In general, I pretty much despise driving out to the West Side of Los Angeles. It’s an arduous, congested drive that can suck the soul from your body. However, there are a few culinary draws that make the trek more than worth the effort: Bay Cities Deli and Don Antonio’s in Santa Monica, Mariscos Chente in Marina Del Rey, and most recently MB Post in Manhattan Beach. Now comes another beachside contender in the form of The Tripel, a tiny gastropub in Playa Del Rey that prides itself on “Social Lubrication.” I was recently invited down to PDR for a media-comped meal at The Tripel, and I have to admit I was thisclose to bailing. After all, it was the day after Halloween, and I was officially beat. However, I had a strange feeling that this would be a meal I wouldn’t want to miss; so I hopped in the ol’ Camry and ventured across LA to the quaint, little oceanside corner that is Playa Del Rey.
Was it worth the trip? Pics after the jump…
Outside The Tripel. Note the emphasis on Social Lubrication.
The charming bar.
There’s not a ton of seating at The Tripel — I’m talking only a few tables. However, there’s plenty of room at the bar to order a beer or three while you wait for a seat to open up.
Upon arrival, I order one of the restaurant’s signature beer cocktails. I forget its name, but it involves ginger and lemon juice. It’s actually quite lovely. Don’t worry — I did eventually order a tripel too.
The first thing that jumps out at me on the menu is this: the Humboldt Fog “baklava” with peppercress, toasted walnuts, and herbed honey vinaigrette. I seem to remember figs too, but I may just be crazy. Nevertheless, the baklava is actually just warm goat cheese wrapped in filo dough, and as such it’s totally tasty. This is essentially a warm goat cheese salad, and I’ve yet to find one that I haven’t enjoyed thoroughly. That being said, I was really looking forward to something more truly baklava-y. Yeah, I’m making up that word.
Here’s something new: red curry coconut milk biscuits. That’s right: it’s the unlikely pairing of Thai flavors with country biscuits, and guess what? the combination is awesome. I never thought the marriage of red curry and an old American favorite would work so well, but it does. This dish proved to be my favorite of the night, if only because it was so unexpected and different. But don’t get your hopes up, people. These biscuits were dropped from the menu a week ago.
This date dish was also in contention to be one of the best of the night. Chicken-stuffed dates in a bright pepper sauce. The big, bold flavors going on in this dish instantly reminded me of the exciting stuff happening at MB Post, just a few miles down the coast. And that’s a good thing. The sweetness of the date mixed with the savoriness of the chicken and the boldness of the sauce had me reaching in for seconds and thirds. A nice take on the usual bacon-wrapped date (which, don’t me wrong, I LOVE).
This dish is simply titled “Baked potato dumplings,” but I can attest that there’s much more to this appetizer than just that. As you can probably see, there’s a lot going on – dumplings, poached egg, mushrooms, and even some pork belly, I believe. Once again, big flavors.
The steamed mussels and clams. A solid dish. I only wish there was more bread to soak up the broth.
The restaurant’s signature burger is The Tripel Burger, which features a wide variety elements including duck confit. This is not that. I was rapidly filling up; so we opted for the “lighter” option of the Pretzel Burger, and I’m glad we did. This is a no-frills cheeseburger done just right, and the pretzel bun is a big yes-yes (which I would have to assume is the opposite of a no-no).
Of course, I don’t remember what exactly was ON this cheeseburger, but it was perfectly cooked and tasted great; so that’s all that matters, right?
We also ordered this: a calamari po’boy. Admittedly, I’ve taken a very unappealing photo. From this angle it looks like a misshapen scallop offering up frisée.
I can assure you though that this sandwich was really lovely — and a great light alternative to the burgers. It’s definitely a great choice if you’re planning on filling up on the small dishes first.
So is The Tripel worth a trek all the way from Hollywood? Hmmm…. it depends. The food was definitely very good — full of big, bright flavors and interesting compositions. Working against the restaurant in some respects is its size: I’m not sure I’d want to journey across the city only to have to stalk people for a table. Plus, for such a small place, The Tripel is unbelievably loud. I spent a good chunk of my meal asking my dinner companions to repeat themselves.
That being said, there are great virtues in a small space — mainly the coziness of it all and the very warm service. Plus, being that The Tripel is located just a mile or so from the tarmacs of LAX, it makes a great — perhaps perfect — destination for those fresh off a flight and needing a bite (or a beer). In fact, it’s exactly where I’m going to take the next person I pick up at the airport. I just need to find someone who needs to be picked up.
333 Culver Blvd
Playa Del Rey, CA 90293