The Sunset Millennium complex was supposed to signal a 21st Century revival for the flagging Sunset Strip, but it soon began to claim casualties, high profile but underperforming restaurant tenants like Norman’s, Rika, and Central. The bloodletting didn’t stop until April 2007, when Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin of Dolce Group introduced Ketchup to the Sunset Strip, an American restaurant specializing in modernized childhood favorites.
On a warm night in late March, we walked along Sunset Boulevard before passing through a glass door, revealing a red and white lobby staffed by two fashionable hostesses. You can climb red stairs to the restaurant, but an elevator ride carried us to the second floor dining room, releasing us near a glass-fronted wine closet. The space is populated with white banquettes, chairs, and tables, each supporting a red candle and a plastic-encased tomato.
There are red carpets and drop-down globe lanterns, plus paintings of red and green tomatoes, and a pixilated Heinz ketchup bottle. Towering windows allow for views of the Hollywood Hills. On the east side of Ketchup is a similarly colored corner bar with more stunning views.
During the day, the restaurant hosts stylish people who work on the Sunset Strip, at magazines, stores, or fashion agencies. Since Ketchup has been featured on the popular MTV show, “The Hills,” a steady stream of tourists show up hoping to spot “Hills” star Lauren Conrad. At night, the restaurant attracts a mix of scenesters, celebrities, and wannabes.
In keeping with the childhood favorites theme, the Party Starter Martinis incorporate beverages like Yoo-Hoo, Kool-Aid and Sunny Delight. Several of the drinks are named for movies, including the “Basic Instinct,” “American Psycho,” and “25th Hour.” “Honeymooners” was a pink drink utilizing Imperia Vodka, a single sliced strawberry, sweet & sour, a “float” of champagne and Sprite for fizz. It wasn’t too sweet, and the alcohol was scarily unnoticeable.
To start, we received a skeletal metal cone lined with faux newspaper, cradling two house-baked breadsticks and warm, pull-apart rolls of pretzel bread. The sculpture also cradled two glass dishes, one filled with Dijon dipping mustard, the other holding a scoop of butter folded with chunks of flame-red sun-dried tomato.
Chef Chris Tunnell has written a compelling menu, which made it difficult to choose a childhood favorite. We started the meal with a 3 Some, a sampling of each of the restaurant’s three fries. Skinny Cajun fries were sprinkled with orange seasoning, but were too dry. Sweet potato fries were dusted with sugar, which accentuated the tuber’s natural sweetness. Thick-cut fries had crisp sheathes and were dusted with Parmesan and tiny scissor cuts of chive, leading to the trio’s most satisfying flavors.
The fries came with five white porcelain dishes, which each held a different house-made ketchup, arranged in an X pattern. There was mango, maple, ranch, chipotle, and classic in the middle. Ranch had almost a pinkish hue, and the others were red, burgundy, or brownish. The taste spectrum wasn’t as wide as I’d hoped, but the mango had a hint of sweetness and chipotle contained a subtle kick.
Kobe “Burger” BLT Sliders come on house-made buns. The dome of the fluffy grilled bun featured melted shreds of yellow cheddar. Inside the bun contained a stack of melted cheddar, lettuce, pickle, tomato, bacon, a luscious patty, and a smear of homemade ketchup. For a slider, the burger was still fairly formidable, over three inches tall. It wasn’t messy, but due to its verticality, still had to be held together with a white toothpick that featured the restaurant’s name in red cursive.
Barking Dogs, Ketchup’s deluxe take on a hot dog, was cradled in a fluffy bun. The cocktail-size Kobe beef frank was piled with Kobe beef chili, melted cheddar, and a squiggle of chipotle ketchup.
The trio of Mini Chicken Tacos were housed in crispy blue corn shells, filled with juicy “fire grilled” chicken, melted cheddar, dabs of lime aioli and chipotle ketchup. The trio was set on finely chopped romaine. To accompany the tacos, we received a dish of silky but chunky guacamole. We spooned away, finding that the cool avocado helped to balance the dish, texturally and flavor-wise.
Drunken Scallops arrived on a red plate, four massive sea scallops that had been seared until the natural sugars were slightly caramelized on top, then sautéed in a light cream sauce flavored with “wicked ale” and cured bacon. They were sprinkled with cut chives. In the center of the plate was a heaping pile of lobster mashed potatoes, a bizarre combination of delicate crustacean and hearty potatoes that somehow worked pretty well, especially when run through the bacon- and ale-tinged cream sauce. The plate was completed with a small pile of tender baby vegetables: zucchini, carrots, and yellow squashes.
The oddly named Deliverance featured a double cut Jack Daniel’s-glazed pork chop, which was plated on its side so the bone saluted the sky like an elephant’s tusk. The chop was plated in creamy pool of grits, with a dollop of homemade applesauce on one side. On the opposite side were two thin slices of pork, topped with a simple pea shoot salad. The glaze really locked in the flavor of the luscious pork, and added a nice sweetness.
Ketchup doesn’t have a dedicated sommelier, but our waitress suggested a bottle of 2005 pinot noir from Hitching Post, a Santa Barbara County winery made even more famous from its inclusion in the movie “Sideways.” The “laid-back red” was smooth, not tannic in the least, and held up well to the big flavors of the pork chop and scallops.
S’mores came in a porcelain chalice, hot chocolate sauce capped with a gooey marshmallow and speared with a graham cracker. The marshmallow was plumed with a micro mint leaf. The cup was served on a porcelain plate, which held more crackers, for more dipping.
The ice cream sandwich was absolutely decadent, two gooey chocolate chip cookies, sandwiching a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Since the cookies arrived hot, the ice cream began to melt instantly, which led to a delicious mess.
Dolce Group restaurants have become known for their style and celebrity clientele, but based on our experience at Ketchup, it’s clear that food is hardly an afterthought. While not every dish was a winner, Chef Chris Tunnell left a lasting impression with his big, bold flavors.
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Great food and service!
I really enjoyed Ketchup and would recommend it to others. The staff was freindly, the food and drink were great and the atmosphere with the windows open and the lighting makes for a great experience.
All good here, great service almost to the point of too good. Food was excellent. I did not get the table they told me I was on the phone? Did I need to grease someones palm? I took my kids and their friends and had a great time! The crab Mac n cheese is outta this world!
It was a first time dining there and it wont be the last. Everything was great!
The restaurant is visually stunning with a menu to match. Definitely a hip restaurant with a menu that matches its appearence. Fortunately, the food was almost as good as it looked. Adefinite keeper.
A very, fun unique comfortable & friendly dinning experience. When it comes to the food & drinks.Ketchup has something for everybody. When it comes to their guest's comfort. They offer couches for the seating cushioned chairs dim lighting & excellent service,along with a relaxed nice atmosphere.
Service was great. Food was okay. I would try it again.
Coming out to LA for the first time, I thought we'd try something new. The ketchup and fries were great, but that's it. The crab mac n' cheese had no crab and came to the table cold and they were sold out of the only burger on the menu. Maybe a fun place to take your kids but it's definitely not meant for a date night for a couple.
The food was nothing special, the service was slow and the plates and bowls that the food served in was all chipped. The music was very loud and the silverware was dirty. Dont waste your money!
This place looks like an amazing place to visit when seen pictures online, but that's just deceiving. This place was not that great, food options are horrible, tables are too close together (when my friends and I went to dinner, the people next to us kept getting into our conversation!). None of us liked anything about this place. The waiter misunderstood our order and brought us two of the same entres when we had only asked for one, and we still had to pay for both of them because apparently the manager didn't let the waiter to take if off our bill. Not the best place to go to ever, we will never go back.
The reason why we chose Kethcup Restaurant was to have something great to remember since we're celebrating a 50th birthday. No manager had even tried to talk to us to greet the celebrant and we were just treated an ordinary guests who just happened to pass by that day. Upon seated, I told the waiter that we have a celebrant in our company and just smiled at us. The management did not even complimented our visit with even just a little birthday cake or a dessert for the celebrant to comemorate the occasion. I was so dissappointed coz I felt sorry for not having sang a birthday song for my 50 yrs old brother with his family while we were surrounded with diners on the other table blowing their cakes and happily clapping their hands greeting their clebrants. No one from the restaurant said how to get a cake for the celebrant to enjoy the occasion more. I will never book this restaurant again. I failed to provide my brother an important occasion to remember the rest of his life coz I felt that was just like eating at Mcdonalds or more so like an ordinary dine out at an ordinary day. Nothing special at this restaurant, the reviews provided before I made my decision to choose this Ketchup Restaurant is overrated. I think the management just chooses who among their guests will be treated special. We're not one of them unfortunately. We did not feel important that day. They knew the reason why we were there but there were no efforts to make it a special celebration by telling me what I need to do how I can have a cake for my celebrant, how i can make the waiters sing a birthday song with my family to greet my brother-celebrant, how and how??? etc, ect. Total disappointment overall dining experience. I wish I just chose any other restaurant who knows how to make their guests feel special and feel at home.