Having a little time to kill in Mid-City around 5 p.m. but not wanting to spoil my dinner appetite, I decided to check out Hatfield's for a drink and a light bite . . . remembering that Mattatouille had recently tweeted that its bar is a surprisingly pleasant space to sit, sip and snack (of course, he also finds it a great place for a full-meal too!)
Arriving right when it opened at 5:30 p.m., I was easily at least a decade younger than the other early bird diners that came in at the time, not to mention the only one sitting at the bar instead of the dining area. The bartenders were still busy doing prep work, but was pretty friendly in making cocktail and food recommendations.
I'm more impressed by their complimentary bar snack -- fresh popcorn tossed with garlic-shallot oil and rosemary sprigs. So decadently aromatic with the herbs and just buttery enough on the palate -- despite what I said about not wanting to ruin my appetite, I easily chowed down on a whole bowl's worth (and had to muster some willpower to avoid finishing a 2nd bowl when the bartender refilled it!)
Off their bar snacks menu, I was intrigued by their Soup (of the day) Shots for $5, which turned out to be Fennel - which was a nicely portion serving (the two shots combined was equivalent of a cup of soup at most restaurants.) The flavor was pretty straightforward and clean, the occasionally anise-y spiciness balanced by a root vegetably body & texture. It's squarely solid soup, though personally I would have preferred a little more pizazz (even if it's purely for show -- an herb sprig or a dollop of cream would've given it a nice visual appeal.)
Alas, my brief bar time ended on a bummer note when I ordered their Manhattan ($15 made w Michter's Rye). First, my specification of Michter's Rye got misinterpreted as "Maker's [and] Dry [vermouth]" so I corrected the bartender midway through making the drink after I saw him pouring from that bottle of bourbon. Then I got distracted, so didn't notice that the Manhattan was shaken until it's been presented to me with its telltale microbubbles and ice shards. Ah well, while it was passable -- and I didn't feel like sending it back for a 2nd correction -- I kept thinking how much better it could've been, like the one at Bazaar's Bar Centro (which uses Michter's as their standard rye but is wonderfully stirred -- that magical spherified liquid cherry is just, well, the cherry on top.) However, I do give props for the trio of delightful Maraska cherries to nibble on, worlds above those bright-neon-red, overly sugary "Maraschinos."
Despite the less-than-stellar final impression, I'm intrigued enough by the rest of their menu to make a return trip, try a few more things and form a more definitive opinion. At the very least, there's always some delicious gussied up popcorn waiting for me . . . I just gotta keep a better eye on how the drinks are made.
6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, California 90038