The Lab Brewing Company
30105 Agoura Road
$6 – $37.50
I’m willing to go to great lengths for a good beer. This time last year (and a few times since), I made the drive to Ladyface Alehouse and Brasserie. So it seemed fitting that this year, I head down that way again to check out a new addition to the local beer scene, The Lab Brewing Company in Agoura Hills.
Large and cavernous, this brewing company is unlike any other place in Ventura County. It boasts large copper fermentation barrels, modern furnishings and a 30 foot curtained TV screen. The menu at The Lab offers around 30 beers on tap, a handful of which are brewed on site. As for the food, the menu is not your average brewpub menu. In addition to burgers and fries, it is jammed full of options like escargot, braised short ribs, charcuterie plates and beef tongue.
Thirsty for beer and hungry for something new, we stopped in for dinner on a recent Saturday night. Though there were plenty of tables open when we arrived, over the course of the night the dining room filled and the wait staff grew busier and busier.
We started with a flight of beers brewed at The Lab: the Cold Fusion Java (a coffee porter), the Take Her Home (a Belgian Trippel), the Big Ass Red (amber ale) and the XPA (described by our server as an IPA’s little brother). Of the four, our favorite was the fruity Trippel, though with its high alcohol content at 11 percent, it’s a beer to drink with caution. The XPA was another standout, with flavor similar to that of an IPA but mellower on the hoppy flavor that defines the India pale ale.
After we finished our sampler and were ready to order more drinks, we waited for our server for a good while, staring wistfully at our empty glasses. When he finally arrived, we were dismayed to find that they were out of many of the beers on the menu. Eventually, my husband settled on a pint of Enegren Imperial IPA, wanting to try one of the beers from this Moorpark brewery, and I chose the Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, flavored with hints of spice and caramel.
We started with an order of the bone marrow, the duck quesadilla and the house-made fries. The latter was a hearty serving of crisp fried potatoes sprinkled with paprika and blue cheese. Though the blue cheese added a nice tang, on this particular night, the fries weren’t piping hot, leaving us a bit disappointed. The duck quesadilla was unique — shredded duck tossed in a dark mole sauce and tucked into a flour tortilla. Though we loved the hints of chocolate and spice in the rich sauce, we were surprised to find a piece of bone mixed in with the tender meat.
Of our starters, the bone marrow was the star. Earthy and decadent, we couldn’t help but feel a bit naughty as we spread the unctuous marrow onto pieces of crostini.
When it came time for our main course, we opted to share a few more dishes: the Lab burger, the shrimp and calamari ceviche, and the cream of Tuscan kale. The burger is made with a blend of Kobe and sirloin beef (ground in house), topped with caramelized onions, bacon, arugula and a blend of blue and Gruyère cheeses. Juicy, moist and dripping with the melted cheese, the burger was by far our favorite dish of the meal — so good, in fact, that it didn’t need the addition of ketchup or any other condiments.
One of the reasons we ordered the ceviche was that it was supposed to come with a side of plantain chips. Yet when ours arrived, it was accompanied by a pile of rather generic tortilla chips. The seafood was tender and flecked with chopped cilantro, but it was completely lacking any citrus flavor, the defining feature of a traditional ceviche.
Though I ordered the cream of Tuscan kale, there was a mix-up and our server brought the kale salad instead. Once he realized his mistake, he brought the correct dish (and later, removed it from our final bill). This delicious and modern spin on a traditional creamed spinach was bathed in a comforting cream sauce and filled with flavors of garlic and shallots.
All in all, The Lab is definitely onto something. A great beer selection, cool atmosphere and intriguing menu could very well be the ideal recipe for success. Perhaps we hit them on an unusually busy night; maybe they are still working through the growing pains every new restaurant experiences. Regardless, for beer lovers and those who love to try new things, this is definitely a place worth checking out.
Check out my food tasting tours at www.venturafoodtours.com, where you’ll find info on our new Eating Ojai Tour, gift certificates and info on upcoming special events.