This week Studio City saw the arrival of , a cocktail-driven eatery that replaced the decades-old . Gutted from floor to ceiling, the space is unrecognizable and now stands with vaulted brick ceilings and features an open kitchen, a trolley ceiling fan, a long wood bar, an antiqued stone floor, gas-lamp-style fixtures, cozy booths and high tables and stools. Noticeable is the absence of big-screen TVs that seem to glare from every restaurant these days—and that is refreshing.
Black Market is a conglomeration of talent in all areas. Owners Sal Aurora and Mario Guddemi, who are partnered in Happy Ending in Hollywood and Local Peasant in Sherman Oaks, worked with Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni of Descarga and Harvard & Stone to create the innovative cocktail list. Beer expert Jace Mistead is responsible for the carefully selected craft beers and Sally Kim from Terroni oversees wine. Helming the kitchen is Season 4's Top Chef and recent Top Chef All-Star finalist Antonia LaFosa.
Aurora describes Black Market’s food and drink as “from farm to shaker”—meaning everything from the cocktails to the food is seasonal and locally driven. Cocktails are a mixology breed unlike any you’ve seen in the 818. So far there are 12 listed for opening, but the intention is to work up to 30 with three a week being inspired by farmers market finds.
Check out such mixology as Boulevard Sour (rye, cynar, lemon, sugar and egg white), Blackberry Cobbler (genever, blackberry, lemon, sugar) and Punch for One (pisco, pineapple agave, angostura, lime), to name a few. There are no muddled martini mixes here. These are solid drinks with five to 10 steps each. Look to the bar and you’ll see bartenders doing double-fisted shakes with the shakers in the air. Liquors used are atypical for most bars and come from all over the world.
LaFosa was known on Top Chef for her Italian cooking, but the truth is, she has French training from the French Culinary Institute. With a newly signed book deal and long stints in the kitchens of Spago and Foxtail, LaFosa comes with an eclectic and impressive background. She says she cooks how she likes to eat when she goes out—many of her dishes are made for sharing and are far more creative and sophisticated than normal pub grub.
Selections run wide—alligator sausage and peppers, mussels with fennel and chili (ask for more grilled baguette to soak up the delicious sauce), soft shell crab po’boy with sririacha, Chinese cabbage and shiso, oxtail ragu, deviled quail eggs, a shaved fennel salad with feta and watermelon radish, and dill chips thickly cut with a malt vinegar aioli. So far absent on the menu is a burger. LaFosa says she will change the menu according to the season and what’s fresh.
Desserts are few, but the choices are tasty—spiced chocolate pudding, lemon curd and cream on shortbread (like a big cookie) and the super-indulgent crispy flutter-nutter with peanut butter, bananas and marshmallows.
With its unique menu and ambitious cocktails, Black Market brings a whole new element to the San Fernando Valley—it’s a casual, fun and lively place to meet friends, have drinks and share some plates.
Prices: Food, $4 to $18, with most dishes averaging $8-$14; cocktails, $11; beer and wine, $7-$14.
, 11915 Ventura Blvd. (just west of Radford), Studio City. Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Valet parking: $3.50.