When it opened in August last year, Noir Food & Wine Bar was Claud Beltran’s first stab at shaping a small-plates menu for one of his eateries. (The chef said he now loves the portioned approach.)
“I always had a dream of doing a menu with hamburger, foie gras, chile verde and gumbo — so here it is,” he said.
Beltran, who built his culinary career in Pasadena at restaurants like the recently-shuttered Madeleines, said he and partner Mike Farwell envisioned Noir as a casual place, serving straight-forward food with a touch of Big Easy style.
“There’s no food trickery,” Beltran said. “It’s not West L.A., and we don’t do foams. … We’re just trying to be very fair, honest — you know, French-, Mediterranean-, California-style food with our little New Orleans craziness.”
His approach to the kitchen craft is “seasons first,” always, he said. Visiting the Santa Monica farmers market was — and often is — inspiration for a dish, like a recent one with Japanese tomatoes.
“The guy who was selling these was like, ‘Dude, you gotta try these,'” Beltran said. “I was like, ‘Great, I’ll take 10 pounds; We’ll run ‘em as a special.’ I walked another 10 feet, and this other farmer had grown this beautiful red mizuna, so I wanted to do a Japanese tomato with a Japanese lettuce and then a Japanese dressing. It just kind of all goes together.”
The dressing is a miso-lemon sauce.
The chef’s grilled Australian lamb chops are a take on summer in Provence — served with ratatouille and a puree of olives, olive oil and garlic.
His roasted stuffed chicken leg is called the Upright Clayton, a nod to Beltran’s friend, jazz bassist John Clayton.
“He only liked chicken thighs, so if I didn’t have chicken thighs, I would run to the store and get them when I knew he was coming,” Beltran said. “So when I opened this place, I thought, ‘Why not just do chicken thighs (on the menu)?’ That’s the best part of the chicken anyway.”
Beltran stuffs the chicken with shiitake mushrooms, cotija cheese, tarragon, mixed carrots and smoked tomato sauce.
Noir Food & Wine Bar, 50 N. Mentor Ave., (626) 795-7199, noirfoodandwine.com
(Photos by Walt Mancini / Staff)