Los Angeles

chef-gordon-ramsay.jpg One for the Table has never engaged in deliberate snarkiness. I’ve certainly avoided it as I scrupulously adhered to the motto “if you can’t say anything nice…” But, in this economy, I find myself being a bit cranky when certain chefs hold themselves to a particular standard and humiliate others on national television, when they themselves have a restaurant that is pitiful. Gordon Ramsay has set himself up as the arbiter of quality, but after eating at The London twice now, I can tell you The Emperor has no clothes on.

The first time I went there, I was really excited to have the English Breakfast. I loves me sausages. What I got were these dry, jerky-like, lukewarm salt tubes accompanied by a roasted tomato whose flavor was incomprehensibly bad. How can you mess that up?

The second time I went was because my daughter’s admissions counselor for the college she’ll be attending in the fall was staying at the Bel Age hotel where The London is located. Looking over the menu, I felt like a pinball being battered around from bad choice to bad choice.

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ImageMario Battali’s newest haunt in L.A.

Mozza Osteria, Mario Battali’s newest adjunct to his Mozza Pizza just opened on Melrose, just west of Highland. Though most new restaurants in LA advertise their debut date months before to start a healthy buzz and build anticipation, Mozza Osteria remained cas about it’s opening date: “Sometime this summer”; “Early July, if you’re lucky”. So my ever-dedicated foodie friend Ben stalked the restaurant for months; until one day, he saw lights on inside and seized the opportunity to make not one, but four! reservations. I should consider it a privilege that he deigned to invite me. 

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Under chef Walter Manzke, the Melrose Place restaurant's third incarnation is quite the experience.

champagne-cork-popping.jpg The blue door, shuttered for more than a year and a half, is open once again, and the stage is set for Act 3. Step in, and you're welcomed with the offer of an aperitif in the enchanting garden where a pair of gnarly olive trees cast lacy shadows on the wall, water falls into a basin, and the air is scented with lavender.

Order Champagne and the sommelier waltzes over with a double magnum of vintage Champagne one night, pours an unusual Sacy rosé another time. You might be served breadsticks with transparent gold potato chips and spiced nuts or slender, cheese-laced churros that taste like New World gougères. The effect is somehow so civilized, you find yourself relaxing into another rhythm.

Bastide is back.

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chloe_sm.jpgIt's sort of hidden.  You can't see it from the street and it's beneath a hotel that doesn't seem nearly as nice, the Hotel Carmel, that is.  It's called Chloe, the Westside complement to Laurie Mulstay and Ron Marino's stable of hot spots which include The Bar and Magnolia.  And it's not quite full.  But it's elegant, and hip, and calming in a way that makes you think you could go there to meet a business associate or a bed mate, and either would be a success. 

The Pimm's cup is the refreshing favorite. And the Lavender Gimlet is like a perfumed elixir that I swear makes you more beautiful with every sip.

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Suzanne Goin, the uber-talented celebrity chef of Lucques and A.O.C. Wine Bar fame, was rumored to be the front runner for the 2005 James Beard Chef-of-the-Year award, and as far as I was concerned, she could just skip the swim suit competition and pick up her gold toque and tongs. Because praise the lord and pass the friggin’ salt cod, if food could cure cancer, it would be this food. May The God of Good Eatin’ please keep Suzanne Goin’s hands hale, hearty, and forever heating up the small plates. 
   
sign.jpg Having earlier experienced both the exquisite pleasure and excruciating pain that comes from washing down four or five pounds of Chicken Liver pate with fifteen dollar glasses of 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape, I was careful to prepare my sensitive digestive tract by fasting for practically an entire half-day on Fiji Natural Artisan water, plus a supplemental half-inch rind of smoked salami that I discovered under a plastic tankard of Barefoot Contessa Moussaka that I accidentally made five weeks ago in a bizarre attack of culinary industry. As a note, I have a firm policy of never throwing away any left-over that originally took more than sixty minutes to prepare,  unless it starts to stink worse than my daughter’s feet did after two weeks at Catalina Camp, where filth is a fashion statement. 

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