Muddy Leek – Ambitious, But Maybe More Misses Than Hits

16 Jul

Opening a restaurant in any circumstance is a risky venture, considering the crazy rate of failure for restaurants. But opening a restaurant at 8631 Washington Blvd. in Culver City requires a special kind of bravery. It is the graveyard of at least three different restaurants in the last few years, including Wilson. JGold put it best, saying the space “runs through restaurant identities like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.”

But how’s the food?

Muddy Leek started out as a catering operation and supper club, graduating to brick and mortar status earlier this year. Spouses Whitney Flood and Julie Retzlaff feature the usual ethic of local, seasonal far to table cooking. It’s been described as a neighborhood restaurant, but they seem to have more ambition as reflected in the gussied up digs and the $5 words on the menu.

The space is light and modern. I wish I took a picture of the back patio, which offers a relaxed outdoor space. I’m not sure why they have tables out front since I wouldn’t think most people would want to eat with a view of Washington Blvd when there is a lovely private patio on offer.

The cocktail program may be the highlight if the restaurant. It features old-timey cocktails with fun ice — enough to justify the $12 prices according to current LA trends.

Muddy Leek has a smart happy hour menu, offering better small bites than most places at reasonable prices.

Deep-fried bacon.

Let me say that again. Deep-fried bacon.

I feel a little ashamed about ordering this, even though it turned out to be the best thing we ordered. This should be This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse, but it was well-executed. It’s really a slice of pork belly, not a slice of Oscar Meyer. Coated and fried so that it has a nice crispy shell. It’s served with a smear of tomato jam – the acid and sweetness are great for cutting through the fat on fat action.

The leek, potato, and bacon pizetta. It’s OK, nothing special, maybe a bit underseasoned even with the bacon.

These were advertised as rabbit rillettes. These were the most disappointing. The rillettes were puréed to such a degree that it was like cat food. And I don’t mean the good stuff. Worst of all it was wrapped in a spongy crepe that was closer to Ethiopian injira than a real French crepe. It also had a weird orange taste that highlighted how the whole package was just weird.

Here’s the lamb confit, a rich, delicious dish. Worthy of a second close-up photo. It’s served with potato gnocchi, a smear of fava beans, fresh peas, and a few edible flowers. The dish is great, with chunks of lamb roasted in its own fat and then seared off. The pillowy gnocchi soak up the rich sauce and the fava beans and peas add a note of freshness.

Overall, Muddy Leek had a couple very good dishes but a couple real misses, including one of the worst dishes I’ve had in a while. Some people will like the restaurant more than I did because their cocktail program is surprisingly good and the food checks all the current trend checkboxes – local, organic, seasonal, inventive. I’ll try to come back in a while and see if they’ve worked out some of these misses. If they ironed out some of the weirdnesses, Muddy Leek could break the curse of 8631 Washington.

Muddy Leek
8631 Washington Blvd.,
Culver City,
(310) 838-2281

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