The selling point of this Greenpoint wine bar is that it serves exclusively Californian, mainly natural, wines. The emergence of a natural wine scene in California is salutory, and there's some very good stuff coming out of it. Of course, it's stupid expensive.
I think I don't see the point of wine bars. To me, wine is a condiment as much as it's anything: I drink it to complement food. At most wine bars, the food is either undistinguished or insufficiently substantial. (Four Horsemen is the Great Exception.)
Or you can have the problem there is here. (Not an insurmountable problem, I should emphasize: I really quite liked this place.) The food is good (eat your heart out, LaLou) -- and while it's clearly portioned for sharing, one person can make a sensible meal out of it. The problem is that the quite good food -- Asian-inflected California, I think I'd say -- doesn't seem particularly wine-friendly. Take their star dish, something that everyone in the place (including me) ordered the night I was there: crispy chicken legs. This has a moderately high Asian spice component, which makes it delicious to eat, but a problem for wine. You don't want to go to a wine bar and feel trapped into ordering the kinds of wine that go with spicy Asian food.
Very nice wine selection -- and everything on the list is available by the (small or large) glass as well as by the bottle (eat your heart out, LaLou). They're missing some of the more esoteric stuff -- I went to an Abe Schoener-organized West Coast wine tasting at Aska recently that was really eye-opening -- but I bet they'll get to that as they establish themselves.
The staff (and owners) could not be sweeter. I enjoyed hanging out there.
I like this place. It's problematic -- but good enough to return to despite that.
I feel so guilty about posting in the Paris thread about restaurants I've never been to that I'm finally constrained to get around to writing about this restaurant that I have been to. It's been so long -- three months??? (I guess to mongo that's nothing) -- that my comments will be even more general than usual.
What's impressive about this restaurant is how it works as a gestalt. It's in a very Post-Post-Modern office building seemingly dumped by Martians into an otherwise unprepossessing warehouse area in Culver City. The restaurant was designed (in conjunction with Chef Jordan Kahn) by the same architects who designed the building -- and boy is it designed. But here's the thing: Kahn's reportedly intense participation in the design process means that everything about the restaurant springs from a single sensibility that you can feel at work. A more totalist experience than you ever have had in a restaurant. (If I remember right, they gave us not snacks but scents to take home.) (Of course, I've lost mine.) I can see how some people would find this more than a bit much. But to me, it meant that the loooooooonnnnnnng loooooooonnnnnnng dining period never got old. Even the postprandial visit to the garden for drinks and snacks, which some have complained about as a tacked-on time-extender, seemed a pleasant coda (no surprise: my date and I managed to close out the place).
So how was the food? Not quite memorable. Subject to exactly the objections you'd expect: complication for its own sake, willfully odd combinations, conceptual muddle. But I'll tell you what: nothing tasted bad. (I realize that seems like ridiculously faint praise when you're talking about a meal at a very expensive restaurant -- but how many Modernist meals fail in exactly that way?) Dishes ranged from inoffensive (good, even) to very interesting (and still good). I think you could make a good case, if you wanted, that Chef Kahn still thinks like a pastry chef: very precise deployment of ingredients and technique. When (read that Paris thread) what we value now is a little (this isn't quite the word) sloppiness (voyager would call it "soul").
So, not a great restaurant (like, say, Maaemo). Very much worth going to once. I doubt you'd feel you need to return.