Maybe you have a bossy older sibling. The kind who, as soon as you see her, immediately starts telling you why you need a different haircut, why that shirt doesn’t work on you, and “see, I told you so” about everything else. Which makes the time you spend hanging out with her less fun that it should be. A meal at Gwen can feel like a visit with your bossy older sibling - you’ll probably enjoy yourself, but also get kind of sick of being told what to do.
This giant Hollywood restaurant with an attached butcher shop is from the same people behind Maude in Beverly Hills (although we don’t get the sense that they have any kind of fraught sibling relationship). When Gwen first opened, there was only one way to eat here - a $95 family-style, meat-heavy set menu that you booked “tickets” for in advance. Since then, they’ve loosened up a bit, and you can choose from a 3-course, 5-course, or 10-course tasting menu (with optional giant piece of meat you can add in) in the main dining room, or order a la carte at the bar. Regardless of how you do it, you should know going into a meal here that there are a lot of rules. All of which they’ll tell you almost as soon as you sit down.
Once you get through that part though, the food at Gwen is actually pretty good. The pieces of meat coming out of the butcher shop are very delicious (and very expensive), the charcuterie (also made in-house) is spectacular, and the desserts are imaginative and tasty. But as you sit down to dinner, you’ll be told that they can’t accommodate any allergies without advance notice, that everyone at the table has to pick the same menu, and that if you want any of the medieval feast-level steaks (like a 42oz bone-in ribeye wagyu) as an add-on, they have to come as your main protein and will probably cost you an extra three figures.
All of that adds up to an experience that’s not at all like how we want to eat right now. Which is why our move at Gwen is to head straight to the bar, order off the shorter a la carte menu (made up of highlights from the set versions), chat with the bartenders, and drink a couple of very good cocktails. It’s easily the best way to do a meal here, though you’re probably not regularly dropping $100 on solo meals at the bar.
There’s a time and a place for set menus and picking special knives out of fancy boxes for each course, but Gwen doesn’t feel like it. The food isn’t so special that you’ll be thinking about it next week, and the space is much cooler and more accessible than the rules, overly formal service, and prices. But if you’re willing to deal with all that, Gwen is a solid spot for a celebratory dinner. Your big sister will probably be into it.
Easily the best part of a meal here. You’ll get a spread of cured meat, terrines, and some very good chicken liver spread that also involves foie gras. And you’ll probably ask for seconds of the pretzel bread.
There’s always a pasta course, and while this cavatelli with eggplant, saffron, and bottarga was ok, we’ve also had a rich chestnut and pumpkin agnolotti that came in a pecorino broth and was so good that nothing could have stopped us from finishing it.
A super-caramelized bit of shortrib. It’s pretty rich, and pretty delicious.
A cheesecake with rhubarb sorbet and, confusingly, olives. We were already full, and yet we ate the whole thing.