Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Arsenal reloads and delivers

Last Thursday my coworkers and I stopped by Arsenal to check out its happy hour. I had been to Arsenal a few years ago and wasn’t too impressed with the food or the place itself. But that was then. A few months ago Arsenal closed for a several weeks to re-invent itself with a classy new look and an updated menu. It was time to give this place a second look.

We arrived at Arsenal around 5:15pm to a mostly empty scene, in fact we basically had the venue to ourselves. The interior is definitely several steps above from the aged, outdated decor of yesteryear. A smartly decorated lounge area splits two dining rooms; it actually reminded me of the lounge bar at Tavern. If you’ve even been to Tavern then you know what a compliment that is. Parking is plentiful along Pico boulevard at this hour, though a valet service is available for those of you who insist on being dropped off in front of the restaurant. Once inside, we proceeded to the lounge area near the front and starting ordering our libations and sustenance.

Happy hour Scotch on the rocks. $3. I’m not sure of the particular brand of Scotch, but the taste was mellow and quite smooth with a subtle smokey finish, and there was no skimping on the portion. I enjoyed four of these over the course of our happy hour outing and I can say I was well satiated by night’s end. My coworkers went with the house red wine and I couldn’t help to notice that their glasses were about three-fourths full with each pour.

Poutine fries with horseradish cheddar and gravy. $5. I’m no expert in the Canadian specialty that is poutine, but that certainly didn’t hinder me from truly enjoying these crosscut fries smothered in cheese and gravy. What’s not to love here? And for $5? We ordered two of these. The fries were crispy on the outside with fluffy centers; the horseradish cheddar was a nice touch that added a bit of sinus heat after each bite.

BBQ chicken pizza. $5. There were two varieties of pizza on the happy hour menu--BBQ chicken and margarita. You would never mistaken this pizza for one of my homemade pies, but at just $5 this pizza is undeniably good and a must order. The crust was nicely seasoned and crispy the outside with a nice spongy center; it also appears to be hand tossed and not cut out from a rolled sheet of dough. I commend Arsenal’s chefs for balancing the BBQ sauce flavors with the perfectly spiced and cooked chicken; the sauce wasn’t overpowering like it has been on so many other BBQ chicken pizzas I’ve had.

Chicken tenders. $5 (or $6?). Giant pieces of white meat chicken were juicy and very flavorful. The crunchy breading was light albeit delicious. These were so good and juicy that the provided ranch and BBQ dipping sauces were barely touched.

Beef slider trio. $6. My favorite dish of the night. Each slider was prepared differently with one being a basic burger, another with grilled onions and pesto, and the third with more of that sinus-clearing horseradish cheddar. The downsized patties were juicy and cooked just above medium rare, and the soft buns were soft and perfectly sized to the amount of meat. These tasty mini burgers warrant a return visit to try Arsenal’s full-size version.

Cheese quesadilla. $3. Yes it’s a flour tortilla wrapped around cheese and then grilled. There’s nothing fancy about this $3 dish, but it was tasty and bursting with cheese. I would order this extra crispy for next time as I like my quesadillas firm :).

When we left at around 8pm, the place was completely full and bustling with activity. As soon as we dislodged ourselves from our comfortable chairs, several people dropped in as if they had been clinging to the ceiling watching us from above. Happy hour was already over but that didn't seem to matter to those waiting. With the tasty food, good service, and outstanding prices, this turned out to be one of the better happy hours I’ve been to and there’s no doubt that I’ll be returning to Arsenal to try more of their food.

12012 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles CA