also worked in New York (The Park) and Las Vegas (Hard Rock Casino). Through that time he racked up a range of techniques that seem to slip into his Italian menu at Little Dom's, making it seem like less of a self-conscious enterprise in fusion cooking and more of the natural impulse of a chef with experience.
For the patty, Boudet chose a blend of chuck and dry-aged chuck. It's given a medium grind and portioned to about eight ounces. Italian elements come in the form of a creamy burrata, grilled speck, foccacia bun (from Breadbar), and a reworked mostarda. The last ingredient is a traditional fruit and mustard condiment for boiled meats and cheeses, but Boudet mixes some roasted tomatoes and mustard seed for his version. The traditional American toppings begin and end with a leaf of lettuce.
The patty, while only seasoned with salt and pepper, is rich and flavorful all on its own. I suspect the wood firing is part of the reason—there's the smokiness and char you'd expect, but the wood smoke has an almost-sweet quality that matches the bite of the dry-aged beef. Alongside the mild and creamy burrata the effect is impressively luxe. The grilled speck is a welcome bit of salt without overwhelming the other flavors (the way bacon can) and the mostarda adds a measure of acidity along with some sweetness. (Boudet adds shallots, garlic, Worcestershire, and brown sugar to the roasted tomato and whole grain mustard seeds.) The lettuce seems to be there as much for color as anything else, but it's certainly not out of place.
The only element that fell a little short for me was the foccacia bun. While Breadbar makes some great products, the foccacia bun is not great on its own and certainly not as good as any part of Boudet's burger. That said, it's certainly no critical failure. It holds up against the rest of the ingredients and is in proper ratio to the meat.
Boudet has enjoyed success around the city with his other restaurants The 101 Coffee Shop and Dominick's, but Little Dom's is unquestionably my favorite and not in small portion due to the Wood Fired Burger. It's true that my delight is partly due to proximity, but it's also true that Little Dom's makes an excellent burger. Along with the delicious, lemony fried potatoes, Boudet offers one of Los Angeles' burger meals that's really worth a drive. The fact that I can walk there feels like evidence that sometimes dreams do come true.
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