Local 121 not only wears its locavore concern on its sleeve (well, its title), but also proclaims those sources in the names of most dishes. Proud, proud, proud.
The restaurant’s growing popularity is largely to the credit of Executive Chef Tyler Demora. A 2008 graduate of San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy, he went on to work and study with some of the best chefs in Lyon, France.
“I listen to customers a lot,” he says. “They are the ones eating the food, paying the money. My job is to give them a memorable meal so they come back. Of course, I listen to feedback and do my best to fix anything I need to. It may be negative feedback, it may be positive. I adapt.”
Of course, there are limits to customer input. What annoys him most in that regard? “When they think it’s ok to write their own menu, change the dish. I would never do that in a restaurant. ‘Can I get the chicken with the steak set up?’" Horrors.
Chef Demora Preparing His Chianti Braised Rabbit Entree
What a delightful chef-chosen sampling we enjoyed. Why not char the flat sides of halved French radishes in your appetizer? That enhanced the flavor as much as salt in the starter, which also contained thin shaved discs of spiced-up turnip, with grapefruit providing a mildly acid tang and kelp butter a compatibly surprising bonus taste.
Charred French Radishes Gravlox and Bluefish Terrine
Another "Small Plate" was gravlox in a terrine with smoked bluefish. The main component was the lox, with the fish layered between, the generous slice was encased in gator spinach, atop a wide swath of seed-speckled mustard.
Yet another was the five roasted Bomster sea scallops, a glorious visual display, colorful with golden beets, hibiscus beets, sunchokes, black garlic, and a pool of liquid pistachios. Glorious before the first bite.
Quite an auspicious beginning, no?
Local 121 Bomster Scallops
The nine-item list of entrées ranged as far as Four Town Farm carrot noodles with fried chickpeas to a Delmonico steak Florentine for two, with potatoes fried in duck fat. We started out with a pasta course: Shy Brothers cloumage gnudi. They are like gnocchi, only made with ricotta instead of potato. The mascarpone shallot cream sauce was sparked up with lemon and dotted with poppy seeds. Nice.
Local 121 Cloumage Gnudi
The Fava Family Farm Chianti-braised rabbit contained dark brown, well-stewed meat, well disguised, so there's unlikely to be fainting from flashbacks of pet bunnies. There was plenty amidst the wide papardelle noodles, the pleasantly sweetish taste of the meat cleverly complemented with bitter chocolate and black prunes. The bacon thyme jus made sense too.
“The rabbit is a dish I thought would be nice from my childhood memory of rabbit, and a French classic,” says Tyler. “Charred French radish is another take on French home cooking, made a bit more extravagant.”
“I try to keep getting the menu better, more exciting and modern with the times, and try to make people happy as much as I can,” he adds.
But for a carnivore like me, the rabbit was only practice for the Pineland Farm flatiron steak. It was atop glazed Swiss chard and beneath a towering pile of kale gremolata, and as if the dish didn't contain enough deliciously deceased protein, the generous amount of small brown beans beneath the steak had plenty of pieces of oxtail.
Pineland Farm Flatiron Steak
Chef Tyler chose two desserts for us, and both had each of us frequently sampling the other's. The white chocolate sorbet was not overly sweet and came enjoyably atop crushed gingersnap cookies. The ricotta pie, an ultimate classy cheesecake, came with lemon ice cream for a sweet tang, and a portion of cranberry gastrique, for the same benefit.
Local 121 Ricotta Pie Dessert
Inside Local 121's Dining Room, Tap Room and Downstairs Speakeasy
Local 121 is elegant enough to have been at home since 2007 in the beautifully restored former Dreyfus Hotel. A lovely setting for lovely dining experiences.