Silver Lake: Matt Biancaniello at Cliff’s Edge
Longtime Library Bar bartender Matthew Biancaniello has a couple of new gigs in town including Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake. He’s behind the stick there on Wednesdays.
Although Matt may not have been the originator of “garden to glass” cocktails, he’s probably the best known bartender in LA that’s passionate about it. Cocktail after cocktail features not just fresh fruit he’s bought at the farmers’ markets around town but lately he’s been foraging as well. And he hopes to start bee keeping for his own honey as well.
I had a light and refreshing cocktail he made with toyon berries. I had not heard of these berries before but apparently they’re local to LA. Amazing.
As I sat at the bar, I watched Matt’s regulars who followed him across town come in and gift him with various herbs and things. I know plenty of popular bartenders but I don’t know how many regularly receive gifts of this kind. Some wanted drinks made with these items but most just wanted Matt to try it. And I found that fascinating. Perhaps it’ll spur his creative bent even more and maybe, just maybe, their surprise gifts will end up on a future menu.
Late last year, Cliff’s Edge hired Vartan Abgaryan to head up the kitchen. While I liked the previous chef Ben Bailly’s menu, I really love Chef Vartan’s take on things. I had noticed how much more I liked the food at Public last year and that was because Chef Vartan was really making a name for himself. He brings beautiful plating and bold flavors to the menu. My favorites this evening were the tete du cochon (headcheese) and Brussels Sprouts.
For those who don’t “do” vodka anymore, they will miss out on Matt’s smoked tomato drink. When he first told me about it, I wondered if it was his take on a Bloody Mary. Oh no, this is so much better. It’s like taking the best tomato you ever had and drinking it.
Brussels Sprouts haven’t lost their spotlight at Cliff’s Edge. I advise everyone to get their own side. You do not want to share these tender, savory bites.
Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of stinging nettles go on menus. And it shouldn’t be a surprise then when Matt whipped up a cocktail infused with stinging nettles. So far I have loved all the the cocktails, wondering which one will be my eventual favorite.
And then came the octopus with its playful plating. One tentacle casually hanging out in a garden of greens. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. We made short work of the seafoody bits.
I didn’t have a chance to check out Matt doing Bars on Fire for Novo Fogo but I did get a sneak peak at his Mugwork Caipirinha he did. He infused the mugwort into the Novo Fogo and it was a nice spin on the traditional Caipirinha.
I get asked all the time what is my favorite food and my favorite restaurant. And I generally reply it depends on my mood. Other than pork and seafood, I generally really crave good comfort food. And this lamb sausage dish would fit the bill perfectly. It has some wholesome grains, bits of veg and just the right amount of meaty sausage. Okay, I probably could have done with just one of the two sausages since I did have all that decadent food already but I was sharing everything so it worked out portion wise.
Remember how I said I didn’t have a favorite cocktail yet? Well, years ago, when I first met Matt randomly at a bar (not his own bar), we got to talking about his mushroom infused whiskey cocktail. I had for years yearned to try this and I finally got to at Cliff’s Edge.
Matt takes dried candy cap mushrooms and infuses it into the whiskey. This stirred cocktail is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, I love mushrooms, umami and bold flavors. And though not bitter, I would have to say you have to like cocktails that aren’t necessarily sweet. Perfect.
Matt’s planning on doing more cocktail pairings for Chef Vartan’s dinners. I can’t wait to check out the next one.
Matt is at Cliff’s Edge on Wednesdays
3626 West Sunset Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90026-1059 – (323) 666-6116
© The Minty 2013