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Restaurants & Bars 1

Citizen Smith Review -- it's not all 'that'

The Oracle | Mar 13, 200612:10 PM

Went to Citizen Smith last night, upon the request of a friend who was in from out of town.

The space is interesting – not at all as wonderful as I anticipated. Lots of candles everywhere and dim lighting (absolutely lovely) – yet the rest of the space was a strange collaboration of elements: cow hide booths lining one side of restaurant (the booths, btw, make for a very intimate dining space, as they are tucked away and deep set into the wall) – kind of these goth-ish, marbled mirrors on the wall surrounding the bar, these odd coverings on the chandeliers that had large pictures of people’s faces on it, and the high ceilings were going for the semi-industrial unfinished look. There is another bar area adjacent to the main room that looked very inviting – a great lounge area. There was a DJ mixing music the whole time we were there, good volume.

Service was an unexpected delight. Great hosts at the door, really nice wait staff – I was really surprised at how engaging, unpretentious, and genuine the service was.

On to the chow –

A very non-LA menu. I felt like I was down south, where everything was fried or ladened with cheese. Our server told me that the chef was going for big portions. He mentioned he’d never seen anyone finish an order of the fried chicken, which was 3, 6oz chicken breasts and a huge pile of fries.

I think their philosophy is if you put a little kick in everything, it will taste better. Everything seemed to have some sort of ‘rub’ or some spicy kick. And I definitely can’t say that it complemented the food.

Starters: Onion Rings and Chicken Skewers. The onion rigns were in a tower, very large, succulent onions covered in a spiced batter. Served with 2 sauces, one on the spicy side (we thought there was some horseradish in it) the other was a non-spicy aioli. Decent, but nothing that would make me crave it (the thick onions were the big plus). The chicken skewers were their rendition of fried chicken tenders, on long metal skewers. Each quite large and I believe 6 to the portion. Like the rings, they were good, but nothing spectacular. Served with the same spicy sauce as the onion rings (which neither of us cared for – just too much kick to it).

Mains: I had the pork chop – served with these yummy baked apples on top – it rubbed with an uber spicy rub that overwhelmed the meat and had me wishing it had less of it. The meat was tender and decent enough. I ordered it with a side of sautéed vegetables which was entirely disappointing. Carrots, mini yellow and green zucchini. How can you get that wrong? Somehow they did – it was all over cooked and the zucchini tasted horrible (made me think it was a bit stale, but perhaps that was because it was so over cooked).

My dining companion ordered their half bound burger which had blue cheese and bacon on it. Served with a HUGE mound of fries. The presentation is classic, it’s brought to the table with a big steak knife sticking straight up in the middle of the burger (as if it was stabbed). I didn’t try it –he enjoyed the burger, but commented that he felt like he could breathe fire from the blue cheese. I tasted the fries, and didn’t find them all that interesting.

The wine list is very unimaginative. Lots of local California wines, not terribly marked up – but they were bottles you could probably find at the grocery store or TJ's.

Our waiter apologized a couple of times for things taking a long time (for example, he couldn’t find spoons for coffee, explaining that they keep changing things around in the kitchen, so where things were one night, they aren’t the next). I didn’t notice a huge wait, but then, I was busy gabbing!

Something else I found a bit odd was they had no coffee carafes. They had to take our cups, go to the kitchen, re-fill them and bring them back. Not a big deal, I just found it interesting that after being open 6 weeks, no one fixed that kink.

I think the win of this place is it’s open really late (2am weekdays, 4am weekends). It’s in the heart of the Caheunga club/bar corridor, so I suppose it’s a decent option to grab a drink and have some “late-night-soak-up-alcohol” food.

The shining star of the experience was the best lemon drop martini I’ve had in ages. The other bonus was it was really affordable: 2 glasses of wine, 2 appetizers, 2 mains, 2 coffees = $80, pre-tip.

So, not a bad place, overall – just “take it or leave it” chow. If you miss it, you really aren’t missing much foodwise.

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