What trendy dishes are "real" people willing to eat? To answer that question, study the menu at Reflections in Glendale. It is a winnowing of the dishes that sound "in" but are sufficiently down to earth to appeal to the salad bar set.
Those that have made the cut include pizza, freshly made pasta, warm duck salad, Sonoma chickens, baby vegetables and Cajun blackened meat and fish. There are Buffalo chicken wings to start with and homey fruit cobbler to end with. The tostada salad is not old-fashioned Mexican but trendy Southwestern, made with blue corn tortilla chips, black beans and, you guessed it, radicchio. The dinner rolls are speckled with that in-fashion herb, rosemary. And there is a good choice of California wines, with some premium numbers available by the glass.
Mesquite grilling, an open kitchen, young and determined "Hi, my name is------" servers. What more could anyone want? Well, there are a few things Reflections does not have, like high prices, stuffiness and any really bad food. Smart planning has blended the new with enough of the old to satisfy the most conventional tastes. Crab Louie, steaks, prime rib and plain grilled fish are on the menu. And, yes, there is a salad bar, a big one that includes fresh fruit and coconut. There are also budget-priced, early-bird dinners, a happy hour and Sunday champagne brunch.
Consequently, the restaurant is crowded enough to make reservations necessary even on dull midweek nights. Families and groups of friends go there for celebrations. Birthdays bring out a chorus of servers. And they've come up with something snappier than the usual "Happy Birthday to You" number.
When food fashions filter down, they change somewhat. Reflections has mellowed the spices and lightened the darkness of the Cajun blackened meats. And the kitchen people do not paint pictures with food. Herb fettuccine with grilled chicken and oyster mushrooms was a hearty, heavy plate of noodles in a sauce about the same color as the mushrooms.
In some dishes, restraint approaches skimpiness. The pizza with mozzarella, tomato, oregano and basil included only a few flecks of green. The basil-mustard butter on a steak was too subtle to be evident. (However, the waiter offered to bring more.) And sauces are sometimes trickled on with a spareness appropriate to spa food.
Dishes worth singling out include the Buffalo chicken wings, which are nice and hot, both in seasoning and temperature. At lunch try the baked Brie, a small circle of cheese baked with brown sugar, which forms a sweet sauce. The Sonoma chickens are small but very good. And the pizza crusts are fine. A lunch special one day was grilled tri-tip, served with salsa and guacamole, like a miniature Santa Maria barbecue. There are several desserts, and they all may be good, but I can't get past the caramel nut tart, which is luscious. Be sure to have it with the custard sauce.
Reflections has been remodeled to include the open kitchen where the pizzas are made and a garden room with large, greenery-filled windows. Prices are basically moderate, but can mount up by adding extra courses and drinks. Entrees can be ordered a la carte, which includes vegetables and rice or potato and a basket of bread, which is plenty to eat. For a slight additional charge, one can graze along the salad bar.
Reflections, 626 N. Central Ave., Glendale, (818) 240-4588. Open daily. Lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations advised. Major credit cards accepted.