Before I moved in the Fall of 2014, I lived just a few blocks away from 11334 Moorpark St., a restaurant space rather famous in our neighborhood for nothing lasting in it very long. Something would go in and we'd all start placing bets on how long the new dining establishment would last. And sure enough, it would be gone in a hurry -- onto the next. Rinse. Repeat.
But I started to see Top Chef fan-favorite (and one of my Top Chef favorites!) CJ Jacobson around the neighborhood. I walked by him on the street once, I saw him in my local coffee shop... And I wondered if perhaps he was going to be next up in the seemingly doomed space and felt optimistic about it. Three years later, we still have Girasol in that no-longer-doomed space and I recently paid a visit to try their brunch menu!
Interestingly, CJ grew up relatively indifferent to food but his rich life experiences eventually converged to create an intense dedication to cooking. His craft is best described as "rustic-refined" and revolves around a profound respect for the hyper-seasonal, local ingredients he brings into his kitchen at Girasol, which he conceptually collaborated on with Jorge Pultera, former manager at The Ivy, Koi and Red O. From the moment you walk into the restaurant, you know you're in for something special because CJ and Jorge took the ambiance seriously. Not sure what a "Girasol" is? Perhaps the etchings in the ceiling might give you a clue -- inspired by the petals of a sunflower. The entire space is really beautiful.
In fact, everything about Girasol is really beautiful -- from the kind staff to the cocktails to the food. Everything is art there. Each day you can order from their craft cocktails or wine menu, or you can try whatever the bartender has customized for the day. We were treated to a minty, crisp, refreshing cocktail that I could perhaps relate to you by saying it's like a moscow mule but better. And I wanted to try something non-alcoholic as well so I landed on a prickly pear (which is cactus)"soda." It wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be but still very good and refreshing. And again - artful in presentation. It almost glowed.
When it was time to eat we were more than happy to begin with their homemade bread, herb butter and jams. Absolutely delicious and could very well be a meal in of itself if you allow it.... But don't. It's delicious but save room for your meal. Trust me.
The unanimous staff recommendation seemed to mandate we also tried the Octopus Gazpacho starter. I've actually had octopus before -- it's quite good though I still can't bring myself to eat the really squigly tentacle pieces. They served it up with cucumber, avocado, some mixed greens and tomatillo. Again, I could have had this as a meal. Apparently the dish was inspired by a salad on their regular menu -- which I now need to return to try.
Look how green and fresh it looks! It tastes that good, too.
Instead of each having our own main courses, we shared two. I think if we asked they would have brought us everything on the menu but I selected two stand-outs. The Bread Pudding French Toast was basically dessert. I've never had French toast like that. And I don't know what they do with the syrup but it's the best damned syrup I ever had, I tell you. The Maine Lobster Benedict just blew my mind, though. Once I took a bite of that I was making proclamations of love and lust and declaring Girasol my new favorite brunch spot in all the land.
Here's the thing I quickly realized as well. Despite all that we ate, we didn't feel sick or stuffed. There wasn't any of that heaviness that usually comes with eating really rich food. Everything we ate certainly seemed rich and decadent but I only felt satisfied and happy at the conclusion of the meal. I think that comes with all the wonderful, fresh, organic ingredients Girasol prides themselves on. Clearly everything we dined on was of the absolute best quality.
And I stand by my statement - it really is my new favorite brunch spot and I urge you all to try it. I hope it lasts years and years and years in that formerly-doomed building on Moorpark. When I drive or walk by there now, I certainly won't think of it as doomed anymore. Much more likely I'll have lobster benedict fantasies.
- Girasol's website
- Parking is on the street or with the $5 valet in the rear