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Restaurants & Bars 2

Went to Bistro 31 last night...

jcwla | May 28, 200303:01 PM

...and I wish I could say it was better.

The place was busier than I thought it would be at dinner -- about ten parties of anywhere from two to four. When the hostess showed us to our table, there were some tea bag wrappers on the floor; I told her "I guess someone missed these."

It took a while to get anybody's attention. Finally out came an amuse-bouche of smoked salmon with cream cheese and goat cheese over a little piece of potato. Tasted okay until I bit down and there was something hard -- can't imagine what that would be in a dish like this, but I nearly chipped a tooth.

We weren't interested in the little dinner rolls, so we waited for our first courses -- my dad had the French onion soup, I had the napoleon of crab and salmon. He said the soup was very good. My crab dish was one of the fishiest-tasting in memory, and not in a good way. I asked for the soup instead and it was yummy -- a hard dish to mess up.

For dinner my dad ordered the salmon, which came in a kind of little puff with bacon wrapped in it. It looked gross and, according to my dad, tasted gross. Our well-meaning waitress told him (too late!) they'd had a lot of complaints about the dish, but "the chef insists on it." Well, as my dad said, if that is going to be his claim to fame, you'll never hear from him.

My entree was the lamb, which tasted almost broiled even though they assured us it had been seared on both sides and then put in the oven. It had a funny taste to both my dad and me. With it were a mashed potato croquette that looked and tasted like airplane food and some uninteresting little diced vegetables, also airplane-ish.

Some of the dishes evidence way too much attention on artsiness and far too little on food. I wasn't about to send back both of the dishes I ordered, but I decided to call it a night rather than ask for anything else. The host -- and teacher of the class -- insisted we not pay for dinner, which we finally agreed to under protest.

I was hoping this would be a great little find, and as my dad says, it probably is for lunch, when the prices are almost laughably low and you can stick to a salad or something else they just can't screw up. But, as my dad said, for dinner, we'll stick to places where the chefs have graduated.

Bistro 31
2900 31st St.
Santa Monica
@ the Art Institute of L.A.

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