A funny thing happened yesterday on the way to the newly opened Oinkster in Eagle Rock. It was a friend's birthday and what better way to spend the day than to be one of the first to have Andre Guerrero's long awaited pastrami sandwich or burger and then take in a show downtown at the Ahmanson. About 1:30pm, however, we called from the 134 to find that they would be opening at 5pm (11am regularly) so we headed on to Pasadena and after a call to a fellow Hound who recommended Madeleine’s Wine Bistro (closed for lunch) and Bistro 561 (closed at 1:45pm) we ended up at the Ritz Carlton where The Terrace Restaurant overlooks the pool area covered in lush landscaping replete with as much old world elegance as you're likely to find. You could do worse.
Armando was our attentive server who, by the end of the meal, was regaling us with tales of Perino's on Wilshire, his first job at the age of 18. We were quite happy with the varied bread basket with a warm French country and crispy flatbread. My friend enjoyed his Steven Kent chardonnay for $10 a glass (all three glasses) and my iced tea was served with a small pitcher of simple syrup - the last vestige of civilization.
The Terrace is the kind of place where you order the lobster bisque knowing it's going to be worth the $12, luxuriously briny and smooth as silk. My friend opted for the traditional Cobb for $16 with chunks of avocado, warm grilled chicken, bleu cheese and crispy bacon served in a very chic odd shaped white Italian bowl. I sampled the generous $19 cheese and charcuterie plate with three selections of each. Served with a small warm loaf of raisin bread this is one of the better versions being done around town. (My friend compared it to the $15 version he sampled at Ford's Filling Station recently where you get either three cheeses or three salumi but don't dare ask to mix them!) As we wound our way through the massive historic building to the valet friends called to sing happy birthday and upon presenting the parking ticket which I'd forgotten to have stamped, the attendant replied, "Not to worry, sir. We can do that here." Ah, the good life.
Around 4:45pm we stopped off at The Oinkster on our way Downtown to check on the progress and saw the preopening commotion inside and one couple outside who had been designated as the official first guests. After another couple of tourist type stops and speculation as to where Fletcher, Riverside, and Glendale Blvd. utlimately take you we found ourselves in front of Canele in Atwater Village. Don't ask.
Having recently seen mention of this place on the Board we stuck our noses in five minutes before they were about to open at 5:30pm and were immediately seduced by the rustic smells, the flurry of activity from the open kitchen and a chalk board menu that listed enticing California fare. When the maitre'd floated from the back with Charlotte Rampling like grace and asked if we wanted a table we could not refuse. (Only the gum chewing detracted.)
Bread and butter were of the Lucques variety of excellence and my friend was happy with both the chardonnay and the Spanish red by the glass. A gazpacho was perfectly realized with a hint of balsamic, a quarter of hard boiled egg, basil oil drops and a warm crouton. I was grateful for the slightly small but hearty portion of shrimp paella for $16 and my friend enjoyed his succulent roast chicken with potatoes and peppers. Creme fraiche laden strawberry shortcake was the right ending. $60 for two before tip. Service was laid back and enthusiastic befitting the setting and the two warm caneles warmly offered as we exited had us planning the return visit.
With time for coffee before the play, we were struck by how much the Patina Group had taken over the Music Center courtyard and with obvious success. Frankly, I'd just as soon sit out there on a nice evening than compete with the crampness of Kendall's. My friend did wonder, however, what the likes of the Chandler's, the Ahmanson's and other benefactors felt about their engraved names now hidden behind hot boxes of hamburger buns.
Miscalculating the opportunity for our next meal ("Doubt" is essentially an 80 minute one act play with a hurricane force performance by Cherry Jones at the center), we found ourselves driving through Downtown at 9:45pm on a Friday night, with no plans, and not really hungry. Was there ever a greater Chowhound dilemma?
"That's why wine bars exist," exclaimed my friend.
In the best David Lynch fashion, Lou's on Vine near Melrose sits eerily in the corner of a strip mall shrouded in curtains. Once inside, however, it's fun, hip, and comfortable. Lou's isn't going for the knock 'em dead breadth of wine selection, say, that Bin 8945 offers but the small selection of both food and wine seems right. Our deflection from The Oinkster's opening was all but vanquished when we bit into, what has to be, one of the best pulled pork sandwiches anywhere with a smoky BBQ sauce and super tart cole slaw. Great stuff. That and the traditional frisee, poached egg and lardon salad are enough to ensure returning. Modest prices, modest setting, great results.
Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you.
3219 Glendale Blvd.
724 N. Vine St.
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