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Jan 29, 2008 12:10 PM

dineLA reports

First report: Luna Park

Yesterday was my dineLA kickoff. It just happened to be Luna Park since Grace was tonight. Wanted to try one of the cheaper menus, and a friend said Luna Park is good, so we made reservation for 8 pm. Got there at 7:58 but the table wasn't ready. We waited at the bar, which was also jam packed and no seat was available. At 8:20 I was getting pretty pissed, we still weren't seated. At 8:23 the hostess came by and apologized, saying that the tables have had their checks for a while but still have not left. Then she offered us the goat cheese fondue on the house. I took it, naturally, and was much happier now.

We were seated soon after, and the goat cheese fondue followed shortly:

The goat cheese was good with a smoky flavor. The bread itself was not bad although nothing special.

Since we've had this on the house, I got the calamari for appetizer. It was an ordinary calamari, although I did like the wasabi dressing. No picture since it looks like a normal breaded calamari dish.

Then I had the pork cutlet.

The cutlet was crispy. Although it was filled with mushroom and gruyere cheese, it was thin. The sauce was sweet and goes well with the cutlet if you take care not to put too much on. The mashed potato was very good.

They were out of the tarts that I had wanted for dessert. We got the smores and the apple pie instead.

The smores was normal, although it was kinda fun. Neither the chocolate nor the crackers were anything special.

I didn't dig the apple pie filling- it reminds me more of the apple pie from McD ... the ice cream, though, was good.

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  1. Please do report back on Grace --- I have reservations next week and would love to hear your report. Thanks!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Obessed

      We're going to Grace tonight as well, so I'll try to report tomorrow.

      1. re: Obessed

        Quick shot comments on Grace - it didn't WOW me all that much. I would recommend the Salmon instead of the Beef for entree, that's what my group all agreed after tasting both. Donut dessert, was interesting since it's their signature.

        I was really expecting those WOW effect... not disappointment greatly but wasn't overly impressed either.

      2. Had lunch at SimonLA today. Very pleasantly surprised. My one dinner there a year ago was okay but unmemorable. And reports have been mixed to poor ever since.

        But they really rose to the DineLA occasion. Great service. Great choices. All the food was really good. Delicious tuna crudo. Tasty endive & watercress salad. Surf and Turf Tacos. And very decent deserts: Chocolate Rum Pudding with Pistachio Whipped Cream and Blueberry Persimmon Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream. Portions were good too. And a great little bread basket. Even some complimentary cotton candy.

        The opportunity here is really to induce trial and capture diners who may come back again and again. I know SimonLA has been hurting somewhat for business so I think they smartly took advantage of the opportunity to shine. Not sure every restaurant will do the same, but given this first satisfactory experience, I'll keep investigating.

        5 Replies
        1. re: wutzizname

          I had lunch at SimonLA on Sunday. We got a nice booth and enjoyed the food. Service was attentive and friendly, although it was pretty empty at the time. I think some people got the bread basket and some didn't (we didn't).

          I think there are some differences between the actual menu being offered and the one posted on the DineLA website.

          From the DineLA website:
          Choice 1 - Belgian Endive and Organic Watercress Salad, Caramelized Walnuts, Fuji Apple, Point Reyes Blue Cheese
          Choice 2 - Bluefin Tuna Tartar, Lemongrass Oil, Chives
          Choice 3 - Raw Salad, Organic Vegetables, Lemon, Avacado and Pistachio

          No raw salad, but had fried eggplant croquettes with aioli and marinara sauces on the side? Bluefin tartar was nice and fresh, eggplant croquettes were pretty standard fried fare.

          For the entrees:
          Choice 1 - Surf and Turf Tacos, New York Strip, Crisp Halibut, Guacamole and Fire Roasted Salsa
          Choice 2 - Curried Chicken Salad, Dried Cranberries, Pistachio, Pita Bread, Sprout Soup
          Choice 3 - Seared Pacific Halibut, Quinoa Currants and Pine Nuts

          No seared pacific halibut, but a California Nicoise salad instead. California Nicoise was good, with seared yellowfin tuna. Surf and turf tacos were tasty, but probably not a whole lot more than I would expect from a truck on the street. Desserts were actually pretty good. I liked the cheesecake with the citrus marmalade, and the blueberry crumble was crunchy, sweet, and excellent with the vanilla ice cream.

          Overall, it was nice to try a place that we'd never been. Portions weren't huge, but that's to be expected. Really like the decor of the place. Food was good, but the regular menu doesn't hold a lot of exciting choices. It seems like a few of the participating DineLA restaurants are changing the advertised menus around, so I'm not sure I like that.

          We'll be going to Angeli Caffe this week for lunch and Table 8 next week for dinner. After reading the other review on Table 8, I'm rethinking that choice.

          1. re: brewinphan

            One on Sunset: I had a beet salad to start which was lovely, but not outrageous, and the other people in my party had the tuna with eggplant. Our main choices were beef rounds (can't remember exactly but someone in the party liked it) and delicious scallops over butternut squash in a berry gastrique. We shared all of the desserts on the menu (mini red velvet cupcakes, creme brulee, and molten chocolate cakes) and one was worse than the next. We were shocked! I thought those were things that couldn't be made to taste bad!! The creme brulee was way too floral tasting and not properly carmelized on top (very pale), the macaroons that came on the side were so hard you could break your teeth on them, the cupcakes were dry and hard and flavorless, and the chocolate cakes had a tough consistency. Very odd. But overall, the space was beautiful and the scallops were good. If I were to go back, I would ask for a real table (sitting on those couches really only works for cocktails, very awkward for eating), and skip dessert.

              1. re: danikm

                Are you sure you're not confused, danikm? The menu you just reviewed is nearly identical to the one listed for One Sunset on the dineLA website, not SimonLA.

                1. re: recovering_vegetarian

                  Right you are. Glad that someone's brain is working today.

          2. Had lunch at L'Opera in Long Beach today. It was really good. I'd always wanted to try it, and today was perfect.
            I had the zuppa di zucca soup-butternut squash with amoretti cookie and a shrimp chile beignet. Was the perfect size and had a nice spicy kick to it.
            I had the stracetti medium rare. The meat was so tender and melted in my mouth. The sides were great too. The pasta filled with squash and ricotta was amazing. It tasted like a pie filling-but the sauce and parmesan cheese balanced it out enough to keep it savory. You have to try this if you go.
            The panacotta was good and very creamy, and the gelati was also good.
            Not included but still really good was the passionate litchee cocktail.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cookee

              Nice to hear. I had a fantastic (& very expensive) dinner there years ago. If I still lived near Long Beach that would definitely be on my list for this week...

            2. Patina - Lunch

              Only reservation we could get was at 11:30 a.m. on the patio. Asked if they could seat us in the main room should there be a cancellation (reservation was made a week ago).

              Got there precisely at 11:30 and were greeted by the hostess who told us we would have to sit on the patio and needed to wait for two minutes. We ended up waiting eight minutes before being seated as the restaurant personnel had some sort of pre-luncheon meeting. I must say I would not mind having to stand in the bar in most restaurants for eight minutes. But, this is Patina and there was no bartender even if you wanted a drink, and they were the ones who insisted on such an early reservation. Soignee? Not so much.

              Finally we were seated on the patio, which was not unpleasant at all and reasonably well heated. Our effusive waiter came out to introduce himself and offer menus. We both started with the beet salad which was quite lovely. I had the short rib ravioli and DW had the braised lamb shanks.

              I was quite pleased with the ravioli; nice depth of flavor and a beautiful sauce. Wife not so happy with the lamb shanks. Although there were two very pretty small shanks on her plate on a bed of risotto, she felt that they weren't as good as the one's I make (in all honesty, I must admit she was right, they were tender enough, but slightly dry). She also thought the risotto was too al dente but I thought it was fine.

              Dessert was small plates of mignardise. They were fine, but we supplemented with an order of ice cream; Tahitian vanilla, Valhronna chocolate, sherry and, lavender. Very nice, although you could never identify the sherry if you were asked what was in that scoop.

              On a very positive note, I ordered a bottle of J.C. Boisset Savigny Les Beaunes that was out of stock. The sommelier was a very impressive and stylish young French guy who substituted a J.C. Boisset Pommard for the same price ($69.00). I must say I haven't seen anyone handle, open, pour and serve a bottle of wine as adroitly as he did in a very long time.

              Although they use a very nice coffee, today someone screwed up and it was brewed very weakly. Ah well.

              As we left at around 1:00 p.m. we noticed at least four tables for two in the main dining room that had not been occupied. Annoying.

              All in all, I can't say I'll be in a hurry to return to Patina. This restaurant is not performing at the level some think it has achieved.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bob Brooks

                Don't know if you have been to Comme Ca yet? If not you might be tempted by this photo of their lamb shank taken on a recent visit by one of the LA hounds, Gourmet Pig.

                1. re: vinosnob

                  Did Grace on Sunday. Unlike others, I was wowed. My wife and I split the soup/shrimp pasta aps and the beef/salmon courses. All four were very good and pretty plentiful. And with the donuts, it was a steal. I wish I could find a rez to get back in before it's over.

                  1. re: sloanedone

                    You probably can try the bar, to get the dineLA menu :-p

                    that's what some hounder claimed will do if they can't get a rez... hehehe

                  2. re: vinosnob

                    Had a 7:30 pm reservation at Abode last night; the place was pretty slammed and everyone was ordering off of the DineLA menu.

                    Choices were:

                    Choice 1 - Roasted Baby Beet Salad, Horseradish Goat Cheese Mousse
                    Choice 2 - Caramelized Chestnut Soup, Crispy Artichokes, Mint Aioli
                    Choice 3 - Homemade Pork Rillette, Apple Cider, Pommes Gaufrette

                    Choice 1 - Black Cod, Vanilla Mashed Potatoes, Chanterelles
                    Choice 2 - Duo of Lamb, Pea and Saffron Puree, Tapenade
                    Choice 3 - Shellfish and Vegetable Risotto, Lobster Glaze

                    Choice 1 - Study of Chocolate
                    Choice 2 - Chef's Selection of Cheeses
                    Choice 3 - Assortment of Sorbet and Ice Cream

                    My wife and I both ordered the soup to start. It had a balanced and tasty chestnut flavor and was light as opposed to a heavy creamed version. The soup was served luke warm which is always a pet peeve of mine. To the right of the soup ball sat two small bites of fried artichoke perched on top of a small dollop of basil aioli. Delicious.

                    For entrees, my wife ordered the sable fish and I chose the lamb duo. The fist was fantastic; moist, flavorful and hot and the vanilla potatoes paired perfectly.

                    The lamb duo included one lamb chop and three spoonfuls of lamb cheek served on top of a green pea puree, a few roasted pearl onions, one parsnip and a dollop of tapenade. Again, the temperature of the lamb was lukewarm, but the flavors were perfect.

                    For dessert, we ordered the "study of chocolate" (molten chocolate in an egg shell, chocolate gelato, chocolate mousse) and the cheese plate (bleu d'Auvergne, apple-wood smoked cheddar, tomme de savoie plus quince chutney).

                    I also added on a wine pairing for an additional $20 and thought the selections were solid. The soup was paired with a Pierre Starr gewurztraminer (from Alsace), the lamb with an Ojai Vineyards syrah and the cheese with a riesling (forget the producer).

                    Overall, we thought the food was very good in terms of flavor/creativity and not too fussy. The presentation was clean, elegant and "artsy". As you would expect, the portions were small. For example, if I went back and ordered the lamb duo off of the regular menu, I would hope I would get more than one chop and a few bites of cheek. But for the DineLA promotion, the portions we received were fine.

                    Service was definitely impacted by the initial dinner rush. We waited about 15-20 minutes before our server appeared and he never fixed our teetering table as he frantically rushed from table to table. However, when the dinner rush abated later on, the attentiveness improved.

                    In the future, we'll go to Abode for drinks/wine in the cozy bar and order off of the bar menu.