[RESTAURANT REVIEW] Commerson Lights Up Late Nights on La Brea

Instagram: @commersonla

It’s not always easy opening a restaurant in a brand-new building, with no patina of age to lend atmosphere, no ghosts of previous tenants to provoke memories.

So Commerson, in the new multi-use building on fast-changing La Brea Avenue at 8th Street, started with a completely blank slate to create a modern bistro with a user-friendly menu.

Chef-owner Sascha Lyon, a native Angeleno who cooked at New York hotspots like Balthasar, Daniel and Pastis, has put some French touches on the menu, but kept it accessible to everyone.

French botanist Philibert Commerson inspired the restaurant’s name and the chef was perhaps inspired by his time in New York to keep the kitchen open until 1 a.m., which is quite unusual in Los Angeles.

The interior, designed by the chef’s wife Rita Lyon, is high-ceilinged, with French school chairs, exposed ductwork and a long bar.

I was hoping to catch up with an old friend over dinner, but the noise level that greeted me seemed impossibly loud, so after waiting at the bar a few minutes, I asked for a patio table.

The front patio along La Brea is serviceable but fairly bare and it seemed like the servers possibly forgot about the patrons out there more easily than they would inside.

At the bar, everyone admired the pretty Bashful & Green cocktail, which mixed green tea vodka, falernum and cantaloupe and was garnished with matcha powder and a pansy. It’s definitely for those who like fruity cocktails, but it’s well balanced and not too sweet.

All the specialty cocktails are $14, with unusual choices like the Cynar Julep or Le Colonial with gin, rhubarb syrup and champagne.

With the late hours, intriguing wine list and engaging cocktails, Commerson works for a casual late supper. Try a grass-fed burger, a half dozen Baja oysters and the bacon-enriched Caesar salad.

Or settle in for a more elaborate meal: maybe start with a Parisian diversion, with escargots and French fries piled on a baguette and move on to sea bass with confit fennel, hangar steak with bone marrow shallot herb butter, or seared scallops with cauliflower.

With ingredients like bone marrow and foie gras, some of the dishes can skew too rich. The shrimp chorizo burger sounds intriguing, but with a creamy sauce, it’s all a bit much. Lighten things up with the fresh-tasting baby kale salad with a terrific lemon vinaigrette.

Desserts also feature some imaginative choices, like the Meyer Lemon Eton Mess with thyme pound cake, or the popular blackberry brown butter tart.

Commerson is trying hard to be groovy—with its French-meets-gastropub menu, late hours and industrial vibe—and it’s mostly successful.

With a little more attentive service and hopefully, some way to dampen the noise factor, it could be a go-to spot for mid-city get-togethers.

788 So. La Brea Avenue. (323) 813-3000. Closed Mondays. 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

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