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Restaurants & Bars 5

Hollywood Hills Restaurant

Tom Armitage | Aug 22, 2001 02:13 PM

What a weird feeling! I had breakfast at the newly relocated Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop yesterday morning. The new location is at 1745 N. Vermont Ave., north of Hollywood Blvd. The new location also involves a new name, Hollywood Hills Restaurant (HHR). It is two or three times the size of the old location in the Best Western on Franklin Ave. Yesterday morning at 8:15 a.m., I was the only customer in the place. Given the busyness and buzz of breakfast time at the former location, this was truly an eerie experience. I began to wonder if the food was up to its previous high standard, so ordered a personal standby, corned beef hash with poached eggs. As I’ve previously written on Chowhound, HHCS had the best corned beef hash I’ve found in Los Angeles. It consists of hand-chopped, freshly cooked corned beef, potatoes, and onions, sharpened by accents of parsley and mustard, with a touch of thyme. The hand chopping gives the hash the perfect texture, and the flavor is a knockout. The poached eggs are soft and perfectly cooked. The hash and eggs come with a generous portion of sliced tomatoes and a small container of salsa fresca on the side. Together with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a café latte, it is a stunningly wonderful meal. Would the HHR version measure up?

Yesterday morning, the one waiter on duty informed me that there was no orange juice (or grapefruit juice) because the juicer was broken. At first I interpreted this as a bad sign. But then I realized that it would have been easy to substitute commercially prepared orange juice. At HHR, however, freshness is a passion, and the o.j. is fresh squeezed to order. To substitute commercially prepared o.j. would compromise this high standard. Nonetheless, I awaited my corned beef hash and eggs with some trepidation. My fears disappeared at first bite. They were every bit as wonderful as at the previous location, as was the oversized cup of latte.

I am a fan of Susan Fine Moore’s (the owner) approach to food. She aims for a casual, dressed-down ambiance, fresh, high quality ingredients, and reasonable prices (in light of the high quality of the ingredients). So you think that $3 is too much to pay for a large glass of freshly squeezed o.j.? Fine, go somewhere else where, for a cheaper price, you can get reconstituted or pasteurized o.j. You’ll save money, but the o.j. won’t taste as good. Ms. Moore hasn’t compromised her commitment to quality, even after HHCS became known as a celebrity hangout and she could have relied on that to draw customers.

The “new” HHR retains the red vinyl booths and pictures of celebrities, but has a very different feel than the “old” HHCS. The difference in feel wasn’t just because the place was empty. It has more to do with the much larger and differently configured space. I must say that I miss the more intimate feel of the old HHCS with its traditional long counter facing the kitchen and the booths along the windows. But I realize that the new location, with its larger space and bigger kitchen, presents new opportunities for Ms. Moore. Sometime after Labor Day, she will open Michael’s Place in a space adjoining HHR. Michael’s Place will be a white tablecloth restaurant with a different menu. I’ll bet we will see changes over time in the menu at HHR as well. Ms. Moore is full of energy and ideas, and her new location gives her a larger canvas on which to express herself.

At the old location, breakfast and lunch were the busy times. I’d often go there on a weekend morning when the place was hopping. Dinnertime was pretty dead. At the new location, it’s just the opposite. At present, breakfast and lunch are slow, and the place is busiest at dinner. I’m sure that, as word spreads of HHR’s new location, the breakfast and lunch trade will pick up. There’s no place in the area that can hold a candle to HHR for breakfast. Fred 62? Pull-eeeze! By contrast, there is competition for lunch from the many good Thai and Armenian/Lebanese restaurants in the area, as well as Mustard Seed and, somewhat further away, Say Cheese for sandwiches and salads. But HHR will more than hold its own with its Cowboy Chili, Abigail sandwich (grilled eggplant, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and arugula, dressed with balsamic vinaigrette, on Italian country bread smeared with olive paste), meatloaf, and other delights.

Luckily for me, the new HHR location is just around the corner from where I work, so Ms. Moore and her staff will be seeing lots of me.

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