By Wynter Holden / Photos by Kimberly Carrillo
Chef Jose Morales’ menu is a melting pot of global cuisines.
There’s a theory that every human being on the planet is connected to any other person by no more than six degrees of separation. If you weren’t familiar with this notion earlier, you probably learned about it through the namesake John Guare play that saw a short-lived 2017 revival. Or, more likely, via the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game.
6 Degrees Urban Kitchen extends this theory to its menu, a New American mélange of ingredients and cultures. On one end, you’ll find chicken yakitori and seared ahi, just inches away from poutine and guacamole. At lunchtime, Nashville hot chicken and a meatloaf/grilled cheese hybrid break bread with Southwest steak and a tangy Cubano with trendy porchetta (Italian-seasoned suckling pig).
The ghost of the space’s former incarnation as Alma haunts the tooled leather seats and white brick walls of 6 Degrees. The glass-walled wine cooler, patio conversation areas, and curtained private area remain, and circular gouges in the wood floor have etched former table locations into permanence. Luckily, 6 Degrees updated some of its predecessor’s less desirable features. Gone are Alma’s creepy cow skulls and altar candles, replaced by steel girders and a heavily textured wall of riveted metal plates. Two chandeliers crafted from inverted wine glasses hang above the bar, and a 20-foot-long mural made by two L.A. graffiti artists dominates one wall. If 6 Degrees was a residence, it would be a hip L.A. loft.
Early evening on Sunday is the perfect time to visit. The brunch crowds have dissipated, having had their fill of Captain Crunch pancakes, bloody Marys, and mid-afternoon football. The bar is quiet and the glass walls thrown open to let in the cool evening breeze. Chef Jose Morales’ dinner menu covers a single page, with globally inspired starters, salads and entrees to please almost any palate. A Chicago transplant, Morales’ comfort with culinary diversity shows in Italian, Japanese, Indian, and coastal American dishes.
We began with the crisp cauliflower, one of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers. It’s beautifully cooked, with a tender interior and a light outer crust that bursts with spicy-sweet flavors. Though described as sambal, the sauce lacks the peppery chile flavor of the traditional Indonesian condiment. It tastes more like Chinese Five Spice with a light agave nectar glaze. Whatever its origins, the sauce is delectable, and a suitable contrast to the fresh, crisp, inherent “greenness” of lightly seared shishitos.
In a global take on surf ‘n’ turf, my companion and I opted for lobster risotto and grilled skirt steak. The latter was described by our server as a Mexican-inspired version of steak frites, with chimichurri subbing for the bordelaise or béarnaise. Be forewarned: This dish is heavy on the carbs. While the shoestring fries are average, the sliced beef is lean and flavorful, with a delicately charred exterior that lends a smoky flavor. Chef Morales’ version of Argentinean chimchurri sauce is vibrant and garlicky, with an herbaceous parsley base that clears the nasal passages. It’s also bright emerald green, but don’t let the bold color steer you away from this tasty dish.
In contrast, the risotto is subdued. It’s as neutral as a stucco exterior, and cooked past the al dente texture found at most authentic Italian eateries. Good thing comfort food doesn’t need to be visually stunning. The rice practically melts into the creamy mushroom sauce, earthy gravy studded with wild enokis that squeak ever so slightly when you bite in. This dish is velvety and rich – the culinary equivalent of a fleece blanket pulled over your toes on a cold night. Six Degrees doesn’t skimp on the crustaceans, either. There’s more than enough sweet lobster meat here to warrant the $28 price tag.
Speaking of sweets, 6 Degrees has a gem hiding in its petite dessert menu. The lackluster-sounding cheesecake surprised when it arrived on end, perched like a creamy white sailboat suspended in a sea of precisely marbled white and dark chocolate. Kernels of caramel popcorn cling to the pyramid, a sugared apple slice precariously balanced on top. It’s a gorgeous dish. The chocolate ocean is attractive, but overkill; I was already bordering on sugar coma after a few bites. Though ours was comped due to a minor broken glass accident, this dessert is worth adding to your bill.
Our tab totaled about $80, not including the comped cheesecake. It’s a tad pricey unless you stop in for brunch or happy hour, but not unexpected for the area.
Overall, 6 Degrees is a welcome addition to Gainey Ranch. The globally inspired menu is intriguing, though I’d like to see boundaries pushed further with authentic spices and fusion dishes. What’s most impressive is the eatery’s attention to detail. Chef Morales’ flavors are succinct, the service is strong and the presentations are lovely. Perhaps, like actor Kevin Bacon, the eatery will find its strongest footing as it ages.