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First Impressions

March 15, 1985|RUTH REICHL | Times Restaurant Editor

Below are preliminary reports, not intended as definitive reviews, on new restaurants.

Three new hotel restaurants have opened in the last few weeks. Although none of them is a typical hotel restaurant, that is the only quality they share.

La Chaumiere, in the Century Plaza Hotel (277-2000), is the stuffiest of the three. Meant to "reflect the grace and comfort" of 18th-Century chateaux, the room is all dark wood and old paintings. Unfortunately, the brass is more polished than the waiters, and the food seems vaguely unformed. Spectacular slices of duck liver are crowded onto a small plate, atop a bed of creamed pasta--a gilded lily if ever there was one. Things that might work--duck with green cabbage and spicy apricot sauce--often don't. On this first visit, even the desserts are disappointing.

The Cafe Mondrian , in Le Mondrian Hotel (650-8999), is a totally different kind of restaurant. It aims to be "a dramatic infusion of high-tech, gourmet dining and sophisticated New York-style entertainment." It manages pretty well at the first and the last--the view is spectacular, the room dramatically modern, and entertainer Michael Feinstein is a delight. But my dinner there left me hungry; the papaya soup with caviar had no flavor, and the tuna was grilled to a sad cardboard dryness.

Colette, in the Beverly Pavilion (273-1151), is something else again. I've eaten there twice and both meals were sheer delight. There is a "salade rustique," greens topped with marinated quail, strips of smoked duck and little cubes of goat cheese, that is one of those improbably wonderful combinations. Wait until you taste the quail. Rabbit roasted in bacon and served in a mustard sauce is one of the finest dishes in town. The room is light and understated, and the wine list is intelligently chosen. It's a restaurant I'd like to return to again and again.

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