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LA report: Campanile, New Concept, Porterhouse, Pink's, Sweet Lady Jane

mikeop34 | May 26, 200507:57 AM

Hi all, long report ahead, could also be repetitive for those familiar with LA already. Basically, 2 friends and I visited from the Bay Area and sampled a lot of LA. I'm originally from LA but never actually tried any of these places, except Pink's, an old favorite.

Friday night, we had a 7:15 reservation at CAMPANILE and were seated immediately. The restaurant wouldn't fill up until after 8pm. Seeing founder/chef Mark Peel in the kitchen reassured us. Our waitress seemed aloof and stiff, wasn't sure if it was an act or if she was just bored. The 3 of us split 2 appetizers, sauteed trenne with beef bolognese and shoft shell crab with some kind of cole slaw. The portions were generous, and the restaurant split them each onto 3 plates for us, always a nice touch. I loved the beef with the pasta in particular, very tender and the sauce worked perfectly. The crab was good, but the cole slaw had a strange bitterness that didn't seem to go with the crab. For entrees, I ordered the rosemary charred leg of lamb, medium. It was cooked perfectly, and the light flavor really allowed the natural flavor and texture of the lamb to shine. My friends both got the grilled prime rib, also very tender and juicy. From reviews I've read, Peel's specialties are grilled meats, so we stuck to those and were completely satisfied with the entrees. We also split a bottle of Pinot Noir, waitress-recommended, which complemented the entrees, light and not overpowering. We planned to head to Sweet Lady Jane for dessert, so we skipped dessert. Total bill was about $75 per person.

We arrived at SWEET LADY JANE at 9pm, and it was packed, with a waiting list for the small tables there and many ordering for takeout. Fresh cakes were still being churned out, and although the chocolate almond rocha and triple layer berry cakes were recommended to us, we were underwhelmed. While the cakes were moist and not too sweet, they weren't standout either. I prefer the cakes at Susina myself. However, the lemon bar was excellent, also not too sweet but chewy and light. I would definitely come back for the lemon bars and possibly for the cheesecakes, which are supposed to be among the best in the city.

Saturday morning, we went to NEW CONCEPT in Monterey Park for dim sum. After the rave review in the LA Times and the decent reviews on this board, I was expecting a lot, and I have to say my expectations were all met. The cart-less ordering got all the food out to us much more efficiently, and the dim sum we got, from favorites like BBQ pork buns and har gow to less traditional plates like scallop and daikon fritters, were among the best in LA (comparing to Empress Pavilion, NBC, Ocean Star and others). Each plate was not only carefully put together (makes a huge difference!) but also generous with ingredients like shrimps, scallops, taro, daikon, etc. Definitely going back. $19 per person, but you could easily fill up for just $10-$12, too. We just went overboard with ordering.

Saturday night, I took my family to PORTERHOUSE BISTRO for their famous prix fixe dinners. My sister ordered the whitefish entree, which came with a great mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables side dish. The fish itself was a little limp and bland, but then again, we're at a steakhouse. The rest of us upgraded to the 8-oz bone-in filet mignon, which was tender and well-seasoned. Although their steaks are (noticeably) choice, they're still prepared well and taste great. My parents both got salads, nothing special. My smoked salmon quesadilla was crisp on the outside and melt in your mouth on the inside, very nice. For dessert, definitely go with the chocolate lava cake, as their fruit tarts are also limp and bland. The service was excellent, with full teams working various tables, efficient and thorough. Our main waiter, Chris, must have been some sort of aspiring actor or comedian because he was all over the place and made us feel right at home. All in all, you get what you pay for food-wise and solid service to boot. $50-$55 per person.

Sunday, my friends and I braved the lunchtime line at PINK'S to get some satisfying dogs, enough said.

It was a great weekend for food. Many thanks to all you hounds and your helpful posts for introducing us to many places and making the trip a success!

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