By Jill Weinlein, 10/04/2012
In the 1960s, El Cid, a popular dinner-theatre venue, opened on Sunset Boulevard. The Spanish-style tavern was housed in a 1905 structure, originally built by film director, D.W. Griffith, where he debuted his epic film “The Birth of a Nation”.
In its early years, El Cid was a frequent hangout for Hollywood celebs, including Marlon Brando. The nightclub, adorned with colorful tiles, fountains and paver-style flooring, enjoyed many prosperous years before its clientele changed and attracted a rowdier crowd. Numerous complaints about the club were filed with the city over noise and traffic, and finally the club closed in 2011. This past summer, new owners took control and re-opened El Cid in the hopes of bringing it back to its heyday. The interior and exterior were spruced up a bit, but left largely intact. Wood beams, murals and red stage curtains complete the Spanish features of the open space, ideal for stage shows.
The newly hired chef, BJ Munoz, and General Manager, Laura Ann Masura, have carefully crafted a new dinner and cocktail menu. Many of the signature cocktails are made with Masura’s homemade jams, like the strawberry vanilla bean margarita, mixed with silver tequila, fresh lime, agave nectar and strawberry vanilla bean preserves. The Silver Lake Pinta mixes strawberry preserves with spiced rum, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. We tried one of each. I liked how the jam sinks to the bottom and can be stirred with a straw before each sip, drawing up some of the fresh preserves.
Chef Munoz went to culinary school at 16 years old and has worked at Traxx at Union Station, AMMO and Auntie Em’s Kitchen. He has added some delightful tapas to his menu, yet with opening just a few weeks ago, he and his kitchen staff are still working out a few details. For example, we were told the soup of the evening was a carrot and ginger purée. However, what we were served was a warm tomato and basil soup – still very tasty, but not what we expected.
The soup was the first of a three-course Spanish dinner for $35 per person. The second course salad was a simple house salad, which could use some imagination. For the entrée, there were several to choose from: fresh barramundi over saffron rice with olive tapenade; hangar steak with chimichurri sauce; and paella Valenciana with shrimp, clams, chicken and chorizo. With dinner, guests are treated to a Flamenco show, with beautifully dressed dancers and a guitarist.
By 9:30 p.m. the flamenco show finished and the dancers strolled through the restaurant in full costume to meet guests and pose for pictures. Soon, the staff prepared the room for the 10 p.m. entertainment – three rock alternative bands.
We left to make room for the twenty-something crowd, a much different audience from the flamenco dinner-show guests.
Munoz altered his menu since our visit and now offers the dinner and show separately. Show tickets are $20 and diners order `a la carte. Many of Munoz tapas are featured on the new menu. Try his colorful gazpacho, Calamari Frito served with a lemon aioli or the flavorsome gambas al ajillo (shrimp with butter, brandy and garlic).
Sunday Brunch was just launched. Start with one of El Cid Bellinis made with peachy queen jam, vanilla bean and Grand Marnier. Another brunch favorite is a glass or pitcher of house sangria with burgundy wine, brandy, peach schnapps, agave and lime juice. Fresh cubes of apples and fruits of the season rest on the bottom of the glass.
Chef Munoz is preparing his famous baked French toast, chorizo and potato cheese hash, and Jamon Serrano sandwich on the brunch menu with all priced at $12. Meal Marys are five different types of Bloody Marys dubbed “breakfast in a glass” for $15 each.
With a few kinks to work out, El Cid could possibly be a new Hollywood hot-spot again.
$$ Open Wed. through Sat. from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sun. 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sun. night reopens at 4:30 p.m. There is street or valet parking. 4212 W. Sunset Blvd. (323)668-0318.