Cheat Sheet: Tipple & BrineBy Lesley Balla
July 16, 2014
The Gist: Tipple & Brine brings a taste of the sea to the Valley, or at least a place for super chilled oysters, an extensive whiskey list and a menu of seasonally charged small plates. By the looks of the Sherman Oaks crowds slurpping it all up, the place was much wanted and needed. That, or they're all just in line with whatever restaurateur and Chamber of Commerce Vice President (and owner) Richard DiSisto is delivering.
The Vibe: You'll recognize this look. The entire room is made of wood, reclaimed or otherwise. Strings of Edison bulbs hang in the middle, with booths along the side, a huge (seemingly always full) bar, and tables down the center and a small patio out front. It's shanty-esque but still chic.
Eat This: Chef Mike Williams did time alongside Casey Lane at Tasting Kitchen and the now-defunct Parish before landing here, so this menu has the same sensibility. Dishes are listed by ingredients rather than descriptions, but just about every word makes you want to order everything. Things like roasted cauliflower with currants, almonds and cauliflower cream, and slabs of toast smothered in avocado mousse, briny slivers of uni and cool radishes are surprisingly pleasing. Octopus is fried, a fun twist on a pretty ubiquitous dish around LA, and served with squid ink, charred shishito peppers and piquant mojo. Anytime you order a pork chop and the server says, "You'll never want another pork chop again," just hope it's for the right reasons. This one is particularly good.
Drink This: Cocktails represent the classics and you can't go wrong with the refreshing ginger and Bourbon buck, or the smooth gin- and Champagne-filled Queen Bee. Beer and wines run the gamut with a nice selection — all by the bottle or glass. You enter the upstairs The Tunnel Bar by walking down the alley. It's a speakeasy-ish spot open only on the weekend with a more extensive cocktail menu and a stricter dress code.
Skip This: On the current menu, a gnudi dish with mushrooms missed the mark with heavy ricotta dumplings and a so-so sauce. Go ahead and ask about the oyster luge as all the signs prompt; it's a deconstructed oyster shooter that involves one briny bivalve, a shot of Bowmore scotch and instructions on what to do. It's fun and all, but we prefer our oysters and scotch served separately.
The Tab: With dishes priced between $10-$30, it's easy to drop over $100 for two if you keep adding small plates. Save a few bucks by going on Monday nights, when $1 oysters are offered all night long.
The Verdict: While this is certainly one of the most interesting restaurants Sherman Oaks has seen in years, the recipe is just as successful in cities and neighborhoods closer to us. With that said, chef Williams has created a tantalizing menu, the oysters are great, and the energy is fun. Should we find ourselves deep in the Valley needing a bite and a cocktail, Tipple & Brine is a top choice on our list. In the meantime, we doubt the locals fighting for a table will mind our absence.