Bacaro LA, USC’s favorite Hoover Street restaurant, recently opened a new counterpart near Santa Monica. Bacari Playa Del Rey, the third restaurant opened by the Kronfli brothers and chef Lior Hillel, is a quaint restaurant situated on a hill a block away from the ocean in Playa Del Rey. The small but satisfying menu features a variety of cicchetti — small, tapas-like Venetian plates — and is accompanied by a large selection of cocktails, beer and wine.
The entrance to the restaurant is a small, enclosed patio-type room with soft lighting and open windows that let in the ocean breeze. Customers can then proceed to the larger, precariously organized dining and bar area. Here, patrons waiting — often up to an hour — to be seated can get a drink and stand around the bar. The room is awkwardly sectioned and loud, however, causing a chaotic atmosphere. The dining portion is split into two parts, one directly in front of the bar and the other around the corner. The second part finally provides a tiny bit of reprieve from the noise of the rest of the restaurant.
Despite Bacari’s too-small and somewhat uncomfortable setup, its décor provides a homey aspect that softens the overall ambiance. Empty wine bottles and fairy lights alongside soft wood and giant chalkboards give off an earthy, surprisingly comfortable vibe. Boards display the wine and cocktail menus, written in chalk and color-coded by category. Bacari’s mellow wooden walls, high ceilings and floors give the small restaurant a rustic feel.
The staff is constantly bustling but friendly and helpful. They make it clear from the moment they seat customers that they work as a team, and they seem to have that relationship down pat. The staff runs like a well-oiled machine, helping customers at various tables and delivering food constantly.
The food makes up for any lack of space or long wait time. Every dish comes out of the kitchen looking and smelling divine and the taste does not disappoint.
The caprese — a perfect combination of savory yellow and green tomatoes alongside fresh mozzarella and a delectable pesto — is arguably the best in Los Angeles. The tomatoes are fresh and flavorful, not the least bit sour and perfectly complement the equally fresh mozzarella. The tasty pesto, however, is the highlight of the dish. A perfect blend of nut and herb flavors, it is mouthwateringly delicious.
The bruschette is offered in surprisingly bold flavors, such as fire-roasted pepper and Tuscan white bean, and is bursting with well-balanced flavors. The bread is perfectly toasted and provides a delicious bed for the various savory toppings.
The chicken panini highlights yet another rich condiment that Bacari has done just right — this time, the garlic aioli. Bacari’s delicious bread houses warm slices of chicken breast, juicy tomatoes and plenty more fresh mozzarella. This sandwich, also perfectly toasted, is complemented superbly by a full-bodied garlic aioli.
The salads, though far from typical, also feature fresh and delicious ingredients in combinations that, though off the beaten path, are surprisingly good. The grilled romaine salad, for example, topped with beets, pecans and a creamy balsamic and parmesan vinaigrette, provides an intriguing and appetizing amalgam.
The pizzas make use of unconventional combinations — the bacon and brie, for example, boasts a spicy side. Their inimitably cooked crust and perfect sauce-to-topping ratio make them very appetizing.
Bacari’s chefs are clearly top-notch, and one would expect food of this quality, especially in Playa Del Rey, to be very pricey. The prices, though, are more than reasonable — nearly every plate offered is $8; and customers can choose to order in sets of three for $21. A full meal of nine plates for three people was just $63 and worth every penny.
The delicious and well-priced food is an obvious draw to the tiny restaurant on the hill in Playa Del Rey — its imminent success already apparent from the long wait. Any downsides to the restaurant are quickly overshadowed by the first bite of its exquisite and reasonably priced dishes — Bacari is well worth the wait.
Bacari is located at 6805 Vista Del Mar Lane in Playa Del Rey. Open Sunday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight.