School’s Out, But Public School 805 Is in Session (CLOSED)

UPDATE: This business has closed. Sad. They made really good gin and tonics.

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Night school

Tucked away in an overlooked corner of the Westlake Promenade shopping center at Westlake and Thousand Oaks Boulevards is the new restaurant Public School 805, or PS805. It opened this week hoping people will get wind of its existence. Luckily for me, I got an email about it, so I went to the media preview, took my seat, and got my lesson.

The interior of PS 105 is resplendent with construction materials like wood and steel, props that support its theme including a small wall made of bleachers and a larger wall festooned with lacquered vintage catcher’s mitts. The space is open and utilitarian with a large window into the kitchen, industrial light fixtures, and austere tabletops. There are plenty of nooks but only one large table for big groups. Marketing director Karen Sabourin told me that there is a space for larger parties behind The Grill next door; maybe they’ll borrow it in the future.

Wall o'bleachers

Wall o’bleachers

For your small lunch or dinner group, though, it’s fun to enter PS 805 and see the school-themed elements. A basket of shiny red apples on the hostess stand. The menus that look like composition notebooks, noting a “study group”course (to split with friends) and “recess” (happy hour) which happens Monday through Friday 4-7pm, featuring $4 drinks and appetizers from $4 to $6 in the bar. Coming soon? “The Breakfast Club.”

menu

photo by Lexi Roehner

The bar, naturally, has its own mixologist who delighted me with a drink called the “Juice Box.” I had invented a similar beverage years ago out of sheer necessity – it consisted of Juicy Juice and vodka. This libation, however, was a sublime mix of golden rum, apricot marmalade, and vanilla bitters, garnished with a dried apricot. My friend Lexi tried the Agua Fresca, a surprisingly tasty watermelon martini, straight up.

drinks

Food on the menu at this event included a starter to share, a dinner entree, and a surprise dessert – chef’s choice. As we sampled our charcuterie tray (“The Cutting Board,” with the sweetest carmelized onions I’ve ever tasted), we saw desserts being carried out to earlier diners. Which one would we get?

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Prosciutto, fig jam, Marconi almonds, etc.

For dinner, I had the jidori brick chicken and white bean ragout, and Lexi had the Tuscan chopped salad, made with kale. The chicken was a tender juicy organic dish, skin on, just the right crispiness. Although it was only offered with the lamb burger which I did not order, the chef brought out some “brown bag fries” for us to sample. After all, one cannot judge a restaurant’s mettle without tasting its French fries. These were served in a cut off brown bag, true to their name, with honey mustard sauce and sriracha ketchup on the side. They were tasty, but not the number one reason I would recommend PS805.

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The number one reason I would recommend trying PS805? It’s cute. The nostalgic food theme, the business’s support of local schools (on the night of this media dinner, drinks were on a cash bar basis, with all proceeds to benefit The Conejo Schools Foundation, a group that seems similar to Las Virgenes’ THE Foundation), the decor and menu, even the feedback card presented at the end of the meal, labeled “report card” and asking the diner to grade the business on different areas of service, all create an experience that at the very least gives you something to talk about. I would dine there again, simply to taste more of the drinks (and possibly sample one of the 40 beers) and try a few different foods. Our dessert was a cute presentation of PS805’s take on the PB&J: two large peanut butter cookies each with a dollop of sweet jam in the centers, served with a cold glass of milk. Just one. For dipping.

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Four Seasons’ Lobby Lounge Says “Delicious” in Italian

For a special occasion, you could do a Sunday brunch.  To get authentic Italian food, you could go to an Italian restaurant.  Or even Italy.

But why bother with any of those things?  Right here in Westlake Village, the Four Seasons Hotel’s Lobby Lounge creates an Italian marketplace every Saturday night.  To encourage you to try everything on offer at their weekly Mercato Italiano, they offer a prix fixe menu and a varied and colorful array of different foods.

A marketplace buffet is laid out in a square in the middle of the Lobby Lounge, complete with umbrellas even though you’re all inside.  Along one edge is the salumi bar, where the chef puts the plates together and calls out “SALUMI!” when a plate is ready.  The salamis and pungent cheeses are brought to your table on slate slabs.  You can nosh on this while you nibble on the fresh bread served in little paper bags.

Continue along the right side of the square through the salads and antipasto bowls full of fresh market vegetables and freshly made pastas, to the bruschetta bar, where a server makes your bruschetta from scratch for you.

 

 

Take a left after the bruschetta to the pasta bar, which is reminiscent of an omelette bar at a brunch, except this is way better.  Any kind of pasta you want with your choice of toppings and sauces.  The butternut squash risotto was just the right combination of flavors, and used squash grown on the premises for the California Health and Longevity Institute.

And look at the wonder on my child’s face as he orders and receives that most wonderful of childhood delicacies…

…plain pasta with butter and parmesan cheese.  Look how happy!

Along the fourth edge of the square are the prepared entrees – you serve yourself here buffet-style.  A piping hot lasagna Bolognese, a tender pork loin dish, salmon nestled in pillowy mountains of garlic mashed potatoes, and lamb osso buco – something I had never tried before but looked so delicious I had to taste, and it indeed tasted just as good.  Come hungry to this meal, friends, because you’re going to want to taste everything.

The atmosphere of the evening is lively with Italian music playing loudly on the speakers, giving kids license to be their noisy selves.  Seatings are at 5pm and 7pm, so there is the early option for families with little ones.  Our kids enjoyed the bread and pasta and one of them even ate from the salumi plate, but the best part of the night for them was making pizzas with Chef Manny.

Along with salumi plates, bread, and beverages, the pizzas are brought to the table, and Chef Manny shouts the names of the pizzas as they leave his prep station so that the servers will come get the pie, walk it outside to the wood-fired oven, and return with a plate of delicious pizza.

This handcrafted artisan pizza has garlic aioli instead of tomato sauce, and is topped with butternut squash, spinach, and goat cheese.  Since our son made it, the taste was even more wonderful.  Of course, by the time it was done, the adults were filled with all of the other treats, and we still had to save room for dessert:

The gelato cart was serving up a variety of flavors.  We tried peanut butter and jelly, salted caramel, and pumpkin.  The PB&J was the grown-up favorite, while good old chocolate was a tried and true hit with the kids.  We also sampled the tiramisu (perfect) and one of each of the fancy tarts.  See that tray of shot glasses toward the middle of the bottom of the photo above?  Those glasses hold vanilla custard served in eggshells topped with tiny diced strawberries.

I was so delighted by the presentation that I forgot to get a close-up before I gobbled it down.

Also with dessert I tasted the special authentic limoncello that restaurant manager Massimo Cibelli told me is made from lemons grafted from Sorrento in Italy.  They are grown in Ventura, where the limoncello is made.  Served chilled, alone it is tart and powerful.  Poured over ice and mixed with sparkling wine, it would be a perfect dessert cocktail to sip by the pool in the summer.  Alas.

On this night it was snowing outside the Lobby Lounge.  It was manufactured snow, but it was snow nonetheless.  We shall have to return on a warmer evening and test my theory.

Executive Chef Mario Alcocer (below, left) conceived Mercato Italiano as a one-time special event, but it was so popular that the feature is now weekly with no end in sight.  The restaurant fills both seatings regularly, so reservations are recommended.

Not Italian, but very good with his delizioso.

Mercato Italiano happens every Saturday evening starting at 5:00 pm.  Prices are $45 for adults and $25 for children.  My family and I were guests of the hotel at this meal to facilitate this feature.

Belly Up to the New Drybar in Westlake Village

Be happy that Alli Webb was looking for something to do in her spare time when her children were babies.

A hairstylist by trade, Webb started offering housecall blowouts to clients on the west side of Los Angeles, advertising by word of mouth and online message boards for parents like Peachhead.

Think about it.  The stylist comes to your house and gives you a fabulous blowout for half the price it would cost in a salon.  It’s a no-brainer.

Alas, Webb was soon so busy that she decided to partner up with her brother and open a business that offered simple, professional blowouts at a reasonable cost.  No more housecalls, but something far more wonderful was born:

Drybar.

Two years, 14 locations, and several copycat competitors later, Drybar has defined a new style of beauty business – the one-service salon-type location where you can pop in, get a streamlined beauty treatment, and be on your way in less than an hour, and at reasonable prices.  Drybar has locations in LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Dallas, and New York, and every one of them offers the same service with the same level of professionalism.  “You can be in a Drybar and not know what city you’re in,” says Webb, proud of the way the brand has developed a high standard for training its stylists, who must first go through a two-week Drybar boot camp of sorts to ensure that their skills are in line with the Drybar name.

Location number 15 in Westlake Village near Total Woman Gym and Spa (in the plaza on Westlake Village Blvd. at Townsgate) opens this Friday, June 22.  Webb herself, who lives with her husband and two little boys in Orange County, is on site this week making sure everything in the store is just right – from the window graphics  to the big-screen TV’s (that play chick-flicks, naturally) to the placement of the mirrors, behind the client chairs.  “When I was doing hair in people’s homes, they didn’t have big salon mirrors in their kitchen or living room where we were working,” recalls Webb.  “That made it easier for me to work, and it was a great moment when the client would go into her bathroom to see her blowout and I would hear this great cry of joy when she finally saw how pretty her hair looked.  I wanted to recreate that feeling here at Drybar.”

Drybar’s decor and philosophy mimic those of a traditional bar – the client chairs are lined up along a bar-type counter, product for sale is stacked behind the bar, snacks are put out for people to purchase, “shots” of conditioning treatment are offered for an additional charge, and even the administrative staff are called “bartenders.”  Because they only do blowouts – no cuts, color, or other chemical-based treatments – Drybar doesn’t smell or feel like a full salon.  Even meeting Webb, you feel like you are meeting a girlfriend for a cocktail and a catch-up gabfest instead of coming to a stylist for a hair service.  The atmosphere is light and fun, and you leave looking like a million bucks, even though the blowouts only cost $35.

AHM gets a fantastic complimentary blowout from Drybar genius Alli Webb herself

When I visited Drybar yesterday, even though it wasn’t open yet, curious people were poking in to see what the deal was.  While they do take walk-ins, they get pretty busy Thursday through Saturday, so it’s best to make an appointment.  Although it’s brand new, this location is sure to get a lot of business sooner than later.