I went to Father’s Office in Santa Monica for dinner the other day when I was in Southern California. I hooked up with the owner Sang Yoon, who is a big-time Champagne collector and a good guy all around. I have had some long dinners with him in Los Angeles, but I had never eaten at his gastropub. I brought along wine honcho David Haskell, who is consulting now after selling his wine bar Bin 8945 in West Hollywood.
Anyway, the place was jamming at 7:30 pm. It was packed and there were no seats, even for the owner. After about a half an hour, we found two stools at the bar and ordered some starters, which included some tangy smoked eel, juicy ribs and delicate grilled sea bass. This is not your normal pub food, but Yoon used to be the chef at nearby Michael’s Restaurant a few years back. And he knows his stuff in the kitchen. Really. The food is excellent. In a proper restaurant, he could be starred.
That’s certainly not going to happen. Most people come to the place for a burger, which is made with ground dry-aged sirloin, as well as the sweet potato fries, which are double-fried to a crunchy perfection. I say he has the best burger in town. And they come for the four or five dozen beers on tap, mostly small micro breweries in California.
The place is super-jovial and fun. Everyone seems on a friendly high with the food and brew. David and I brought some wine along with us (this isn’t normally allowed at FO!) and we felt out of place despite how good the 2001 Côte-Rôtie Rene Rostaing and 1979 Ridge Petit Sirah were. And they were excellent with the burger!
But it made me think about wine and bars in general. Why can’t wine bars be so buzzy, fun and full of comradery? Are we too competitive when it comes to wine? Call it Pinot envy, or whatever. My wine is better than your wine. Maybe it's just bottle jealousy? You know the drill.
Why couldn’t we all hunker down at the bar and pass the Montrachet instead of the wheat beer from Chico. Yoon says there is a stigma to wine, so it will never work. That’s why his wine list is so miserable at FO. Apparently, his new FO in Culver City will have more wine, but most will be served from barrel.
Maybe he has a point. Why bother?