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 with21st 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.