I’ve passed by the 64-year-old Brite Spot diner in Echo Park numerous times, usually on the way to Dodger Stadium. I never thought much about it other than noting the sign was pretty cool. But when I heard that Dana Hollister, owner of One-Eyed Gypsy and Villains Tavern in the Arts District downtown and Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake, had recently remodeled the restaurant and revamped the menu, I was intrigued.
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First & Hope, the gorgeous supper club in the not-so-gorgeous strip mall at the corner of 1st and Hope streets (clever, huh?) in downtown Los Angeles, certainly has lots of style. From the mood-changing lighting in the sleek dining room to the servers outfitted by “Mad Men” assistant costume designer Allison Leach, the restaurant screams class. I just wish the food spoke as loudly to me — in a good way.
I had visited First & Hope once before during its preview night when the atmosphere was close to mayhem. It was very crowded, and while the servers did their best, it was hard to get a good idea of what the food and drink should have been like.
So when presented with an invitation to have dinner at the restaurant under normal circumstances, I decided I would give the place another chance. I would have a proper meal and make a better-informed decision about First & Hope’s merits.
And I’ve made my decision: I would only come back here for one, maybe two, dishes.
You see, the menu sounds good; it reads like a food blogger’s wet dream, with foie gras, bacon and pork rinds littered all over its comfort food-centric offerings. But First & Hope leaves much to be desired in execution.
First, the cocktails. Nearly every one contains some kind of bubbly, no doubt an homage to the vintage style. I get it, but I thought the drinks were just OK, which was pretty much my summation after the preview party, too. I had an Elle for Leather, made with Famous Grouse scotch, vanilla syrup, “a touch of effervescence” and garnished with a vanilla pod. It smelled amazing due to the vanilla pod but tasted light on the scotch.