It was sometime during the summer this year that I saw this Eater article with Little Bird’s Erik Van Kley about chicken frying trout, and the photo essay made me hungry. The trout is fried in buttermilk for its Southern influences, but then has Thai influences in that it is served in lettuce cups to wrap and eat. It wasn’t until last week though that I finally tried it- and it was a warm hug to my tummy to prepare me for the winter air. I think it’s even more appropriate now this time of year then when I first read about it.
I hadn’t been back to Little Bird Bistro for a couple years. When they had first opened, I had left with a bad taste in my mouth from the service during a group dinner, but later, since the restaurant is so close to F’s work/Bailey’s, I had an opportunity to dine at the bar several times for happy hour, and each time I thought it fine: service still a little too distant at the time to feel like a comfortable bistro, but solid food. I also realized that my experience was also during the first year that the restaurant and opened, and I knew it was still busy and I had heard that the restaurant had settled itself since then. It deserved another chance- but just hadn’t made it up towards the top of my to do list.
More recently, I saw via various food news I follow that Little Bird decided to close their doors the day before Christmas Eve for taking a holiday break until January 3, 2014, for which I respected both Gabriel Rucker (owner and chef of the famous Le Pigeon) and the chef that heads Little Bird, former sous chef of Le Pigeon, Erik Van Kley.
Further more, during their last week and a half of being open, they were offering any lunch diners a $14 gift certificate to encourage us to come back during January and February of 2014. I know these months are often hard on the restaurant and bar industry, since after the splurge of spending during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, people tend to pull back a bit on going out, and the colder winter weather doesn’t help either. Everything – the winter break, the gift cert to encourage lunch diners in Dec and then back in Jan/Feb, seemed so smart.
And then there was that chicken fried trout floating in the back of my mind too, invitingly.
When I completed most of my work tasks by lunchtime on my own last work day before my vacation/holiday break of almost 2 weeks, it seemed like the perfect time to finally get that chicken fried trout. I made a reservation on my phone via Opentable and was off! Even arriving at 1:30, the place was quite bustling with lunch rush still. I dined at a table and thought the service was smooth and fast without feeling rushed, and seemed warmer, friendlier, more a balance of casual yet sophisticated than my previous experiences. I look forward to coming back for another lunch soon.
As for that chicken fried trout? It was delicious, crisp and flaky but delicate and silky smooth inside. There was the clean brightness of the lettuce cups that envelope it, countering the mayo-like gribache sauce. There was a grassiness from a mixture of generous chives and dill rained upon the large fish that are now and then contrasted with wiggles of dijon mustard, some crunch via shreds of pickled carrots, deep fried capers, and beautiful thin slices of radish. I would recommend sharing this with at least one other person as it is a pretty big fish and can get overwhelming as just an entree on its own as I think the friedness and the gribache are pretty heavy.
My favorite fish dishes are Thai deep fried fish, and they are usually paired with a pretty spicy chili sauce or salad (as shown below, from a dish in Chiang Mai), so asking for a really spicy cocktail could also be an option. With the leftovers, you can also go Chinese style with a spicy black bean sauce or some garlicky soy sauce with green onions or cilantro (as shown below, from my favorite fish dish in LA! We drive like an hour to get to the restaurant to get that- well and also lobster at that Tan Cang Seafood restaurant) and slivers of ginger, or chili sweet and sour sauce.
That’s right, I totally just went to a French bistro restaurant and started with a dish that had Southern and Thai touches and Chinese-ed it up later. This chicken fried trout is just perfectly executed and a solid protein palette for any flavors of your choice.
Remember Little Bird Bistro is on winter break until next week, January 3, 2014!