New Restaurant: Tuning Fork Gastropub for Good Eats, Drinks and All Around Fun

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kynewpic110BY KAREN YOUNG


Tuning Fork Gastropub mixes comfort food and music.   Photos: Karen Young

The latest entry in the San Fernando Valley dining scene is Tuning Fork Gastropub, which opened March 8 on Ventura Place in Studio City, replacing the three decades old Sompun Thai Restaurant. The space was completely gutted and re-designed as a clean, modern open room that seats 50 with large front windows, rustic wood tables and a long bar.

Tuning Fork is all about having fun. Whimsy is evoked through the menu that’s created  for both carnivores and vegans alike, as well as through subtle fanciful designs on parts of the faux painted walls, Dodger bobble heads on a top wall shelf above the bar, and of course, the restaurant’s logo itself.  The spirit emitted by the ambiance and the staff is friendly, accessible and a tribute to good old comfort food that’s moderately priced and locally sourced — all carried off with a classic rock twist (or funk, blues and jazz mood music — depending upon the day and time).  Key to the theme is a choice selection of micro-brewed beer in bottles, cans and draft ales, as well as small production wines and homemade punch. The food and drink menus will rotate according to the season.


The bar will have a rotating menu of craft beers and small production wine.

Co-owners Joseph Kuras and Martin Heynen  (who is also the general manager) have been life long friends since meeting as third graders in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Both have worked together and apart running various restaurants and clubs — and both are musicians. They came up with the name since their lives have been consumed by both food and music.

Farm on the Mountain Burger is a "chef's favorite." See n here with Tater Tots.

Farm on the Mountain Burger is a “chef’s favorite.” Seen here with Tater Tots.

My dining partner that evening was my son who was home from college.  I told him I heard excellent first reports about the burgers, so he ordered the “Farm on the Mountain” with goat cheese and a mix of mushrooms and truffles sandwiched in a fresh brioche bun.  He reported that it was one delicious burger  and one of the best he’s ever eaten.  It was one of five burgers on the menu, including a vegan, gluten free, non-dairy option made with eggplant and lentils. The beef burgers are all made from grass fed, hand-ground short ribs.  All burgers come with salt and vinegar or BBQ chips — or tater tots for $2 extra or salad for $3.

I ordered something I rarely consume — chicken. Frankly, I don’t like chicken very much, but this entree called “Birdsong” was described as the ‘signature’ dish, so that was quite the nudge to make me order it.  Good thing I took the bait because this bird truly sings. It is not like any chicken I’ve ever eaten. This was simply an amazing dish.

Birdsong chicken is a "signature" dish.

Birdsong chicken is a “signature” dish.

So, when executive chef Marc Elliot came by our table, I felt compelled to tell him that I don’t usually care for chicken.  He nodded with agreement and told me that he doesn’t like chicken either — until he created this dish.  The secret he said was braising it in beer with butter — lots of butter (memories of Julia Child here).  No wonder it was so moist.  This scrumptious dish was then completed with a creamy parsnip puree and farm fresh fire-roasted beets.

Elliot, who has been on the forefront of the locally sourced, seasonal cuisine and pub scene in New York for the past twenty years, has brought his talents to the west coast and designed quite an inventive gastropub menu.  Along with the aforementioned burgers and chicken, entrees include:  Fish n’ Chips, Hangar Steak, Goose and Duck Pate, Mac n’ Cheese, a Chopped Salad with duck and bacon, and a Mexicali Sombrero vegan dish with vegetables and tofu cheese. All Elliot’s dishes have a little twist and an edge that make them stand out.  He said he intends to shop the Studio City Farmers Market on Sundays for produce, as well as for inspiration to create new recipes.

Murder by Chocolate

Murder by Chocolate. Enough said.

There’s a very unique flatbread menu with dishes named Water, Sun, Earth, Wind, Fire and Star.  Lead ingredients among the different flatbreads include gravlax, Peking duck, truffle mushrooms and cheese.  There’s even a dessert flatbread topped with chocolate, almonds, marshmallows and kettle corn.

Side dishes include a vegan soup with white beans and swiss chard, steak tartare, wings with ”Friend of the Devil” sauce,  cheese n’ soup (described as ‘bubbie’s old skool tomato soup recipe), horseradish mash, bacon brussels sprouts, and more.

Wood rustic tables seat 50.

Wood rustic tables of varying sizes seat about 50 people total in the restaurant.

The dessert menu is limited, but a big must is the Murder by Chocolate — two slabs of intensely rich chocolate ganache covered with raspberry sauce — and in the merry tongue in cheek spirit of the Tuning Fork — it has a knife stuck into it (because the chocolate is so thick, it needs to be cut, of course).

Tuning Fork Gastropub is an excellent addition to this Studio City neighborhood that is  growing steadily on the culinary front.  I am looking forward to eating my way through the menu — especially as it changes with the seasons.

Tuning Fork Gastropub12051 Ventura Place, Studio City, (818) 623-0734 (a few doors west of Big Five).  Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Burgers and Entrees ($10-$14), Sides ($6-$13). Reservations recommended.  Street parking.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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