HERMANO SEGUNDO LOST IN LA LA LAND: DAY TWO
We are so done with French” my friend, Sybil announced as we drove home after another dispiriting meal in West Hollywood.
I could only hope she was referring to the fact that, in the 24 hours since my arrival, we had eaten almost exclusively in a procession of faux French restaurants that had been united in their inability to whelm.
An arrival supper at Fraiche was a lovely treat but the meal itself will not live long in the memory. On my first full day, an early morning stroll around Santa Monica’s small farmer’s market, which did little to dissuade me that there are only so many stalls of fruit and veg I can look at in a life time, was followed by a passable breakfast at Anisette a restaurant which talked the talk of a Parisian Brasserie with its high ceilings and mirrored walls, but only walked the walk in an otherwise forgettable meal with some meaty smoked salmon served with salty capers.
A mid afternoon stroll from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach saw me hungry enough to reach into my pocket and hand over $1.50 for a hot dog at Costco, while Sybil went in to buy John Goodman size bottles of hair conditioner and shampoo. I am ashamed to say I rather liked it, particularly when doused with that rather scary green day-glo relish that Amercians seem to like and scattered on top with onions from a turn handle shredding machine next to the napkins, from which Sybil had to drag me away because a disgruntled and angry line was forming behind me.
Supper saw us cross town to Comme Ca, another uber-fashionable eatery on West Hollywood’s restaurant row, as famous for its cocktail mixing and its loud scene as for its French menu. The back bar is impressive as indeed was the list of cocktails on offer, but like so much I had experienced in the city so far, what was presented did not live up to the hype, with a Martini being over diluted with excessive stirring and drenched with citrus oil from too large a twist.
Unfortunately, the meal itself was little better. My own starter of sweetbreads passed muster with the glands having a crunchy texture and a meltingly liquid inside, but other dishes of a beet salad and onion soup seemed little more than standard. Worst of all was one of the more noxious things I can recall putting in my mouth in a very long time, a dish of Burgundian snails served, out of the shell, in a slimy sauce claiming to be a persillade but which I am convinced, if you came back in a million years would have evolved into a life form. Very, very nasty.
Main courses were better, braised belly pork in lentils could have benefited from a slab of something crispy on top, but was delicious. Steak was well, er steak, but perfectly prepared and with a mound of delicious frites. My own duck confit was fine, suitably crispy outside, soft enough inside so the flesh could be shredded from the bone with only the bed of tough spaetzel letting the side down. The only dish that flopped horribly involved overcooked sole and a tomato sauce so bitter it made everyone who tasted it shudder.
We skipped yet more identikit desserts and headed out into the balmy night air $60 a head poorer, which, compared to London, might not seem like a lot of money, but had everyone complaining of poor value for a so-so meal.
So far so mediocre for my eating in L.A and it says much that my most memorable meal so far was a $1.50 hot dog at Costco.
However, with Sybil’s promise that we are “so done with French” I have high hopes that things can only get better.