Hidden in the Beverly Center lies a mysterious luxury seafood restaurant. Is it worth the hunt?

Review: Luxury seafood from star chef Joshua Skenes at Angler in the Beverly Center.

12.9.2019

Hidden in the Beverly Center lies a mysterious luxury seafood restaurant. Is it worth the hunt?

Review: Luxury seafood from star chef Joshua Skenes at Angler in the Beverly Center.

Welcome to the domain of chef and restaurateur Joshua Skenes, Los Angeles edition. Skenes built his reputation over the last decade at San Francisco’s Saison, one of the country’s most extravagant tasting-menu restaurants. He polished some themes in the kitchen that have come to define his overarching aesthetic: a focus on sustainable seafood, highlighting less-common marine life (sea cucumber was a favored ingredient during my first meal there in 2014), and also an obsession with wood fire, with the intensified textures and flavors he can seemingly coax from any food transformed over flames and embers. He does love to express excess through caviar. For a while at Saison he served great blobs of the stuff spilling over biscuits split and still steaming. It was pretty amazing.

Which brings us to the fortresslike Beverly Center, where the second Angler arrived in June. First point of business: The restaurant is not visible from the street. Enter the mall at the La Cienega Boulevard entrance near Macy’s or risk wandering aimlessly through the parking structure; valet while dining is free.

Diners willing to spend the money likely will walk away impressed by the dishes they choose. I’m less confident about the universal enjoyment of the setting. It’s a mood: fishing lodge by way of David Lynch. Taxidermy, thick firewood paneling, stacks of wood, aquariums with sea creatures awaiting their fate (one massive king crab, tagged at $128 per pound, has been nicknamed “Shelley”). Low lighting casts tapering shadows throughout the cloistered space: The air somehow feels charged with portent. I sit in the dining room, staring at the arcane-looking drying herbs hung around the open kitchen and the hearth’s leaping flames and think: Is some sort of mystery dinner theater about to begin?

No starter better matches the twilight atmosphere than a radicchio salad that gained infamy in San Francisco: It comes out as a nearly full head, its red-veined foliage glossy with a dressing made from tougher outer leaves, garlic and shallots that grill slowly on the hearth for two days (a variation on a theme for sauces throughout much of Skene’s ethos) and then further cooked with honey and vinegar made from radicchio. Cut through the salad and it bleeds; the bottom of the plate looks like surgical aftermath.

For mains, gravitate to whole poached marble fish, its texture like a denser sole and served with its skeleton fried to a crisp for nibbling; and, moving away from the sea, a whole, gorgeously blistered roast chicken. Fill out the meal with carbs: phyllo-thin sheets of potatoes layered, grilled, basted in butter and paired with a sauce often using cheeses from Sonoma’s Cowgirl Creamery; an impeccable tray of Parker House rolls. The sundae with campfire-scented caramel brings closure to the sweet-and-smoky motif — or you could always order more caviar with banana pancakes.

8500 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (424) 332-4082, anglerrestaurants.com. (La Cienega parking entrance in the Beverly Center.)

Read more: L.A. Times Food

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