The Best of Three Worlds: Food, Drinks & Music at VERSE Restaurant | Toluca Lake, LA, CA
Toluca Lake, November 2021
• GAYOT’s Rating: 14/20
• Cuisine: American / Contemporary
• Open: Tues.-Wed. 6:30 p.m.- 10:00 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
• VERSE LA is on GAYOT’s Los Angeles Best Sexy Restaurants and San Fernando Valley Best Romantic Restaurants.
The V of the VERSE restaurant logo might as well be for “victory.” The tenacity of multi-Grammy-winning mixer Manny Marroquin kept on going during the five long years of construction. Marroquin has inherited from his awarded music career a fine sense of details, resulting in a seductive and elegant space. The space bears fifty-eight speakers, a Meyer Sound Constellation System, energy canceling technology, SSL Live L300 digital console, Libra sound panels, and fiber optic cables connecting directly next door to the celebrated Larrabee Studios owned by Marroquin. So, whether you dine on an evening when the live band is playing, or the music is from the speakers, you can be sure the acoustics are going to be impeccable.
Discreet from the street (drive slowly to spot it), once inside you will feel very welcomed and comfortable by the atmosphere as soon as you walk in. You can dine at the bar, but I recommend sitting at the tables to see the décor, the stage and one of David Bowie’s pianos.
You should definitely start your evening with one of the craft cocktails as they are part of the VERSE experience. The cuisine, led by chef Oscar Torres, is what Modern American cuisine is about: a mix of cultures with colors and vibrancy.
Start with the Hokkaido milk buns made with buttermilk, sprinkled with toasted sesame. The maple syrup and nutmeg brown butter to add on top is killer, but pace yourself for what is to follow… You will find another round form in stuffed Oaxacan cheese croquettes on a bed of burnt tomato salsa. Then I got to experience three raw fishes: yellowtail crudo in leche de tigre finished with compressed watermelon; seabream ceviche marinated with white soy and lime, topped with peanut togarashi; and oysters with their sesame aji amarillo sauce paired with kampachi, on which is poured tableside the Yucatan salsa xni-pec. A Josper grill was used to roast to perfection the tiger prawns over almond wood. They are set on the plate between a blue corn tostada with avocado and pickled fresno peppers.
When in season, the king oyster mushrooms linguini can be luxuriously enhanced by truffles. Satisfied by my seafood experience, I decided to save the carnivore house specialty, the 38 oz Tomahawk for 2, for the next time. But I already know that it is cooked over almond wood and served with a bone marrow salsa, made with shallots, Serrano and green onions.
I finished with the light beignets displayed around a generous scoop of buttermilk ice cream and decorated with raspberries and edible flowers. There is a short wine list.