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Mar 18, 2007 09:32 PM

Canelé in Atwater? Don't bother....

In regard to Canelé in Atwater, I must agree with much of the comments from luswei and meganinlosfeliz... Osteria Nonni's never-changing menu, although predictable but good enough, had worn thin long ago and since I live within one block I was anticipating the pleasure of a cool new place to eat close to home. The menu looked inventive and interesting, though surprisingly limited, and being a vegetarian there was almost nothing suitable on the menu. The first time I went I did like being seated close to the next table (tables are crammed quite close together) reminiscent of European cafes, and initiated an instant conversation with the pleasant people at the adjoining table. On my second visit it prevented me from engaging in conversation with my dinner partner due the unending drama in overwrought valley-girl-speak of the 20-somethings sardined on my right side, fortunately we were at the end of the table so we were spared competition from the left. I ordered a tomato salad the first time I went and the squash salad and Nonni's spaghetti aglio/olio the second time, since that is the only vegetarian entree option. Friends I was with ordered the lamb and the beef bourguignon with noodles. The tomato salad was interesting and good, but the amount served for the price was disappointing... an entire meal could be had elsewhere for the price of this 'appetizer' sized salad. My friend said the 3 bite-sized lamb chops were edible but tasteless and not noteworthy, especially for the price. The second time I went, my other friend had a similar comment about the beef bourguignon, although there was a decent amount served this time, he said it was without flavor. The squash salad was tasty and the merging of squash with caramellized onions created a unique, roasted flavor which both I and my friend quite enjoyed. It was served with a small amount of arugula (?) which seemed a bit of a miss – not enough to make it easily combine with the squash, but too much to be a garnish. My pasta was overdrained, dry, undercooked, and overloaded with pepperoncini which killed ANY taste of the small amount of garlic... Garlic – the taste of which should the dominant in aglio/olio, was non-existant. Along with that, the pasta water had not been sufficiently salted leaving it flat and when I asked for some parmigiano I was given a small dish with a scant tablespoon which was again flavorless and obviously not of good quality ... at least the owner of Nonni's (who was not Italian by the way) knew how to properly cook pasta and infuse the correct amount of ingredients to create an adequate flavor for each of his dishes (maybe the new owner and staff should have taken some lessons from his cooks before opening). The wait staff was responsive when requests were made, but seemed disengaged and not too concerned about serving the clientele. Overall there seems to be a miscalcuation of ingredient proportions and lack of flavor to the dishes... but for the finale, as we were leaving the owner (?) asked how my pasta was and I replied that it was OK, but not great. She asked why and I politely tried not to get into a lengthy explanation, but she and the chef insisted. When I finally did give them my honest opinion, they became obviously annoyed and defensive, and with a 'what–ever' attitude the owner rolled her eyes and said, "well, thanks for telling us anyway" and turned away... surprising, why ask for and insist on an answer if you don't want to know?? Grow up girls and act like professionals...

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  1. I sooo want to love this place - it's close and I love supporting neighborhood businesses, therefore we've given it several tries. Love the atmosphere & efficient service. However, the food is so inconsistent. Last weekend the celery root salad was so overloaded w/ salt & flat leaf parsley, it should have been called a parsley salt salad. The beef tenderloin was undercooked to the point of rawness and the red wine sauce was thin and slightly bitter. Potatoes anna were totally flavorless and cooler than room temperature. Broccoli was scorched w/ a bitter aftertaste. (PS - this was early pre-dinner rush) I hope they get the kitchen together, so we can continue to support it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mrpullings

      Finally, someone punctures the hype on this place. Many reviewers are from the neighborhood and I've felt their enthusiasm is from the proximity.

      Just ate there last night. Food is decent, but for the obvious ambition of the menu, falls flat. Service is rushed, even in an empty setting. Order a glass of wine, it comes in a small table glass, order a bottle and you get a proper wine glass.

      The main problem is, when the check comes, the food is TERRIBLY overpriced for what it is. I compared it (VERY UNFAVORABLY) to Nook on the Westside. A neighborhood place with fine food, Nook succeeds at a tremendous value, Canele fails and is a ripoff.

    2. Wow, sorry you had a bad experience. I have had nothing but great meals each time I have gone there. The lamb chops, cooked to perfection, the pork, slowly cooked greens and polenta-heaven, the cheese cake, divine. The wait staff has been nothing but attentive. I have seen the chef at the Santa Monica farmers market buying her veggies and this holds alot of weight with me. Canele comes to a neighborhood that does not have to many great restaurants and brings us lovely, creative and thoughtfully prepared food. I really love this place, and welcome it to the nieghborhood!

      1. I have been three times and also have had nothing but lovely experiences. The people with whom I have dined also enjoyed it very much. I'm really sorry you had such a bad time.

        1. Like you, I don't eat meat and here is my advice for Canele: have either their omelet appetizer as an entree or ask if they're serving an off the menu veg entree.
          Although, the one bad time I've ever had at this restaurant was when I ordered that special option -- which was greens over polenta. I'm not sure what was happening on the line that night, but the greens were overcooked and had about a 1/4 cup of oil on them. I should have sent it back. Which, BTW, is what I would have done if I received a plate of dry pasta with pepperoncini (truly?pepperoncini?) on it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Eastsider

            I've been to Canele four times. Is it fantastic? No. Do I miss Osteria Nonni? Sometimes. Will I go to Canele again? Sure. It's good, the food can be interesting, the service is friendly and efficient and the price is reasonable. Would I drive across town for it (I live in Silverlake.)? Probably not. There's no reason to hype it, but none that I'm aware of from experience to condemen it either.

            1. re: Eastsider

              Thanks for your response and comments. Interestingly enough, I asked the waiter how the omelet was prepared, she replied with a shrug, "It's just an omelet," and walked away... not much of an endorsement!!?? I don't think I'll be going back, but will use your good vegetarian ordering advice in other places. Pepperoncini in Italian is what is called hot red peppers here, not the green pickled ones you're probably thinking of : )

              1. re: Eastsider

                I am questioning whether the OP meant pepperoncini (pickled peppers)?
                or pepperoncino (crushed red pepper)?

              2. Sorry for your bad experiences-- I had a great meal there a few weeks ago. My first and only time there, we had friendly, helpful service and enjoyed the food. I understand about lack of vegetarian options - I've just recently started eating poultry again but I still generally order seafood/vegetarian. We had a light meal - ordered a bottle of wine, a few starters/sides and had dessert... Our wine was great - the staff was very helpful steering us in the right direction. My favorite dish was the potatoes anna - simple side - great flavor and texture.