Outtake Bistro - the original Outtake Cafe in Studio City was a much-loved regular meeting spot for our gang a few years back, before everyone moved out of the Valley. Now it's reopened in a new location and as a bistro, with slightly higher prices and no more $1 soup/salad. Is it a new chef too? A lot of favorites are still on there, but the execution is a lot more uneven. Potato vareniki are as good as ever. Roasted cod was cooked perfectly but wasn't sauced enough. Fried calamari appetizer was a little soggy, but the accompanying sauce was garlicky, tomato goodness. The special pasta of the day, linguine with duck in a soy-mushroom broth, was heavy, salty, and the duck was dry. Overall: a disappointment, but my loyalties to the good memories tell me to return to give it one more try.
Lovebirds Cafe & Bakery - impromptu stop in Pasadena at this newish eatery. Very industrial inside, and there was no music playing so everything echoed. Had the "love my basil" sandwich and it really hit the spot on a hot day. Garlic-basil pesto, a thin layer of sliced almonds, a mound of mixed greens plus avocado on a soft baguette. For $5, it was too big for me to finish.
Europane - hopped across the street from Lovebirds to get dessert. The lemon custard mini-cake was the perfect, light end to lunch. Not too sweet, just a little tart, yummy.
Gorikee - having heard all the great reviews on Chowhound, we headed to Gorikee in Woodland Hills for dinner on Sat night. We had an experience similar to the other dissenters on this board: namely, uneven food and our service was good but obviously not as good as what the regulars received. For ex, our water was never refilled nor did the waiter ever ask how our food was, but he was always courteous. Starter of sweet corn and leek soup was ok, nothing special, could have used more corn. Salad special was a white peach salad in an orange muscat vinagrette--spectacular. Peaches were sweet and ripe, a wonderful accompaniement to the goat cheese sprinkled on the perfectly dressed salad. For entrees, my fiance ordered the much-lauded coconut curry shrimp dish and you know what? I could've made that dish myself. We were really unimpressed especially since the waiter said it was his favorite dish on the menu. I myself had the fish special, seabass with a cilantri miso sauce and it was excellent. One of the best fish I've had in a very long time. Fish was perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. There were actually 3 sauces drizzled on it: a spicy cilantro, a miso sauce, and something with a Sriracha base. It was all very good. Overall: 50% of our dishes were great, 50% weren't...
Le Pain Quotidien: terrible service, but mostly good food. My FI, a breakfast lover, declared this his new favorite valley breakfast eatery after Hugo's. He devoured his warm ham and cheese croissant special. Weak coffee, but the very good French cream donut made up for it. I saw a quiche dish on another table that looked fabulous, so I'll order that next time.
Then it was off to Sea Empress in Gardena for dim sum, followed by dinner at Empress Pavilion in Chinatown. Both have been talked about a lot on Chowhound so I won't review but wow, now that I'm cataloging my weekend eats, I ate out a lot (and racked up a lot of miles too)!!!