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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Pretentious, But Amazing Brive

October 10, 1986|RUTH REICHL

The Hollywood Diner was supposed to be open by now; I peeked in last week, and it certainly looked as if the opening were imminent. But they tell me the Diner will not be serving food until early next week. Califia, at the new Radison Plaza Hotel in Manhattan Beach, is also due to open any day now with Roland Gibert, the talented former chef of Bernard's, in charge of the kitchen. ("Wait another week or two," I was told.) While we're waiting, I'd like to tell you about an extraordinary meal I had last week in New York.

Brive, 405 E. 58 St., (212) 838-9393, is the latest venture of Robert Pritsker, who has set up in an intimate, beautifully appointed town house on the site of his former restaurant, Dodin-Bouffant. The menu is so irritatingly pretentious (and expensive) that you are tempted to walk out. Don't. The food is quite amazing. We began with a perfect provencal fish soup (with "Brive" written across the top in rouille) and little tourtes filled with tender sweetbreads in a mild sauce made of fresh olives. We went on to lamb chops wrapped in nut crusts, and the best liver I have ever tasted. That was rolled in a crisp peppercorn crust and served in soft pink slices. On the side were mustard greens with candied peaches, which, contrary to all logic, harmonized beautifully. With the last of the wine (the list is small, unusual and very well chosen), we ate a few perfectly ripe slices of cheese.

You can't judge a restaurant on a single meal of course, but this diner was so satisfying it left me longing for the next one

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