The Brilliantshine space at 522 Wilshire has had many tenants. Tinga reviewed here occupied the area last, and is actually still holding onto a tiny corner facing Wilshire. What once served as their bar, is now their all-in-one bar and restaurant. Perhaps they'll have better luck with the smaller space. Renee's was their predecessor. It's always been "interesting" space. The outdoor area is nice, shaded in between the trees. The inside has always been a somewhat odd collection of rooms shooting off from the courtyard.
With slightly smaller space, Brilliantshine can now dedicate a room to the bar, another to dining and the courtyard still remains for a pleasant evening outdoors for both.
Seeing as the men behind the restaurant are master mixologists, it makes sense to devote a room to libations, though flaming and smoking cocktails are shuttled throughout the place all evening. The drinks menu is separated between "Shaken" cocktails for fruit and fun, and Aromatic, which plays to the more serious drinker with whiskey based cocktails, though I'm not sure how you can order the Rye 'n Goslings with a straight face. If none of the drinks appeal to you, you can just tell your server what you like and leave it up the the cocktail gods.
I was surprised and delighted by "A Diving Bell," an interesting mix of Mezcal, gin, cayenne, lime and caramelized pineapple. Yes, caramelized pineapple. It was smoky with a little heat and a touch of sweetness. And this was one of their "easier" drinks. "The Walking Dead" with 3 different rums has a limit of 2 per person, so yeah, some cocktails are a little more serious.
The food menu is a collection of small to larger plates. I was expecting bar food, but was again surprised and delighted by the quality of dishes. The chef hails from Peruvian Paiche so it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the bok choy was well seasoned with soy sauce, next to large colorful chunks of tomato, carrot and red onion.
The agnolotti was soft and savory with kabocha squash and shimeji mushrooms. A rich and velvety sauce embraced the entire dish, leaving me to use the serving spoon to scoop every last taste.
Not to be outdone was the lamb merguez burger, packed full of juicy, pronounced flavor. To make things even more decadent, it was topped with epoisse cheese, pickled Fresno chilies, avocado and egg. Not sure the egg was even necessary, but no matter how you slice it, and you do in fact need to use a fork and a knife with this guy, it's a fabulous burger.
Everything was great up to this point, and then there was a lull. A long lull. It was about 45 minutes before we got our next dish, and this was after asking several times. Our crispy duck leg lettuce wrap had evidently gone to another table, and then another. When it finally arrived, I found the meat slightly overcooked, but perhaps I was just in a bad mood at this point. I thought the pickled daikon was a nice touch. Chiccharron were good to munch on, but didn't really work in the lettuce wrap.
We debated ordering the S'more dessert, given the amount of time we waited for the final dish, but we were assured it wouldn't take long. Perhaps we have different definitions of a long time, but quite some time passed again, 20 or more minutes, but then we did get our warm, homemade graham cracker sandwiched with marshmallows and chocolate. It sat on a smoldering plank like the one that Hinoki and the Bird uses for their cod. The cracker could have been more crisp, the marshmallow more charred, but it was still a solid dessert. They did graciously take off the dessert and duck due to our long wait.
If they iron out the service kinks, Brilliantshine could be a go-to bar/dining destination where as much effort is put into the drinks as the food.
522 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA