Driving through the mountains on the way to Montrose at twilight reminds The Monster how transcendently beautiful Los Angeles can truly be. We’ve got it all. Oceans and beaches, mountains and desert, thriving arts and happening restaurants. From the home base in Santa Monica, Montrose is essentially on the moon. Take the 10 East to the 110 North to the I-5 North to the CA-2 North to the 210 East and get off at Verdugo Boulevard and head left, taking another left on Verdugo Road. Thirty miles away and fighting rush hour the entire time. So yes, Bashan is on the moon. But it is Zagat meal #13 on the final leg!
The restaurant itself is a blink and you miss it affair made up of one long, narrow, dimly lit room. At first blush it is good looking but upon closer inspection it’s a bit of a slapdash stab at urbane cool. Still, not an unpleasant place to be. Decent music piped in, an accommodating waiter, and a menu that’s piqued the interest of The Monster mean it holds much promise.
Mr. and Mrs. Monster are meeting friends and a happy surprise when they bring their lovely eleven month old son. An absolute MIT (Monster-In-Training), he is incredibly well behaved and absolutely adorable. Still, this is fine dining (in Montrose no less!) so a restaurant could hold umbrage. Not Bashan, they were classy to a fault and truly accommodating.
On to the menu. It’s small but well thought out and hits enough notes for most eaters to find something to their liking. Meat and seafood eaters (and perhaps you veggies) will all be comfortable here. The wine list is reasonably priced and interesting but definitely not comprehensive. Wine connoisseurs may be more pleased bringing their own bottles. A few craft beers are also available.
The Monsters decide to split the blue crab salad with avocado, yuzu aioli, piquillo peppers, breakfast radish, micro mustard greens, pink grapefruit along with the sweet corn soup composed of caramelized onions, corn fritter, chives and olive oil to start.
With the bread serving (olive or sourdough) comes an amuse bouche of red beet gazpacho. It’s light, fresh and despite The Monster’s fears it might drift toward being too earthy quite refreshing.
The crab is fresh and simple. It’s a dish that doesn’t try to mask blue crab’s natural flavor with too many accoutrement. In and of itself it might not show range or extraordinary technique but it proves a chef willing to let the ingredients be the star.
The soup proves even better. Sweet corn and caramelized onion play deftly against the corn fritters more grounded flavor. Quick work is made of it and then extra sourdough bread sops up the last of it.
Between courses a bottle of wine is ordered and the group happily awaits the arrival of our main dishes. Our MIT is asleep in his carriage, a perfect dinner companion.
It is with the main courses that Bashan loses some ground. This is not an inexpensive restaurant (entrees between $22-$35) and it is in Montrose, not Beverly Hills. The chicken is perfectly cooked and the sides delicious. The scallops are while not revelatory a fine dish. Our companion reports his steak is tender and full of flavor.
But these are miniscule portions at maximum cost. An intimate, chef-driven restaurant will often account for higher tariffs and smaller portions but in this case it is a bit egregious.
Undeterred, it’s dessert time. Consensus is to sample both the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, vanilla mascarpone cream, orange puree, poached pineapples, roasted pistachios and the crème fraîche cheesecake with walnut-graham cracker streusel, dulce de leche, mocha almond fudge ice cream.
Forget the carrot cake. If you like carrot cake it’s perfectly fine. The Monster loves carrot cake and still says forget it.
The cheesecake is that fantastic. The texture, temperature and taste combination is a work of art. So much so the group orders a second and quickly gobbles that up too.
Bashan ends up being a fantastic surprise, fine dining (even if pricier than it should be) in the most unlikely of places. And that’s precisely why The Monster started this adventure fourteen years ago. And the adventure continues. Because three doors down is La Cabanita, Zagat restaurant #12!
Why go? Freeway traffic really excites you. And the food is great.
Monster rating: 4/5 Monsters
3459 N Verdugo Road
Glendale, CA 91208