I don't claim to know everything. Why do coffee shops serve you a chunk of watermelon with your ham and cheese sandwich? Why does health food have so much sugar in it? And what's going on at Beverly Restaurant and Market?
The first time I went to the BR&M, I had a light and subtle chicken chili soup, followed by an amazing hamburger. It came in a toasted poppy seed and onion roll, a rough chunk of grilled ground beef, scarcely shaped at all, with a fresh, sweet flavor that could hardly be surpassed. It was one of the best burgers I'd ever had, but I almost regretted ordering it because there were such delicious aromas of corned beef and rosemary roasted chicken.
So the next time I came, I decided to order a corned beef sandwich. It was shocking. The meat was fatty and mushy, almost like the cheapest grade of canned Argentine corned beef, only more flavorless. It was about the most flavorless meat I've ever tasted, or failed to taste.
Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe that was pastrami I smelled the first time, not corned beef. And between my first and second meal, Lydia Shire had quit as consulting chef, and the Beverly Restaurant had been swamped with customers after being reviewed in a local Beverly Hills publication.
The new popularity must have had something to do with the fact that half of the appetizers (enchilada torta, rock crab salad with seared tuna carpaccio, potato pancakes with Columbia River caviar) were unavailable. On the other hand, though, it doesn't explain the unforgivable decision to bring us a substitution without having asked us--we got the potato pancakes with apple chutney.
Or maybe the problem is apples. The Beverly Market seems to have trouble with apples. The apple chutney is made with underdone apple chunks, chewy and almost sour, that have acquired an unappetizing bruise-purple color from, I suppose, the raisins. The same sour apples fill an apple "cobbler" (actually an apple betty, if you want to be technical), without a bit of sugar or spice.
At any rate, the Beverly Restaurant is as variable a place as I have ever eaten at. The rosemary garlic roasted chicken is very good, and you can get it either by itself or with a lot of tagliatelle in roasted cream garlic sauce and the odd sun-dried tomato. Five-spice barbecued duck is musky and sweet, but loin of pork comes with a very ill-advised wild rice and apricot filling--pork already tends to be dry; what made them think a dry filling was a good idea? But the roughly grilled vegetables that come with these meat dishes are great, particularly the corn on the cob--just a small piece but amazingly sweet. With the duck, the vegetables came on top of some pleasantly tart angel hair pasta.
Or take the pastas. The giant Angel City potstickers, in a flat giant ravioli size rather than the satchel-shape I think of for potstickers, come with a nice Korean dipping sauce, sort of like teriyaki with green onion in it. Very good mezzaluna--two large raviolis, one with chicken and one with spinach and mozzarella--come in a rich roasted red pepper cream sauce and charred green onion pesto, a sort of Mexican-Italian cross. But the shrimp ravioli is pasta at its worst--tough, leathery dough that diners instinctively carve off to get to the filling.
There are fountain treats at this self-conscious upscale diner, but the best desserts are the flourless chocolate cake, a chocolate meringue (or fallen souffle) with chocolate and white chocolate filling and a great macadamia nut tart, like a pecan pie with macadamia nuts.
The Beverly Restaurant and Market, 342 N. Beverly Drive, (213) 274-4271. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Beer and wine only. Street parking. All major credit cards accepted. Dinner for two, food only, $23 to $50.