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Norman's - now my favorite high end restaurant in LA (somewhat LONG)

d
Dylan Mar 25, 2006 01:33 PM

I don't hear much about Norman's on Chowhound. It's become my favorite expensive LA restaurant.

First, a caveat. I'm sick to death of most high end restaurants. I eat out on business dinners a lot, so in many cases it doesn't feel "special." And 95% of them have exactly the same menu and corporate service. In LA, many of them are also noisy and unpleasant to be in. When I pay a lot of money for a meal, I want a place with some real personality. Also, I tend to like food on the complex side. Sure, I appreciate a veal chop perfectly cooked with pan jus seasoned with no more than salt and pepper - but the fact is, I cook a lot myself - I can make simple things. If you a very into "unadorned" food, this might not be the place for you.

Norman's is a very, very comfortable restaurant. The service there can be a bit studied, but it's always excellent and it feels like there's a real person behind it, not a recent graduate from hotel school. And, it's quiet. On a Friday evening, I want to be in a place that's relaxing. There aren't many other options on the Sunset Strip that fit that bill.

On Friday nights before 8pm they have the "Pig and Paella," which I think sells for under $20 - a great deal. They roast a whole pig outside and serve it with a great seafood paella, mashed yucca (I think?) and an exotic cole slaw. Great stuff.

Last night we started with "Yuca Stuffed Crispy Shrimp
Citrus Mojo, Marinated White Cabbage and Habanero Tartar Salsa". It's hard to go wrong with fried shrimp, but these were absolutely delicious, fat specimins served with an interesting slaw. Good dish to share.

Then I had "Roasted Pork Havana with“21st Century Mole”, Golden Haitian Grits, Sweet Corn-Black Bean Salsa, and Sherry Wine Reduction " Incredible complexity to the spices on this dish. I respect any restaurant that serves three very complex sauces on on dish. The grits were just out of this world.

My companions had a couple of fish dishes that also looked great. "Jerk Spiced Rubbed and Pan Seared Turbot with Chorizo, Mangoes and Curry Emulsion" and "Yuba wrapped Tasmanian Trout White Beans, Jerusalem Artichoke and Melted Tomatoes"

Dessert was an incredible banana bread pudding creme brulee - basically big chunks of banana and bread pudding with creme brulee poured on top. They use nino bananas here- strongly recommend them.

I've never had anything disappointing here. They also have some tables in the kitchen- would like to try that but when I've been there they've been booked.

I'm a bit surprised Norman's hasn't become more popular. Clearly it isn't the ambience that a lot of the Hollywood crowd is looking for. Rather, it's just a great place to be, with excellent food and service.

Link: http://www.normans.com/index2.html

  1. e
    Elaine Mar 25, 2006 01:58 PM

    I couldn't agree more and have been wondering why I haven't seen more mention of it on the board. I was supposed to go last night, but had to cancel because of a cold. My friends who made it raved about the meal....and the cost of the "pork, paella or combo of both" is $19.
    I've eaten at the table in the kitchen and had a fabulous meal. I think the main room is quite lovely and I've always had very interesting food. I think the location has hurt business a bit, since it's in the midst of Sunset Strip congestion. But it's well worth it; there's a parking structure behind (though the cost is high). There's a story about L.A. dining in this month's "Food and Wine" and Norman's is mentioned. I'd hate to see this place disappear; it really is one of the city's top dining experiences!

    1. n
      NM Mar 25, 2006 02:22 PM

      Yup I agree with your rave, and there have been a few discussions on here over the last year as to why this place isn't more popular. Location I think is certainly a factor, as the food is certainly more complex and pricey than the average Strip joint. If this place was on Beverly Drive, it would be packed every night. As it is, you do have to wonder how they stay in business. I ate there on a Saturday night and at no point was it more than half full. Still, wonderful food and good service.

      1. c
        cj Mar 26, 2006 02:17 AM

        I totally concur with the other posts. It's a rarity in fine food, especially given its speciality in "New World" cuisine. If you haven't already, I suggest you sign up for their newsletters and updates; I've received gift certificates from them that way. By the way, if you ever get a chance, ask if they're offering their "spice creams"; it's an interesting tri-combo if ice creams with flavors like curry.

        chica

        1. j
          JBC Mar 26, 2006 04:40 PM

          " Sure, I appreciate a veal chop perfectly cooked with pan jus seasoned with no more than salt and pepper - but the fact is, I cook a lot myself - I can make simple things..."

          I couldn't agree with you more. I really don't care who makes the best Hamburger in L.A., except out of curiosity, because I do (*). I not interested in any pasta dishes at restaurants because they are sooooo easy to make at home. And so on... Only out of convience, or nothing else on the menu sounds appealing, would I ever order them. It's like going out to the movies. I'm paying for the BIG screen, so I might as well sit as close as is comfortable to maximize the experience; but never towards the back as I might as well watch it at home when the DVD comes out later.

          I read your review and looked at Norman's website and that has got to be the most deeply informative restaurant website I've ever visited. Well over 100 pictures, video streams, ect. If there is wine list, I missed it though. The original Normon's in Miami certainly has some impressive write-ups.

          I will certainly make an effort to try it.

          * I doubt I would bother to attempt the burger from Josie's at home though; but If anybody has eaten it, please post a review, thanks.

          1. r
            RicRios Mar 26, 2006 09:28 PM

            Great food, great service, great location, excellent wine list, entirely ignored by this board, business on the down slope. Sadly, a not-too-uncommon occurrence. Cf defunct Le Dome, barely a couple blocks west.

            2 Replies
            1. re: RicRios
              c
              carter Mar 27, 2006 11:18 AM

              Norman's suffers from being in a good location, in an off-putting project, and being mostly surrounded by non-houndly restaurants focused on serving the younger scene that is Sunset Blvd.
              What do you find to be your favorite menu items? I just have to find out what everyone keeps talking about that should peak my curiosity.

              1. re: carter
                r
                RicRios Mar 28, 2006 07:45 AM

                I'd suggest, go with the OP recs.

            2. g
              Greg Samsa Mar 27, 2006 08:32 PM

              Sounds really interesting. The Roast Pork and Paella is every Friday without fail? If so I will probably swing by this week, it sounds great. If parking is so difficult what do you guys usually do?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Greg Samsa
                c
                chica Mar 27, 2006 09:01 PM

                I just end up parking in the underground lot and paying the $. I've forgotten how much it was - around $7? You might get fortunate and find street parking.

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