Encouraged by the latest comments on chowhound, my husband and I decided to check out Canele in Atwater Village. I had waited a bit after it opened to allow them time to work the kinks out. We are dying for a great neighborhood place near us, so hopes were high.
We arrived a bit after 8 PM on Friday. The restaurant was full - we waited about 30 min and were then seated. My impressions:
Food was well prepared but the menu just didn't seem inspired to me. For one, it seemed unseasonal - it's November and yet the menu says summer (gazpacho, almost all cold apps, fish served with cold salad, etc.) Further, while I thought for the most part the food was well-prepared, the food/flavors just didn't come together.
The service was ok - a bit rushed, which one might expect. In light of that, I would appreciate more information on the actual menu to minimize the need for questioning. For example, the wine list often does not indicate what varietal the bottle is - only where it is from. I did like the environment - cool setting with the exposed brick and open kitchen. Had the vibe of exactly the type of neighborhood spot I long for and feel L.A. does not have enough of.
Thoughts on the specific food:
Pissaladierre (sp?) - an onion tart of sorts with an herb salad - this was good. Not awe-inspiring, but solid. Liked this.
Celery root salad - this was ok, but oversalted--and I am a huge salt fan. Could have used pepper or some other seasoning so it had a flavor other than salt. Even w/o the salt problem, I would not go out of my way to have it again.
Seared calamari - this surprised me because I thought it would be served warm, but instead it was cold and reminded me of an antipasto dish. My husband liked it because he felt it was very fresh. I just didn't think the flavors worked and perhaps also am not a huge fan of chilled calamari.
Snapper w/ blue lake beans and olives - snapper was perfectly cooked. However, the accompaniments added nothing to the fish. There were only a handful of beans, some chopped olives, and then quarters of heirloom tomatoes. I did not expect the tomatoes, and though I think I might have enjoyed this more while dining outdoors when it's 80 degrees out, it left me cold.
Pork with polenta and bitter greens - my husband really enjoyed the preparation of the pork and the polenta was well made. However, we both agreed that overall the dish was not very flavorful, other than the greens.
Overall, a disappointing dinner for us. I would love to see a hot soup on the menu instead of gazpacho--I know it's L.A. but it's still fall--and something other than cold salads as alternative appetizers. The entrees seem ok menu-wise, though obviously we were not thrilled with the accompaniments to the meat and fish.
I really want this place to succeed. Given the crowds, maybe it will anyway.