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First Impressions

On a Margin at the Stock Exchange

October 30, 1987|RUTH REICHL

"They built it in 1929, you know," said the man at the door. "It wasn't the best timing."

It was exactly the same sort of timing that prompted me to take my in-laws to the Stock Exchange Restaurant and Nightclub, 618 S. Spring St., (213) 627-4400 last week for dinner. It seemed like a good idea at the time--the stock market was crashing all around us--but the minute I saw the sign that said "Valet parking $5" I began to wonder at my wisdom. My father-in-law was shocked when we had to pay for parking before we ate.

He was even more shocked when he discovered that he and his pacemaker had to climb two sets of stairs to the dining room. He made it, only to sit staring into a bank of bright lights while people on ladders fiddled with dubious decorations. Big blow-ups of money graced the walls of the art moderne masterpiece. "Look at that," groaned my father-in-law, pointing at white gloved-hands that have been inflicted on a fine old wrought iron clock. He munched a piece of homemade bread and contemplated the menu.

This is a prix fixe affair at $27.50, and as the woman who took the reservation pointed out, quite a bargain if you consider that it includes entrance to the club ($12 on weekends). To begin, there was a choice of oysters (only four, but fine); mozzarella with yellow and red tomatoes, or a nice green salad. The best thing about the entrees were the pureed beets that accompanied them, although the scallops in black bean sauce were acceptable, the breast of chicken fair. The salmon, however, in a beurre blanc with sun-dried tomatoes, was mushy. For dessert there was a rich chocolate pate with rum-soaked raisins or a pear and berry cobbler that could have used some more time in the oven.

Hip, beautiful people were drifting in to dance as we left. "You're not staying for the action?" asked the waiter. My father-in-law looked at him and said gently, "It's a little late for me." As he walked out he patted the travertine wall and mumbled to it, "I think it's a little late for you too."

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