If memory serves me correctly, it was in one of Irene Virbila's first reviews that she revisited The Ivy and wrote two of my favorite lines of restaurant critique: "The Ivy is the restaurant you love to hate," and "The cottage industry decor speaks to a life never lived." Having frequented The Ivy By the Shore more times than the Robertson location, I knew the first line to be correct and I just loved the observation of the second because it seemed somehow particularly fitting to L.A.
All this by way of saying that I had occasion to have a late afternoon lunch at Ivy By the Shore this afternoon after having dropped my car off at Sears for a brake inspection. Knowing I had about two hours and on foot, it being a beautiful sunny day, I negotiated with a couple of friends to meet at Il Fornaio (patio, view, great bread, decent food, affordable). After a series of mishaps, which can happen in that Bermuda Triangle time between brunch and dinner at restaurants that serve continuously, we opted for The Ivy. It was 4pm, they were still half full and, hell, simple seemed right.
The Ivy BTS still looks newly old with possibly the best jazz recordings of any restaurant anywhere. With bamboo accessories, framed colonial shirts and ceiling fans, frothy drinks generously garnished, you do feel like you've wandered into an expatriate's dream. It may not be Hemingway in the corner but it probably is Oliver Stone.
We were instantly seated, greeted and taken care of. They have one of the most efficient service staffs in town. Even the regiment of the elaborate place settings (two of everything) makes an impact. But watching people's mouths drop as they register the menu pricing is the real thrill. "$22.75 for a hamburger!?" You know that going in but still you acknowledge it for a breathless moment.
We calmed down, talked ourselves into staying and decided to go with it. The Anadama bread arrived warm as always and drinks a beat later. Admittedly, we pulled a hodgepodge of an order together from a side of Asparagus for $13.75 to an excellent Prime Rib for $39.75. The popular Grilled Vegetable Salad with Chicken was great and you just can't think of the $26.75 you're paying for it or you won't enjoy it.
Glorified excess is the order of the day here - the Spago of Cheesecake Factories. It is no more evident than in the dessert we finished with: the Ivy Banana Split for $15.75. Oddly, this was a let down not for the price but the dish itself. Certainly, the amount of fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries on the platter justified the price. It just didn't work with hot fudge, hot caramel and an assortment of quirky homemade ice creams.
$224.62 later (that included three glasses of wine but not the tip) for three people, I headed back to Sears just in time to pick up my car. It's rare that lunch costs more than a brake job.
The Ivy does have the best Chocolate Chip cookies I have ever eaten. Probably, in a year or two, circumstances will conspire to bring me there again.