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On the Pretensions of Eater-Writers

August 14, 1988

Kudos to Alan Davidson for debunking the pretensions of pricey restaurants whose chefs "interpret" food as though they were symphony conductors and have it served to you by "snooty" waiters.

But, in contrasting this to only one alternative--of cheap, fun food in a down-to-earth atmosphere--he misses the happy medium: an elegant restaurant where the service is excellent without being intrusive or pretentious, as is the food (and the chef).

Ruth Reichl, praising restaurants where you don't have to wear a jacket and tie and spearing restaurants where you do, misses the boat still further.

It's tragic that in Los Angeles, we now have mainly the two extremes. (And one phenomenon neither mentions: pricey restaurants with "fun" decor like cement floors and exposed ceiling pipes.)

I mourn the classic restaurants, like the old Le Cirque in New York (before new owners five years or so ago crammed in twice as many tables and hired cheaper, inexperienced staff)--places where you felt pampered, and the help was, well, the help. They didn't give you their names or act overly familiar, like the L.A. restaurants Reichl praises so much. The closest we have here is L'Ermitage; I hope this place too doesn't opt to go more trendy.

As for the "stuffed dummies" Davidson loathes so much, what's wrong with people who eat without screaming or waving their arms around, a vulgarism taken for lively ambiance here in L.A.? It used to be that well-bred people learned to be decorous, and this is still true in Europe and, by and large, New York.

SONDRA SAAVEDRA

Beverly Hills

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