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Grilled shrimp at The Parish; photography by Christie Hemm

House of Worship

by Lesley Balla | Angeleno magazine | November 27, 2012

Chef Casey Lane, who put a big, flavorful stamp on the Abbot Kinney scene with The Tasting Kitchen, debuted The Parish, a dimly lit, oddly shaped spot fashioned after an English gastropub, smack-dab where Spring and Main split downtown. He opened with a heady bang this summer, serving up plates of gravy-soaked poutine, a burger dripping with pungent Époisses, and a cocktail spiked with stout. It’s not finger food for the fashionable Fashion District set, but rather gut-busting grub that screams for a good beer or cocktail. And it couldn’t be more welcome.

I love the building, even if it lends itself to an awkward, long, angular dining room. It reminds me of the famous Flatiron Building in New York, a triangle shooting out from a corner. There are two floors, and on the first you’ll walk by the open kitchen on the way to the main dining room and bar upstairs. The downstairs transforms into Parish Café during the day for breakfast and lunch, and neighbors stop by for locally roasted Handsome Roasters or Northern California’s Four Barrel coffee, maple-bacon scones, huckleberry Danish pastries and decadent biscuit sandwiches stuffed with egg, cheese and housemade sausage or bacon.

But at night, the soft light of the dining room makes it kind of sexy, with the bar slicing the space in two. I love the tables on the balcony and those along the windows overlooking trees wrapped with swirls of twinkle lights.

This is the perfect time to be at The Parish. It has that happening downtown vibe, a place where everyone wants to be seen without overtly preening. It’s a great spot for a cocktail and a bite. The fried chickpeas and olives are an appetizer on the dinner menu, but I’d eat them as a bar snack with a martini any day. Try them with the Black Bee, a dark cocktail made with bourbon, honey, lemon and a touch of stout. The drinks here are fantastic, from the eclectic wine list to the craft beers. Everything has been well thought out.

Lane’s menu is short but heavy, laden with many meaty, fried, braised, and rich dishes. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but too much of a good thing can sometimes be too much. Still, I’m crazy about his version of deviled eggs spiked with a little curry, and the chicken liver with toast, which is smooth and delicious. Each time I’ve dined here, the poutine has been an instant magnet for my eyes (and palate). Gorgeous, thick, golden fries tossed in meaty gravy, topped with either strands of crispy pork shoulder or fried oysters. There’s paneer, homemade Indian-style cheese cubes, and peas with the shoulder, which gives it more of a traditional poutine edge. But those oysters and gribiche—wow.

Lane made his mark in Portland at a place called Clark Lewis before he ventured south in 2009, and when he landed in Venice, he brought a few dishes from the Northwest with him. One was a fantastic fried rice-type dish with salumi that smelled and tasted out of this world; I fell in love with it at The Tasting Kitchen. The steamed clams with salumi picante in an aromatic sherry broth reminded me of that dish, the salumi adding a hint of pepper, like chorizo. I would be happy with this and a glass of wine any night of the week.

Lane changes the menu here and there, mostly with the seasons, but also, it seems, in accordance with what his clientele wants to eat. So while there’s always been a butter lettuce salad (surely to counteract all the richness everywhere else), and beets with molasses-thickened yogurt and granola, there is also a simple kale salad with pears and pickled chanterelles. It’s a nice respite between the fried chicken and the goat dish with sausage and charred ribs, two menu items that completely impressed me each time I ordered them. If you’ve never had a goat rib, it’s like lamb, but better.

Dessert isn’t necessarily an afterthought here—there are three or four that change seasonally—and the offerings follow the English theme Lane’s going for. So there’s a small sticky toffee pudding covered in crème fraîche, and huckleberry trifle-cake layered with vanilla curd, whipped cream and tart little berries. There’s also gulab jamun, an Indian-spiced and honey-soaked fritter. It’s perfect for the ultimate sweet tooth.

The reason why The Parish works is largely because Lane knows exactly what he wants to serve, and he doesn’t budge from that vision. True, he sticks to the “no substitutions or modifications” rule that so many young chefs insist upon these days—but in a lot of ways, this food is meant to be enjoyed as it is anyway. There’s no way around the gastropubby decadence; you might as well just go with it and enjoy. Think about the calories tomorrow.

The Parish
840 S. Spring St., L.A., 213.225.2400, theparishla.com

Breakfast Mon.-Fri., 7:30am-noon; Sat.-Sun., 7:30am-1pm;
dinner daily, 5pm-midnight;
bar open till 2am

Appetizers: $6-$17
Entrées: $17-$24
Dessert: $4-$9

Where to Sit
Avoid the banquette for fear of sinking into the bench. The seats on the patio on the second floor overlook the busy street below with a nice downtown skyline above you.

What to Wear
Skinny jeans, flowy shirts and high heels or ballet flats for women. Men can get away with anything, but keep it simple and chic.

Happy Hour
Barman John Coltharp has a way with punch, and the best time to sample it is between 5 and 6:30pm, when it’s only $5. He keeps it simple for late-night imbibers: Get a shot of Buffalo Trace or Fernet for only $6 after 11pm.

Breakfast and Coffee
You can get croissants, pastries and coffee all day, even after breakfast hours.