After reading all the mixed reviews, what finally got us there was yet another request from Pops, who asked to go there on his birthday, as it had been 40-some years since his last visit...and now that we've been, I can say we come down firmly on the side of those who've defended the food and hailed the prices.
The place was not exactly crowded on Tuesday night, but busy enough to have us wait a bit for our 7:30 table. This was one of those U-shaped settee thingies, suitable for four to six diners, that I usually find uncomfortable - either the wrong relative heights or too tight - but this one fit just fine. The wine list offered two of my favorite Beaujolais (Morgon and St.-Amour) for pretty cheap, but as Pops and I were the only drinkers, and I was the driver, we just ordered a glass each of the generic Beaujolais ($7). The waiter was a personable guy named Christian, and we put his Christianity to the test over the butchered French in the menu, with three misspellings and one real howler, the "Pre-Fix" meal. Then we settled down and ordered dinner.
Mrs. O said she'd bet Maman would want the Moules Marinière and Pops the escargot, and so they did, and loved them enough not to offer us any. Maman ordered the onion soup as her main course, and then regretted her choice when the mussels showed up in a soup plate with a good meal's worth of very good broth, of which she happily ate all. Pops asked if it were possible to have rabbit on a Tuesday, but it wasn't, so he got the sautéed trout, a nice presentation boned and butterflied and spread with an almond sauce. Mrs. O requested the Tuesday special, braised oxtails with mashed potatoes, and I continued my pursuit of LA's best Steak Frites by ordering the grilled sirloin with fries. This was, I'm happy to say, a genuine contender, with a good if not brilliant steak cooked EXACTLY as I'd specified, and fries that were perfectly crisp without being burnt at all. The maitre d'hotel butter on the steak was nice, but was a smoothly cut oval shape that I'm sure was sliced from a tube of it bought somewhere. Its reluctance to melt and lack of any real herbal flavor would seem to confirm that. Mrs. O was happy with her bite, though, and I found her oxtail to be rich, melting and wonderful. Maman liked her soup very much, but it stayed a little too hot for her clear through the meal, and she'd had her fill from the mussels anyway, so she managed to finish about half of it.
The bus person demonstrated the dismal level of training common these days by asking each of us if he or she was done while others were still eating and removing plates immediately, but we're getting used to that. When Christian reappeared and asked if anyone wanted dessert, Mrs. O asked after some sorbet. "Sherbet," he said. "Pineapple." Pops asked, "How about ice cream?" Christian said, "I think we have some vanilla back there..." so the women ordered sherbet and Pops and I just finished our second glass of wine.
All of the above, with tax and 20%, came to a smidge over $130. Valet parking was $2.50, with excellent service, so we made that $5. Despite the few rough edges and the pretentious gaffes in the menu, we were all pretty pleased with the food and the experience, and won't wait any 40 years for the next visit.
Oh, and one more thing we all noticed and appreciated: NO MUSIC! That was probably the most French touch of all...
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