LA food nerds, hang onto your butts. Something really exciting happened to the Brunchographers...
We ate at the same restaurant as Jonathan Gold. At the same exact time. At the very next table. Before he wrote his review.
Two things about this, before I tell you all about Destroyer. One, you know you’re on the cutting edge of restaurant choices when you wind up dining at the same restaurant as the infamous Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Times food critic that the internet loves to call simply, “J Gold.” Two, I’d like to tell you we didn’t geek out in front of him and bumble over our words, saying things like “it’s an honor… to… eat next to you.” Well, I actually can tell you that, because that embarrassing bit wasn’t so much a “we” thing as it was a “me” thing. Johnna kept her cool.
It’s appropriate that Destroyer would be the place where we’d run into J Gold, because out of all our brunches in this town, this was certainly one of the most peculiar as well as one of the most delicious. I was tipped off early that this would be an unusual experience when I visited the futuristic, space-themed website featuring a video game which seems to pay homage to the Atari classic Asteroids (appropriate, as I read that the restaurant’s name refers to a meteor).
Destroyer is located in an unlikely part of Culver City: Hayden Tract, a quiet part of town with an industrial feel that shuts down on evenings and weekends when the tech companies and creative offices close up shop. And yet, Jordan Kahn, whose previous restaurant venture was the well-regarded (if controversial) Red Medicine, chose it as the home for his new breakfast-and-lunch-only café. Now, all those creative and tech geniuses can enjoy his masterful, creative, and inventive cuisine on their lunch breaks. Lucky.
Inside, the café is sparse and bright, light streaming through the huge industrial windows and bouncing around the stark white walls. The furnishings are sleek and minimal, and it’s evident that every item in the place was thoughtfully chosen. In a way, it feels like we’ve entered someone’s home kitchen: there are shelves full of preserved food and a big batch of creme fraîche fermenting in the sun, while Kahn and his team work in a beautiful open kitchen that looks like it leapt off the cover of a Scandinavian design magazine.
I’ve heard that the menu here changes frequently, so in a way it makes sense that they’ve projected haiku-like descriptions of their food offerings onto one of the open white walls. Our brunching hour this day was close to noon, so our selections came from the lunch menu (but you know we’ll be back soon to sample their breakfast). Per our usual, we ordered a few items to share, which was a good move here as the dishes run on the small side.
First up was “baby lettuces, fresh cheese, pistachio, sprouted grains.” Out of all the dishes, this one looked most like it belonged in an art gallery rather than a cafe. Served in a beautiful matte pottery bowl with high walls, this salad looks a bit like a zen garden with fresh foraged greens peeking out the top of the bowl. You have to play a little hide-and-seek to get to the good stuff; beneath the lettuce garden lies the lusciously creamy fresh cheese sprinkled with crunchy pistachios.
Next was “baby potatoes, lemon, brown butter, lovage,” a bowl full of adorably tiny potatoes engulfed in a snowdrift of thick, creamy sauce, and dusted with a vibrant green powder (which I assumed to be lovage, though I admit I had to Google that). And beneath all that beauty, a flavorful brown butter sauce was waiting to harmoniously tie all the flavors together. I must say, these were such a treat.
Our final pick was one of only two meat protein options on the menu that day: “chicken confit, romaine, burnt onion, hazelnuts, yogurt.” Again we played hide-and-seek with our lunch, this time the main event was concealed beneath perfect leaves of romaine and the delicate seaweed-like fronds of another green we weren’t familiar with. This chicken was decadent and remarkably flavorful (so much so that we were tempted to leap over the counter and ask Kahn just how they did it), and when paired with tangy yogurt, crunchy hazelnuts, and a drizzle of vinaigrette, it was perfection.
As I often do, I also sampled an almond milk cappuccino with my meal, which came in the coziest hand-thrown mug, which seemed to be made specifically for wrapping both your hands around it. The coffee was delicious, and complimented the meal nicely.
The only shame about Destroyer is that it's not open more often - as much as I'd like to take my husband here for dinner or plan a weekend brunch with friends, with Destroyer's limited hours, that's just not an option. But perhaps that's part of its charm; an elusiveness that makes it that much more special. If you can get to Destroyer during the week, go now. This food is expertly crafted, thoughtful, fun, and undeniably delicious, all at an accessible price point. For that one-hour break, Destroyer will transport you to a place where food meets art and expectations are challenged, and more importantly, where your usual lunch experience will be destroyed.
3583 Hayden Ave
Culver City, CA 90232