Manhattan Meets Encino

At Davenport’s, you can have your cake and eat oysters too.

Valley dwellers who live west of Sepulveda have put up with a serious lack of great restaurants for decades. Recently they feel like they’ve hit the jackpot with the opening of four, eclectic, side-by-side eateries at an Encino strip mall. And now they’re over the moon with yet another interesting choice along the Boulevard: Davenport’s—a New York style meat-meets-seafood eatery with an elegant vibe.

Featuring twin marble bars, upholstered (sound muffling) walls, pressed tin ceiling and black cushioned booths—Davenport’s offers the best of both worlds; it is sophisticated but unpretentious. The eatery is a place where you could do a fancy celebratory dinner or simply hang out, sipping wine on the outdoor patio.

Seasoned chef and co-owner Nigel Davenport previously worked as a corporate executive chef for Larsen’s Steakhouse (a local chain with a branch just across the street). His father, Carl, is co-owner.

Lobster factors into what is most certainly one of LA’s most beautiful Cobb salads. Vivid piles of tomato, bacon, hard-boiled egg, shaved red onion, cubed, dill Havarti cheese, avocado and pencil-thin asparagus are piled on chopped lettuces, dressed with house-made tarragon vinaigrette. A paprika dusting, lemon squeeze and thorough mixing complete the experience.

Dover sole meunière is a French classic starring flaky, pan-fried white fish bathed in a tangy parsley, white wine, lemon and caper sauce. The fish, a bargain at $21, is boned tableside and served with buttery mashed potatoes and firm English peas.

Nigel is just as skilled with turf as surf. For one entree, he dry rubs baby back ribs with spices like cayenne, cumin and paprika before slow cooking for six hours. Racks are sprayed with apple cider to boost caramelization and then cooked on a mesquite and oak grill. Each order is brushed with a balanced tomato-based BBQ sauce, accented with garlic and molasses, and served with thin, skin-on fries and slaw with hearty kale.

A humble cheeseburger is a great test for any chef, and Nigel nails his coarse, house-ground brisket, chuck and short rib patty. Each burger is wood-grilled and stacked on a brioche bun with cheddar, thick-cut tomato and onion, lettuce and pickles. Nigel’s trips to visit sister Chris in New Orleans inspired the burger’s spicy remoulade, as well as Davenport’s crab beignets and oysters Rockefeller.

To finish, baklava cheesecake is a fun hybrid. A massive mascarpone slab is enlightened with lemon zest, crowned with crushed nuts and flaky phyllo, and drizzled with floral orange blossom honey.

When mapping out the menu, Nigel considered featuring dessert at the long counter (a remnant from previous tenant, Dupar’s) located between the elegant entry and the step-down dining room. Instead he went with a raw bar. At Davenport’s, you can have your cake and eat oysters too.

16120 Ventura Blvd., Encino (free parking in the back), 818-855-1203,