On a rare visit to The Valley, I recently stopped by Raphael, a Studio City restaurant with a focus on international fare. The menu has been revamped with Asian influences by Chef Adam Horton (most recently of Saddle Peak Lodge), who spent some time not long ago traveling the region.
The items I liked best from Horton were the Asian ones. The Crispy Pork Belly, a kind of deconstructed banh mi made with house-made French sausage, nuoc mam fish sauce, capsicum, herbs and pickles on brioche, was my favorite item off the Bar Bites menu, where nothing tops $12. The different layers of flavor were very satisfying, not to mention pretty.
Speaking of pretty, check out the Som Tam made with green papaya, Thai chili, lime, garlic, peanuts and herbs. I really like Thai papaya salads, and this one is a tasty choice.
The cocktail menu, designed by mixologist Chris Parke (formerly of the Patina and SBE restaurant groups), has some noteworthy drinks, too. The Balsamic, made with Ketel One vodka, muddled strawberries, balsamic vinegar and lemon, reminded me of Matt Biancaniello’s Last Tango in Modena at Library Bar in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, but it was lighter and brighter.
The New Fashioned, made with Makers Mark bourbon, muddled peach and cherry, Regan’s orange bitters and soda, came with a pickled cherry that Parke had recently made. He admitted that he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the cherries, so I’m not really going to fault the strange combination of the pickled cherry with the sweetness of the rest of the drink. The cherry aside, any cocktail with bourbon and peach is OK by me.
And FYI: The Cilantro cocktail made with Karma tequila, cilantro, jalapeno, Cointreau and agave nectar is super spicy!
Raphael’s happy hour in the bar area takes place from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and features half-off appetizers from the dinner menu (the Crispy Pork Belly is on both the dinner and Bar Bites menus) and bartender’s choice of three different $8 glasses of wine. No cocktail deal, unfortunately, so you’ll pay $13 for the specialty drinks at all times. The Bar Bites menu is offered at the bar after 9:00 p.m. during the week and after 10:00 p.m. on weekends.
Note: This meal was hosted.