On Friday afternoon we hopped a plane to Burbank to go out to eat. If we were back a few forty years when air travel was actually fun, I may have done it just for the heck of it. Now, in this age of cattle herding and no leg room, the only thing that could get me to do back to back flights is David's cooking. David Wilcox, my former mentor and one of our dearest friends, has been floating ever since he left MV Beerworks a few years back. So when we got the news that he had found a space and was going for it, we started counting down the days.
Back in July we went down for a few days to help him out in the new space. It was a dark mess in there, fourteen years as an ongoing restaurant left layers and layers to unravel. Nick baked a little bread and I made some jam, but mostly just sweated it out in the new space on 100 degree days, sitting in on staff meetings and getting to know his partners and crew. When it was time to leave I was actually sad that I wasn't part of the team (even though you would have to pay me one million dollars to be a part of a restaurant opening again). David, Guy and Fredel pulled together a stellar bunch of people and opened a restaurant that I think is one of the best in LA.
I got to spend time with Lisa Masuda, David's sous-chef, a role I used to hold (aka "Mom"). We commiserated on being the hyper-organized other half to the wild man. She's got a tough job! But we agreed that it is all worth it, especially to have the chance to get inside his endlessly creative, frequently surprising and always passionate cooking brain (he will be rolling his eyes right about here). Most of the night I hovered around Fredel who was working expo. She came in as a partner and is filling one million roles all at once, effortlessly and elegantly. One role we laughed about was making sure to feed David - restaurant openings and taking care of yourself do not go hand in hand, and the guy was actually shrinking before our eyes.
And then there's Guy. I went home after meeting him for the first time and told Nick that I wished I was his cousin. Him being a Persian Jew and me being a Tunisian Jew I thought there could be some distant possibility of being related to this infectious, energetic personality. But I will settle for just being his friend. He is a front of house magician, a welcomer, a schmoozer, a wine expert, an organizer and a leader of troops.
Ok but what about the food! Holy mama, I was so happy with everything that I put in my mouth. There were five of us so we were able to try 3/4s of the huge menu. One of my favorites was the totally out there combination of Pork Belly, Grilled Squid, Smoked Oyster Aioli and Pickled Mouse Melons (!!). Then there was a raucous duck confit served with pistachio butter, a saffrony garbanzo salad filled with squid and mussels and one of the best and strangest tartare's I have ever had made from lamb's heart. Oh David.
Eating at Journeymen felt like being in my own living room, it had absolutely none of the pretension and sceny-ness usually associated with hip new restaurants. Every staff member walking around the room is able to help you, knows what your table has already eaten and what you need next. It is convivial and warm. I truly cannot wait for another 15 hour trip to eat at my favorite restaurant.