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Lily’s French Café & Bar in Venice

9 Feb

So, I went to Lily’s last night for a little dinner action.
Abott Kinney was a buzz on this particular Thursday night, with high falootin’ Venec-ian bohemians sneaking in and out of restaurants as I was wondering into Lily’s. What struck me about the décor: It was like a French Bistro that got hit by Pollock, only he wasn’t using a paint brush, he was using whole cans of paint, and throwing them about the walls haphazardly. But who cares about ambiance. Let’s talk food!

We had seared tuna salad on some lovely cabbage and other shrubberie, nice vinaigrette dressing…also had a beet salad complete with endive, walnuts (candied of course) and just enough blue cheese. Mains were beef Bourgenione, and Jen had roasted veggies with Quina…I know, who orders roasted veg with Quinoa? It was actually amazing! And the wine: I started with a glass of Sav Blanc from Bordeaux, crisp, with a bit of fruit. I also had a glass of St Emilion from the Bordeaux region. Big stinky, earthy red. Jen had a glass of Cotes du Rhones, which I actually liked the most.

The best part of the dining experience? We got 30% off using my membership through Village Vines.

See you next time.


Soleil on a Rainy Day

9 Jan

When we pulled up to Soleil, the only Canadian restaurant in the entire Zagat guide, and apparently all of Los Angeles, it was a rainy, dreary LA day, the sky was rumbling, and our stomachs were grumbling (that’s as poetic as this post is getting).

A good mate of mine was in town from London, and he was in the mood for a ‘proper lunch’…so why not take him for Canadian food, eh?   I also secretly knew that there was Poutine at this fine establishment, a French Canadian treat that wars have been fought over (I’m being dramatic), and oodles of alcohol has been sopped up with following late-night bar sessions.

This establishment had been on my LA restaurant hit-list for some time, given I’d lived in Montreal for five years, and consider myself somewhat of a Poutine aficionado.

If you’re not familiar with Poutine, my definition and the dictionary definition is quite different.  First, the dictionary definition:

“Poutine (Quebec French pronunciation ) is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curd, covered with brown gravy and sometimes additional ingredients.”

My definition:

“Really effing good.”

My English mate has an affinity for alcoholic beverages from time to time.  We were both thirsty, all that rain outside…so we remedied that situation by telling the not-quite-sure-about-us French Canadian waitress that we wanted every Canadian beer in the house, one after another.  I think there were 10 on the list…consisting of the Unibroue family, Labatt, Molson, Moosehead and the regular Canadian suspects.  The Unibroue beer is worth the trip alone!

We started with some type of Pate which was unreal.  The bread hot and crusty out of the oven and the warm spinach salad with balsamic reduction was good, but not Spago good.    Then we had a Poutine as an appetizer.  The fries were a tad skinny for my liking, the gravy good, but the savior was the actual authentic cheese curds.  It disappeared!

By the way, click here for their entire Poutine menu!

For our mains, I had chicken in a Marsala sauce over linguini, and my half-cut British mate had the beef Bourguignon.  He was very impressed with his meal, even though the waiter decided to dump fries all over his lap.  It was passing onto three o’clock by now…not sure how many diners come in and spend $175 on lunch at Soleil, but we managed it easily, over three courses, a bunch of wine, and more beer than the waitress cared to haul.

Souhaitez-vous s’il vous plaît nous appeler un taxi?

Soleil Westwood

1386 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90024

(310) 441-5384

Rose Cafe and Market, Venice California

8 Sep

Labor Day weekend ended with some sensible breakfast at the Rose Cafe & Market on Sunday, just off Main Street in Venice, California.

Overall, this is a great place to go for Breakfast or Brunch.  It’s not life changing, but the food is ‘good’, and as you’ll see, they tend to the important details.  Enjoy.

220 Rose Ave
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 392-4191

Fresh Brothers Pizza – Marina Del Rey

25 Aug

Executive Summary:

This is a phenomenal place if you get the pizza/salad combo at a reasonable $9.25.

Other Commentary:

I’ve only patronized the Marina Del Rey location – not only do they play sports when available (they even have TVs in the washroom so you won’t miss a play), they also have Yo Gabba Gabba, and similar cartoons playing (have you ever watched this? Just plain trippy!).

I ordered delivery from these guys (once) and the bill was like $45 – $50, which kinda took me by surprise (a couple medium pies and a couple cookies).  But let’s keep this in perspective, I’m accustomed to going to Pizza Madonna (Montreal Institution) after the bar for a $.99 slice.  Personally, I feel that Pizza should be a cheep meal.

As an aside, In general, I’m never really a fan of ordering delivery.  You really have no control over how hot your food is going to be.  Such a helpless feeling.

The only thing I’ve ever had when ‘eating in’ at Fresh Brothers is the following (description taken straight from the menu):

7″ 1-Topping Pizza and your choice of a small Salad Favorite 9.25

In my opinion, this is the Pièce de résistance:
– You can have thin crust or deep dish.  I always get the thin crust with pepperoni, mushroom, and onion.
– Nice crispy crust, decent quality toppings, and comes to your table PIPING HOT!
– The salad isn’t your run-o-the-mill side salad either.  You can choose from a variety of fresh salads; I usually get the garden salad (lots of fresh veggies), or the Greek salad.

I was curious how they could afford to do this, so I flagged one of the friendly managers down and asked him about the Combo.  He said that they really wanted to provide “as much food as possible” for $9.25.  In other words, they made a conscious decision to provide a really good value to customers.

As an aside, here is another one of their combos:

7″ 1-Topping Pizza & an order of French Fries 7.95

May I ask: Who on earth eats fries with Pizza?  I’ve never had such a craving, and I’m not saying it’s wrong – I just need to understand who in their right mind would do this, and why?

Neighborhood Cafe: Beverly Hills

14 May

Once upon a Saturday afternoon, I stumbled upon this just-barely-off-the-beaten-track Beverly Hills Sandwich Shop. I’m certainly glad I did.

Here’s the executive summary:
– The Zen sensibility of a sushi joint meets Soup, Salad, and a Sandie.
– You won’t be disappointed, it’s very good quality food at non-Beverly-Hills-prices.
– The details have been catered to, like dill in the Abacore Tuna Salad, Fruit Salad that is actually made of ripe fruit, and soup that you’ll kill for 365 days a year.
– Provides a sensible variety of sandwiches, Paninis, and Salads (and breakfast too).

The real test of a sushi restaurant, is the Tuna.  Anytime I sit down, armed with chopsticks, I must try the Tuna.  An example of excellent Tuna can be found at Asanebo in the valley, it’s just melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.  Terrible Tuna can be found at the Canal Club in Venice – the bright-off-purple chewy, stringy variety – that a bath of Wasabi and Soya sauce couldn’t come close to saving.  In the same vein, when I test out a sandwich shop (think Fred Segal), the tuna sandwich is the best test.  (by the way, Fred does a nice Tuna Sandwich, but that’s a different article)

As I walked down the ramp (accessible for all), I turned left, and saw what was an immaculate kitchen, and very simple straight forward display of specials, and menu items.  As a rule I try not to look at a menu as it simply clouds the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for decision making, and when I’m hungry, there are far too many factors that cloud the decision (as an aside, if you’re really hungry, it’s not good to look at a menu – you should let your emotions guide you, and ask the server for what you want, or see something you like, and order it – quick!).  The prefrontal cortex can only really manage 5 – 9 decision relevant criteria before is short circuits and you make a bad decision (like ordering the meatball sub at Subway), but I digress….

I ordered a half Albacore Tuna sandwich and soup of the day, which happened to be roasted vegetable.  As I placed the order at the counter and collected my silverware and napkins on the way to one of the bistro style tables, I couldn’t help but observe that all the details had been very nicely taken care of – drink selection, labels (any design student needs to go here just to view the space), displays with pretzels or mixed nuts to go, and the 18 foot bench that guards the middle wall with tables just in front.  I found the space allows you to fully concentrate on consuming your food…speaking of which.

The kinda-psychedelic colored tray arrived with a dark red, rich, bowl of vegetable soup, which was not your Campbells variety.  I immediately dipped my spoon in, and was shocked at the potent flavor, all natural, no cream, just carrots, tomatoes, onions, red peppers – I can only fault it for the one tone red color – had it just a few kernels of corn, it would have provided a nice contrast – but wait for it, the Tuna Sandwich, which had a piece of Dill peeking out the side of the lightly toasted bread, was also laden with a few kernels of CORN!  What a wonderful one-two punch!  The toasted bread didn’t tear up the top of your mouth, and the tuna salad wasn’t mayo-saturated…it was just enough moisture.  Both soup and salad were absolutely delicious.

I had a nice little bowl of fruit salad, composed of the light green stuff, the light orange stuff, and strawberries.  The strawberries were good, but what surprised me was the ripe honeydew melon and cantaloupe!  I guess I’ve been eating at Norms far too often…

This newly opened HOOD cafe is a very impressive newcomer, for Bev Hills Power lunchers, and casual diners alike, both of whom need-not pack a mighty monetary-punch to enjoy a quality lunch.

9464 Charleville Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, 310-860-9004

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