Everything Matters. Everyone Matters.
This is the motto of acclaimed LA chef Vartan Abgaryan’s latest venture, Yours Truly, a newish Venice restaurant on the highly-trafficked and tourist-y Abbot Kinney strip. The first time I came to Yours Truly, it was an accident, or rather, an attempt to return to a previous concept in the space, Salt Air, an old standby for an eastsider without a lot of knowledge of good food across town. Walking up and realizing it was a new spot was disappointing at first, that is, until I went inside anyway and had one of the better brunches I’ve had in any neighborhood in the city. That meal began with House Biscuits, served with whipped tahini, honey and sesame ($7), and Shakshuka ($18) that put my old standbys to shame.
Down the line, I learned that YT is another project from the owners of Salt Air, this time working with Abgaryan, who left his post at downtown LA’s sky-high fine dining restaurant, 71Above, to help build the new venture. Of course, any Silver Lake local worth their salt already knew Abgaryan’s name long before 71Above because of his work at Cliff’s Edge, a mainstay even among Sunset Junction’s stiff competition. I never tried 71Above, so I can’t speak to what the food was like there, but Yours Truly feels akin to Cliff’s Edge in that its approach to food is both grounded and inventive.
A new crew of west side friends means that I’m in the vicinity a lot more often, and Yours Truly has become a go-to, especially now that they offer a full lunch menu, from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM on weekdays. The Shakshuka is on the lunch menu, too, along with a host of other old and new favorites that speak to a renewed sense of playfulness and appreciation for California in Abgaryan’s style.
A hybrid appetizer like the Avocado Hummus — with salsa matcha, peanut, and lime ($13) — puts a zingy twist on the snacks Californians love best by using flatbread as the dipper instead of chips, or there’s the tongue-in-cheek Chicken Cordon Bleu Club ($17), served triple decker style but laid on its side, converting a French classic into a new American treasure with the breaded chicken cutlet, pepperjack, bacon, tomato and mustard on whole wheat bread, chips served on the side. This sandwich is the kind of nap-inducing weekday indulgence that is both a blessing and a curse, and necessary to revisit several times to determine which it really is (blessing).
Slivers of almond in the Cavatelli ($18) added a nutty richness that balanced the creamy sauce, lemon, and arugula, and a Castlefranco Salad ($15) punctuated by apple, dates, candied walnuts, dill and blue cheese helped me justify enjoying some of the more decadent menu options. Also, so few salads have the scope and creativity of this one, another California-esque touch that helps flesh out the depth of the menu.
But, returning to the menu’s more decadent options, a Nashville Hot Shrimp Sandwich ($18) takes the regional “hot chicken” concept and makes it west coast with a seafood element and enough slaw to cut the heat. This was my favorite thing on the lunch menu, hands down, and the kind of dish that begs to be Instagrammed and bragged about. Again, it comes with chips on the side so weight the of the sandwich isn’t eclipsed or challenged by fries, though they do have some — lovely, straightforward ones covered in sea salt that come for $5 a side.
Perhaps the perfect balance between self-indulgence and self-care (it is LA, ok?) is the Crispy Cauliflower ($13), with yuzu kosho (Japanese citrus-chile paste), bagna cauda (garlic and anchovies sauce), parmesan, and lime. As that description might’ve indicated, the flavors here just don’t quit, and the crisped up texture of the cauliflower almost makes it seem as indulgent as the other fried sandwiches.
I’d also be remiss if i didn’t mention the strangest, most surprising take on salmon I’ve encountered in a while, the Corn Waffle ($15), topped with a pat of jalapeno scallion cream cheese, and yes, smoked salmon. Somehow, the whole thing worked, transforming New York’s go-to breakfast bagel into a plated waffle dish that screams west coast and is delicious enough to threaten becoming its own regional staple.
All throughout the menu at Yours Truly, Abgaryan’s populist motto is reflected, from the painstaking detail on the cauliflower’s dipping sauce, to the perfectly balanced flavoring of spicy and savory on the fried shrimp sandwich. The best thing about Yours Truly is that it reflects the kind of place Los Angeles most strives to be, a place where fiddling with old classics is welcomed and enjoyed, and luxury doesn’t necessarily mean things need to be stiff, expensive, or even elegant. Yours Truly is good because it isn’t unapproachable-y chic, instead, it’s cute, and sweet, and fresh. And every time I walk in, I feel like I matter.