the hungry cat

By: John Sovec
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Nestled in the hectic heart of Hollywood is an amazing little hideaway that will transport any diner to the feel of a modern European café. From the moment one arrives at the Hungry Cat, the chic and simple environment, shaped in muted oranges and browns, invites conversation over good drinks and impeccable casual food. Owners David Lentz and Suzanne Goin have created a sophisticated oasis perfect for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch.

This husband and wife team have both worked at some of Los Angeles’ top restaurants – she at Lucques and A.O.C. and he at Opaline. Opening this stylish venue allowed them to step forward and prepare fresh food in an uncomplicated manner. Their secret for keeping passion alive in the kitchen is “finding new ingredients and getting in there and cooking!” This sense of fun in the kitchen is reflected in the presentation of the food, the sense of community in the space and the casual efficiency of the staff.

An important thing to know right off the bat about the Hungry Cat is that it shares the culinary sensbility of the feline counterpart in its name; in other words, this place is primarily about seafood. And not just any seafood. This is fresh east coast-style seafood served in a clean, uncomplicated manner. From crab soup to chorizo-stuffed squid, the focus is on making fish the star of each dish. Inspired by his east coast origins, David has created a menu that makes eating a fully engaging experience in which the diner is invited to savor each flavor and not feel the rush to move on to the next thing. 

Before vegetarians panic in an apoplectic fit, note that there are a limited number of options that can still provide for a nourishing and delightful evening. An heirloom tomato and watermelon salad leads the list of exciting summer fresh foods for non-meat eaters. An off-the-menu veggie plate consists of grilled fresh vegetables direct from the farmers market and can be accompanied by black kale, jicima slaw or black rice, depending on what has inspired the chefs that day. Just ask the knowledgeable and friendly staff and they will help to accommodate your requirements. Be warned though, there are few, if any, vegan options.

Vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike will be thrilled by the drink specialties. Cocktails are made with freshly squeezed-to-order juices from produce found at local farmers markets. The freshness and potency of these inventive and fun libations will change a hungry cat to an inebriated feline. The wine list, though small, is not limiting and an eclectic menu of beers is available both on tap and in bottles.

Sunday brunch is perfection on the small but shaded patio with a sense of camaraderie among diners, some of whom have undoubtedly just swept in from a yoga class around the corner at Golden Bridge. Crabby Benedict is an impish twist on the classic dish with results that are sure to convert even the most dedicated Francophile.

Sugar may be verboten and passé these days but do not pass up the vanilla beignets with blackberry compote. Each order is made fresh, arriving in a paper bag that the waiter shakes up to distribute the sugar and then opens steaming hot at the table.  Please note, if a nearby table orders the beignets, all the tables around them are immediately required to order as well. It is contagious and don’t search for a cure. Just give in!

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