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Tommy Ray's Studio City first dinner visit (long)

We had dinner at Tommy Ray's last night - this was the second night of their dinner service. The restaurant is very modern and airy inside, and also has a large patio area.

We had Tuna Carpaccio as an appetizer, the only item we ordered which seemed like a bit of a rip off, 5 small pieces of seared Ahi heavily peppercorn'd with a bit of wasabi sauce of top. Not that tasty, not worth $12.50, and you better LOVE peppercorns, because that is what you'll be tasting for the rest of the evening.

The rest of the meal was quite good. We've been on a fish and chips kick lately, and I have to say that TR's is the best we've ever eaten in L.A. It is made with black cod, lightly breaded (I usually prefer the battered style but this was great). The fish was tender and both the fish and the skinny french fries that came with it were non-greasy and yummy. Also had the Spinach Ravioli in wild mushroom ragu, more bell peppers than mushrooms in the ragu but very good. Entree prices range from $9.95 for a burger to $25.95 for Steak au Poivre. Wines by the glass start at $8.00 and bottles in the mid-$20s.

The chocolate mousse, listed as the "Chocolate Special" on the menu, was the highlight of the meal. Intensely chocolate, with an almost cake-like texture, and topped with home made whipped cream and raspberries, it was out of this world. The Apple Crisp had good cinnamon ice cream on the top, and the crisp was nicely textured, but the green apples tasted weird. The manager noticed our partially eaten crisp and offered to wrap it for us to take home. We told him why we hadn't finished it, and he said he would tell the chef, but did not offer to take it off the bill.

Service ran about 30-35 minutes longer than it should have, which hopefully will work itself out as the staff become more experienced. Our server was friendly but not particularly knowledgeable about the menu and he seemed very distracted, so lots of room for improvement there.

TR has the potential to be a great local restaurant. I don't know if it will be worth a destination drive, but we'll go back again in a few weeks and see if there are any changes.

I've posted pictures of our meal here -

http://pictures.aol.com/galleries/sha...

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  1. I don't see it listed, do you have an address?

    1 Reply
    1. re: compucook

      12345 Ventura Blvd., just east of Good(bad) Earth. 818.506.2412
      www.tommyrayscafe.com is their website, yet it is still under construction.

    2. Near Mezzo Mondo?

      2 Replies
      1. re: compucook

        MezzoMondo is just west across the side street from Bad Earth, and this is in the same complex, just east of Bad Earth.

        1. re: carter

          carter, just a guess, but I'm thinking maybe you've had some bad experiences at the Good Earth? (I've yet to have any kind of non-sucky experience there, so I'm curious.)

      2. Just returned from our first time trying Tommy Ray's in Studio City. It was quite awful -- avoid it although I doubt they will be in business for long. We had a reservation, showed up on time, but got stuck at a booth that was crammed in the very back corner of the restaurant. When we asked the hostess if we could sit at several different booths that we pointed out --she told us they were already reserved (I thought we had reservations too). I noticed that during the entire time we were there, those other booths we had requested remained empty the whole time.

        The food was beneath mediocre. Ordered the fried calamari appetizer which was basically a bunch of calamari pieces all stuck together in grease. My wife ordered the grilled artichoke, thinking it would be a somewhat healthy choice, and it was absolutely drenched in oil -- way too greasy.

        My daughter ordered the burger and was asked how she wanted it cooked. She said medium rare and it arrived completely well-done, not a trace of pink in it. Pretty disappointing when you're paying $10.95 for a burger and can't get it cooked they way you want it. I ordered the seared scallops, which tasted OK, but they were definitely cooked way more than "seared" -- they were cooked completely through. My son ordered the pasta bolognese which was absolutely tasteless. My wife ordered a caprese salad which was actually OK.

        Service was pretty slow -- but our server was very friendly, nice and apologetic about the delays (this was a dinner that started at 6:30 PM and the restaurant was about half-full). So, with all the other great choices available in the Studio City area, we would definite not return to this place!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Studio City Chaz

          I agree. Went a coupla weeks ago for probably my first and only visit, and also had that artichoke app, which was overgrilled and then drenched in oil - ugh!
          Cannot even remember the entree it was just that memorable?!
          Thing I hate most about the place is the look - or lack thereof. Big open room, with decor similar to the Bad Earth immediately to the west - probably had the same designer. Need to break up the room with a plant divider, or something, and tone down the echo effect.
          Looks like it was done quite cheaply.
          Wine list better than you should expect, however.
          Apps and vino might be the way to go, if you can only find an app. you want to eat!

          1. re: carter

            I agree - a pass- one visit is enough for me

        2. LOL-Reminds me that the Breeder's Cup just happened and why there's a need for horse races! I was at Tommy Ray's last Friday for the second time, first time for dinner and had an opposite experience. It was full but got our booth exactly on time and the service was friendly and qauick, the calamari very good and not greasy and my whole fish of the day very tasty, and nobody's mentioned that the bread is very good, always a good sign for me.
          The 3 other people with me, one my wife , also happy and we all liked the 'open plan' that somebody found wanting.
          Additional pluses, a full bar and one to sit at both inside and out, and now valet parking instead of the parking garage maze in back.
          So I'll go back and no, I don't know a soul connected with the operation or have any investment in it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Thorn

            I hope that the restaurant owners read this board. I personally liked the modern decor, the food and service need some tweaking but all the basics are there to be a good place for a casual meal. Studio City Chaz or other posters, are there restaurants in the same vein that you prefer in the Studio City area?

            1. re: Thorn

              Stanley's in Sherman Oaks should be their role model, in that they also have a basic open building, yet the sections are separated by plantings that keep the place a little more intimate. And it also has a full bar, and probably the best patio in the entire Studio City/Sherman Oaks area.
              I think there is hope, like their wine list much better than anything Stanley's offers, yet like others say, I hope the owners are reading, reacting, and hopefully succeeding.
              But lose the excessive salt in the kitchen.

              1. re: carter

                Yes, I also like Stanley's (altho I haven't been there in a while -- it would have been a far superior choice to go there instead of Tommy Ray's). My family has lived in Studio City for nearly 20 years and we like to support local restaurants -- so I was looking forward to trying the newest restaurant in town. However, when the whole experience is just not great -- and when the restaurant's prices are not cheap (a burger for $11 and entrees for up to $26) you expect something pretty nice. As far as other places in Studio City that I prefer -- there are many -- Out Take Bistro has always been good, as well as Le Petit Jacques in Sherman Oaks. We used to go to Spumante all the time and really enjoyed it, but it closed about 10 months ago. We really like Bistro Provence in Burbank as well. I was really hoping Tommy Ray's would be a "neighborhood favorite", but based on our experience -- no way. And, yes, I too hope the owners read this board -- there was no opportunity to tell anyone about the shortcomings when we dined there -- the staff seemed to be so busy and stressed out just getting their customers served. I did notice that the owner or chef came around once to several tables nearby to ask if everything was OK -- he never stopped by our table -- I would encourage him to visit every table in the restaurant because we would have given him our honest opinion. My wife's take on it was that the staff seemed very young and inexperienced (example: the hostess telling us we couldn't sit in several booths that we pointed out and that were never occupied during the hour and a half that we were there -- that's just bad customer service). And, by the way, the bread was very good -- however, it's a sad experience when the bread is about the only thing you can rave about.

            2. I don't think Tommy ray's is a kids restaurant or that the prices are out of line. I'm sure Carter can correct me if wrong, but Stanley's prices are comparable, and a place I like BTW, mainly for a drink as I like the round bar and understand it's still a great pickup joint at happy hour! No current personal experience of that as usually go to Stanley's for lunch..
              Anyway there's a fari selection of restaurants in a similar price bracket which probably should be the subject of a separate thread.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Thorn

                The Stanley's burger is $9.95 and the entrees by and large range from $14.95 to $18.95, with only a New York steak at $22.95, while pastas are $10.95-$12.95.
                And yes good drinks, yet still a lousy wine list, damn!

                1. re: carter

                  I went to Tommy Ray's last week, and had a most enjoyable meal. A pork chop stuffed with some sort of cheese was out of this world. The bread basket had what they call pretzel bread and it was deelish. My friends enjoyed their meals as well, and it wasn't bad for star-gazing either. Caruso (I forget his first name) of CSI Miami was at the next table with a group, and he was very friendly. All in all, it was a good experience. Try it!

                  1. re: howard81

                    He must live there or be an investor as he was also there the one and probably only time I will have eaten there.
                    I'll stick with Stanley's for better food, ambiance, and value, although in Sherman Oaks.

                2. re: Thorn

                  I agree that Tommy Ray's is not a kid's restaurant. Just to clarify -- my children are 19 and 22 -- so they are not kids when it comes to a dining experience. And, I don't think their prices would be out of line if the quality was good -- I am more than willing to pay $11 for a burger if it's decent -- however, Tommy Ray's made a big deal about asking how my daughter wanted the burger cooked -- and she ordered it medium rare. When it arrived, it could only be classifed as well-done -- completely brown throughout, no pink. It is the kind of place that you don't want to send anything back -- it would take forever and you have no confidence that it would be prepared any better. 'Nuff said. It was not a good experience -- and it was bad enough that given the multitude of restaurants in the vicinity, I would not bother to give it another try.

                  1. re: Thorn

                    Why are people so hooked on Stanley's? Oh I see, it's those who think Tommy Ray's is "stark" and "needs some plants". Stanley's has been around for a long time, that's true.. and THEY HAVEN'T REMODELED IN AS MANY YEARS!! The place is so 80's!! The people who complain about the decor of Tommy Ray's are probably most comfortable in restaurants with big vinyl booths with plants in-between. Those restaurants most likely will bring a telephone to your table to take a phone call! Remember those??

                    Tommy Ray's has decor that is clean and modern. Thanks for bring a bit of Hollywood, West Hollywood etc. to the valley.

                    My experience was different than most. Food was good, although sending back one dish because it wasn't fully cooked was handled quickly and efficienlty.

                    The manager was very concerned about our experience. He even ran out after us and chatted with us as we waited for the valet to bring the car around. He hadn't heard of the dish being sent back, but apologized for the inconvenience. This was two weeks ago. I'll be returning this Sunday, and bringing a celebrity friend of mine who is use to great food at great restaurants. I am confident it'll be just fine.

                    1. re: Fivestarguy

                      Greg remodels Stanley's about every 3 or so years, and did so in the last year or so. He keeps the same general floor plan/layout, yet has invested in new booths, tables and chairs, yet the bar works so well that there is no need to do anything with it. It is seemingly always getting a new coat and color of paint.
                      ps - my second visit did provide better food than the first one, yet still would not generate any real motivation to return unless someone else insisted.

                  2. Had a good meal at Tommy Ray's last night with a friend – it was a bit chilly, so we opted for an inside booth. Considering it was fairly late on a Monday, they were at approx. 40% capacity – most diners taking advantage of the stand heaters and fire-pits on the patio.

                    Appetizers: We shared cheese stuffed Spanish peppers (in an empanada-like crust), and almond-crusted goat cheese (served with crostini, peppers in a vinaigrette, and a head of roasted garlic).

                    Mains: I had the seared salmon – generous sized portion, cooked perfectly, served with roasted fingerling potatoes & veggies (carrots, asparagus) and a tangy & sweet tomato/basil salsa. Friend had the fish & chips – 3 pieces of cod (breaded in panko – good crunch, not greasy, and the fish was tender & moist) served on average looking fries.

                    Service was good, our server Joseph steered me away from my first impulse, and toward something I enjoyed (and not something more expensive).

                    howard81: glad to hear the pork chop was decent, it sounded interesting, I’ll probably try it next time.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: SassieCass

                      Interestingly, the same salmon dish you liked I tasted a bite of on my one and only visit, and it was so salty, so skimpy, yet properly cooked, and was barely edible.
                      Wine list still good though for a place at this price point.

                    2. We have walked in four times and three of those times, walked out because we never had a waiter take our order. The one time we did eat there, which was some time ago, i remember a very greasy order of short ribs. I think the menu there is fairly overpriced and i dont get the new flat screen tvs. Too bad, because studio city could use some better non-sushi restaurants.