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Restaurants & Bars 11

Musso and Frank's - Since 1919

Vital Information | Jan 7, 200412:05 PM

It is fitting that Hollywood's oldest restaurant exists as a set piece. Like most movies, it presents a version of classic that cannot possibly be this exact, yet with Musso's it is all so exact. Barely the only thing apparently changed since 1919, the prices. While Musso's is not a blow-out, take your rich uncle only kind of place, it is not exactly cheap either. The daily special, corned beef and cabbage on our visit, topped out at a whopping and a probably not worth it, $20.

Worth it, the anchovy dressing priced separately just like in the old days. Ms. VI looked quite unhappy when I pulled the trigger on that extra $2.50, but the combination of equal parts anchovy and vinaigrette over the hearts of lettuce salad made me the happiest of anything I ate this trip in LA. Pretty much an entire head of iceberg lettuce, cleaved in two, garnished with a generous hand of watercress, a salad to stand up exactly to the dressing. The waiter then provided a shaker of very coarse cracked black pepper, and I made the salad even better. And even better, on the side, the acclaimed perfect martini. Musso's recognizes that some vermouth goes into the drink, and then the tulip glass, with a bit of extra, it is perfect. The bite of the cold drink just intensified and accented the other strong flavors in the salad. Truly an accord.

My hero, Jonathan Gold, actually ascribes the better accord to be the Musso martini and the Musso Welsh rarebit. I must differ. Musso's stirs so much sherry into the orange cheese goo, that this flavor would fight with the martini. Thus, I'd rather next time, a fine sherry with the rarebit. What I liked best about the Welsh rarebit is how the colors of this famous dish most accurately matched the colors of Musso's well worn decor. The bacon on the bottom of the rarebit, whose otherworldly golden patina made it seemed as old as the restaurant, especially matched the color of the murals. I also liked how they presented the rarebit so artlessly. Some cook, surely not CIA trained, placed that golden bacon, a few slices of as good as you can get in December tomatoes and the toast points on the plate and then just poured, delicious cheese blob.

Besides the rarebit, we got to try the other famous output, the flannel cakes. Count me as yet another fan, even if some would say, well they're just pancakes. I'm generally a fan of thinner pancakes. These were thin without being too crisp. I could not complain either, that they gave both kids a full order even though we split one order for them.

I had wondered how the kids would fare, and as some mentioned, they treated them with just the right mix of little adult deference and big kid respect. Besides offering a lot of pancakes, they did a nice job of splitting their other choice, grilled cheese. Each kid got their own plate with garnish, including an appropriate canned olive. As also appropriate, the grilled cheese tasted especially special. I could easily see coming here for a grilled cheese and martini (well, if I say worked at the Capital Records building).

I coveted all the old fashioned dessert and even liked the fact that I could have ordered a piece of crenshaw melon, but we had a lot of other eating to get to. I look forward to a second visit.


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