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Dining Review: Commonwealth dishes up uncommon delights

May 02, 2014|By Lisa Dupuy
  • In the forefront, the Berkshire pork belly, with lentils, Tomatillo verde sauce and pickled shallots. In the background, the asparagus and fennel salad to the left, with French feta, almonds and topped with a blood orange vinaigrette, and to the right, Maine lobster and truffle croquettes, with black truffle, lemon beurre blanc and caviar.
In the forefront, the Berkshire pork belly, with lentils,… (Photo by Sameea…)

Forget the fact you have to park in an auto repair shop across a busy stretch of Glenoaks Boulevard. Ignore that this hard-to-find eatery is next to a hectic multipump gas station. Overlook the limitation that it's only open at night. Just get yourself to Commonwealth, an outstanding little restaurant recently opened in Burbank.

Commonwealth is the brainchild of co-owners Ryotaro Isobe and Peter Park. They used to run a similarly themed restaurant on the Westside but recently brought their efforts to our valley. Loyal customers have followed them and newbies have discovered them so getting a table at the diminutive restaurant might be a challenge. The reason is simple. Isobe and Park's aesthetic is clean, modern and thrilling.

Hesitant to come here at first due to my unreasonable bias against small plates (little plates equals big bill plus empty belly), I discovered I actually prefer this style of eating. Commonwealth reminds me of two of my favorite restaurants, Altaeats and Racion, which also happen to serve "plates to share." The difference here is Commonwealth's interest in global, not regional, flavors.


There is a palpable Asian sensibility here, particularly Japanese and Thai. But you'll also find nods to French, Italian, Mexican and classic American techniques and flavors. It is not, as I feared, a world buffet smorgasbord. Instead, chefs Ryan Eleco and Mario Lopez create dishes that synthesize flavors in a new way. They wander into the bitter and acidy realm. There's crunch, freshness, creativity and wonder in every bite.

The menu is well-edited and well-known by waiters (most of the staff came with them from the Sawtelle location). They help you formulate your dining experience and suggest serving dishes in a particular order, from lightest to most full-bodied, as with wine tasting.

While my husband and I studied the menu, a complimentary appetizer arrived: toasted baguette with avocado-goat cheese spread and sun-dried tomato bruschetta. Delicious. Per our waiter Kevin's suggestion, we started with the Albacore Scoops ($12). Four tender endive cups are filled with chopped herby greens, sushi-grade albacore, jalapeno aioli and tiny bits of kalamata olive — refreshing and well-balanced with a glass of their rich, fruity sangria.

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