1800 Sawtelle Blvd · West Los Angeles, CA 90025 · Neighborhood: West Los Angeles
Last night, the Backyard Bite left her comfortable West Hollywood haven and ventured across the 405 to “Little Osaka” to try what is bound to be a new favorite neighborhood burger joint. At 8:30 pm on a Monday, the eve of their official opening (February 22nd), there was not an empty seat at Plan Check Bar. Word travels fast in this foodie town, especially if you’ve got former Umami Burger Corporate Executive Chef, Ernesto Uchimura at the helm of your kitchen.
Although it is both a full bar and restaurant, don’t let owner Terry Heller catch you calling it a Gastropub (he hates the term). This Kitchen + Bar, rather, has been highly anticipated, and will no doubtedly be compared to Umami Burger or the popular Culver City burger king, Father’s Office. But unlike F.O., Plan Check will seat you and offer table service. So there.
Heller has high hopes for his dream restaurant, creating a place that is not just trendy, but one that has real staying power. Shifting gears from prep and planning to now managing his creation, the former real estate developer and surfer looks forward to his venture to becoming a neighborhood staple.
Plan Check will be a foodie hang for the neighborhood to gather, have a Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix (Harvard and Stone, La Descarga) designed cocktail and savor some darn juicy burgers. Not catering to any one specific demographic, the menu touts everything from simple meat and cheese plates, a short rib pot roast (red wine, bone marrow turnover pie, sweet n sour mirepoix), and five different specialty burgers. The Southern Fry Chicken sandwich with duck breast ham and spicy green pimento cheese is also a must. I tried the spicy Baked Crab Dip (pictured), which had the delightfully crunchy surprise of masago (capellin roe) infused. Loved it.
Infusing mild Asian influences including fried egg and pickled okra into dishes, Chef Uchimura brings along famous flavors he created while at Umami Burger, along which a few new tricks. The Plan Check Burger includes akaushi red wagyu beef, “Americanized” cheese, onions and mixed pickles on the crunchy-sweet house made crunch bun; A bun that took Uchimura over 6 months to develop. It’s pretty tasty. As with a few other burgers, it also features the most amazing “ketchup leather.” Imagine a fruit rollup made from ketchup, weird right? But it’s good. I didn’t have to add anything to the burger at all. Ha! Take that Father’s Office! Here, ketchup is your friend. Especially the house made fresh ketchup that comes with your fries (more on this in a bit).
Chef’s Favorite Burger (below), which I have dubbed The Man Burger – is piled high with cheese (two ways), bacon (two ways), ketchup leather, fried egg and hot sauce. My eating partner gave it his manly stamp of approval after finishing it by saying “now, that’s a good burger.”
If I hadn’t known that they weren’t actually open yet, I would have never guessed it. The place was packed, the kitchen was bumpin’ and the bartenders never missed a beat. The french fries, I thought were tasty, though Heller informed me not to get too attached as the “fries” are in flux right now. A previous time-consuming prep method was scrapped and a newer fry is being designed to better suit the menu. Still, gotta love that house made ketchup.
In these first few months, expect a few tinkerings to the menu, especially as seasons change. Chef Uchimura loves to cook with available seasonal produce, which is always a good thing.
Here, the down to earth Uchimura shows off his buff while sporting a custom Stüssy designed Plan Check T-Shirt. Sorry Stüssy fans, if you want a shirt, you’re gonna have to fill out an application first – these are just for staff.
In case you forget you’re on Sawtelle, down a stiff Bento Box (pictured) or a Godzilla (pictured) cocktail and you’ll feel right at home. Other drinks vary from local draft beers to bottled exports. There are also, various choice red and whites and a good selection of non-alcoholic fare.
As Sawtelle is a busy foodie street, primarily known for its sushi and ramen houses, Plan Check fills a void in this area – one that only a burger joint could fill. Featuring a large outside patio, it’s great for a casual night out with friends or an evening of classy debauchery, I suspect this place will have no problems getting patrons through their doors. (Note: it’s not a sports bar; while there is a teensy TV in the bar, you’re not going to be coming here for the games… come for the food and booze).
Is it worth all the hype? Have a visit and decide for yourself…
Stand outs: Chef’s favorite burger, leather ketchup, fried chicken, and Ice Cream Bars from Milk.
Read previous Backyard Bite Plan Check posts, here.