House of Blues

8430 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA.

The House of Blues on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood remains the place to play and be seen, on the Sunset Strip, and now the food is finally getting equal attention. The menu has been revamped after considerable planning, and the restaurant is now known as " The Porch", with executive chef James O'Donnell calling the shots. His responsibility also includes the Foundation Room, the private club and dining room on the top floor, and with over 7,000 meals served each week, he has plenty on his plate. The atmosphere is lively and fast paced, and the service is quick and efficient with a young and enthusiastic staff that is knowledgeable about the music and the short but storied history of the venerable club.

James started his career at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and as sous chef at Planet Hollywood, and as Saucier at Excalibur Hotel. He joined the House of Blues as sous chef in 1997, and now he is in charge not only of keeping up the quality of the New Orleans style Southern food every day, but also making it something special. Judging by my night there recently at a show fronted by veteran ballad singer Keely Smith, James is on the right track as the overall quality was exceptional. A lot of little touches have been implemented in the last few months from the waiter's attractive outfits, revised tabletop décor and clearer menu. Diners also get first access to the concert hall downstairs, so with most shows starting about 9.30 pm, it gives you a decent couple of hours in the restaurant upstairs. If you want to hang around even longer, you can see the show on the various television monitors above the tables. The lighting is very low with booth like seating for four, with separate tables as well creating a comfortable atmosphere with Southern art exhibited everywhere.

I sampled quite a few things on the eclectic menu and some of the standouts on the starters included the following: Crispy Catfish Nuggets served with Cajun Tartar sauce and Shoestring sweet potatoes (7.95), Sautéed Louisiana Crawfish Cake with Roasted Corn Vinaigrette and Cilantro Cream (8.95), and the Delta Red Beans and Rice with Andouille, served with Rosemary Cornbread (9.95). The Andouille hot and spicy sausage gave the beans and rices a sharp edge, as well as the Seafood Gumbo (5.95), which also had Shrimp, Crawfish, Oysters and Okra.

Continuing in the Southern vein, I was also able to sample the Slow Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Jack Daniel's BBQ sauce (16.95), served with mashed sweet potatoes and green beans. Absolutely delicious and easy to handle, just as tasty as the Hickory Smoked 12oz Pork Chop with Stewed Black-Eyed Peas, Red Cabbage and Sweet Potato Gravy (15.95).

Not all the food at the Porch is Southern Style, as I had tried the Hamburger on a previous visit to the club, and was very pleased with the quality of the $7.95 meal. The list of goodies goes on and on, with menu items like the Cedar Plank Roasted Catfish with Spiced Pecans, Asparagus and Mashed Potatoes. The things you can do with Catfish these days are remarkable, which is great now that most supermarkets carry this previously unfashionable fish.

Desserts are also a winner at the House of Blues with Southern Pecan Pie with vanilla Ice cream (5.95) and the Chicory Coffee Cream Brulee with a Hazelnut biscuit (5.95) probably being the pick of the bunch.

The Gospel Sunday Brunch is one of the most popular in town with an all you can eat Southern style buffet for $30, children (5-13) $16, inclusive of tax and tips. The first session starts at 10:00 a.m. and the second at 1:00 p.m. Celebrities have been known to magically appear, and some of the performers have included Andre Crouch, Kirk Franklin, Five Blind Boys of Alabama and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.

Mike Hepworth, June 2000

HBlus Tel: (323) 848-5123
Lunch: 11.30am to 5.00pm Monday through Saturday (complimentary valet parking until 3.00 p.m.)
Dinner: 5.00pm to midnight
Late night menu available until 1.00 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
Gratuities-18% added to parties of six or more
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