COOL CULVER CITY SCRATCH COCKTAIL BAR & BITES
We all know that Culver City has really blossomed into quite the quaint suburbia along Culver Boulevard; there’s the multiplex and hipster friendly Trader Joe’s, and a slew of friendly chain restaurants for cheap eats, but more recently, wine bars, fancy fare, including vegetarian options, and even hidden bar gems have popped up. And along the more daring Venice Boulevard there is cool Cuban food, hearty burgers to make a father proud, Brazilian, Thai, Mediterranean, and even Himalayan cusine to go along the more recent gastropubs that have set up shop nearby.
But head over to less traveled Washington Boulevard and you’ll find a quieter pace (along with the new metro station) and some really daring and delicious drinking and dining destinations, such as Muddy Leek, which delighted locals and foodies when it debuted with its next level farm-to-table approach courtesy of Chef Whitney Flood. Now the bar, led by Beverage Director Sara Kay Godot, a certified Sommelier, with its new scratch cocktail program is giving the kitchen a run for its money—and together creating an exciting dining and drinking experience.
Focusing on high quality spirits and locally sourced ingredients, the juices that find their way into each cocktail are fresh pressed every day, and the simple and flavored syrups (including ginger and pomegranate) are made in-house as well.
“An important distinction between our bar and some is that we are solidly a part of the restaurant, and the restaurant is a farm to table, local, organic, sustainable restaurant,” Godot explains. “Chef Whitney’s menu is concise and packed with artistically executed flavor. I am trying to mirror this in the bar program. We have a very talented bar team who are capable of making all of the classics, or a reasonable facsimile based on the products at hand, and each of us have our own little “off menu” bag of tricks as well that you can get by chatting us up at the bar. As for our House Cocktails, we tried to make a concise balanced list that riffs on classic flavor profiles and offers a little something for everyone. It was also very important to create a list that was using all house-made syrups and juices, and that we were not wasting any product in honor of sustainability. So in a nutshell, I am aiming for a small, creative, exciting, cocktail program, which is good for your taste buds, your body, and the environment, so you can feel fantastic about having more than just one.”
During our recent visit to Muddy Leek, we bellied up to the bar and started our night with the Italian Mule, mixed with vodka, Amaro Meletti, lime ginger, and soda. This is a lovely and refreshing drink that’s perfect to sip outside under the stars. According to Godot, “This like an adult ginger pop, it is fantastic with spicy dishes, pork (like our Ginger-Garlic-Honey Ribs), and citrus centric fish dishes.”
Meanwhile, the Blind Lemon Jefferson, made with rye, in particular Bulleit Rye (a great touch), lemon, and bitters is a delicious Old Fashioned kind of cocktail that will start your night right. “This is a bluesy riff on an Old Fashioned,” Godot says, “and it is wonderful with our Flat Iron Steak or our Sliders.”
In need of some sustenance while we enjoyed our impressive libations, we ordered the Apricot and Manchego “Monte Cristo” (think delish grilled cheese) and the amazing and audacious Chicken Fried Bacon. Only in America would someone bread and fry bacon. God bless America! This is an addicting starter item.
Round Two and we went with the super refreshing French 75 made with your choice of gin or cognac, we went with cognac, lemon and cava, which really popped with the aforementioned Chicken Fried Bacon. The earthy Celia was honestly too minty for me and unfortunately mint is not listed among the drink’s ingredients. Godot says of the rum drink named after the wonderful Celia Cruz: “It’s a floral and savory play on a mojito with orange blossom and pickled pepper. It’s light and delicate, and pairs really well with seafood. It is also fantastic with salads and fresh veggies, if you pop in at lunch, it is a match made in heaven with our fish tacos.”
Not feeling the minty Celia, the bar created the Waltzing Matilda for me. This special drink is made with Jameson (my favorite) and Eagle Rock IPA, but it had too much beer for my liking, negating the Jameson taste I love so much.
A pleasant substitution was the Lorne, made with vodka, pomegranate, grapefruit, ginger, Rosewater and cardamom bitters, is a play on the Sea Breeze, with organic rosemary right from the patio garden. It’s a nice and light cocktail and paired well with our next round of apps, including the savory Coriander Scallops, the hearty Leek Pizzetta prepared with potato and Vella dry Jack. Other dishes it goes well with, according to Godot, are the Mushroom Risotto, and Chanterelles & Eggs.”
Round Three featured some heavy hitter cocktails to go with the Grass Fed Slider, and the no-nonsense Mac & Cheese with baked spinach from the dinner Sides menu. The
Dobbs, made with bourbon, SW Vermouth, and fernet, is a solid Manhattan like drink. This is a good one and as Godot likes to say, it “pairs best with good conversation and any of our chocolate or nut based desserts.”
And equally potent cocktail is the Sr. Calarita, made with mezcal, jalapeño, cucumber, and lime. This one is spicy and smoky and not for the faint of heart. “If you are hanging out at that bar, nothing should make you happier than to have this with some hot wings,” Godot points out. “We also frequently have dishes that are roasted veggie centric, and this is a wonderful match for those. It is also a neighborhood favorite.”
Our final salvo came in the fine form of the Homemade Chocolate Truffle – a truly nice touch. Kudos to Sara Kay Godot for crafting a fine list of cocktails that pair easily with the Chef’s fine bites. Good drinks and good eats at Muddy Leeks equal good times.
“I hope that aside from just having a fantastic flavor experience, [guests] leave feeling like that have found a warm inviting place, filled with people who are passionate about what they do, and are constantly trying new things and encroaching the guest to as well,” Godot opines. “I would like the bar to be Culver City’s flavor play ground.”
Muddy Leek is located at 8631 W Washington Blvd in Culver City. Call (310) 838-2281.Happy Hour runs Tuesday-Friday from 4-6pm.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Muddy Leek