Since 1926, the Taix family has been serving family-style French food to Angelenos at Les Freres Taix. That's 66 years!
Back when I was a kid, my Uncle Jack and Aunt Peggy would take my family out to dinner there. So I have a sense of history about the place. I hadn't been back in years, but when Uncle Jack was town last week, I thought of Taix.
"Have I got a restaurant for you," I told him when he called.
"What, more fancy Caribbean food in renovated IHOPs?" he asked. "More $11 hamburgers in Beverly Hills?"
"Les Freres Taix," I said, pronouncing Taix, Tex .
"French Texas cuisine?"
" No . T-A-I-X. Tex is the right way to say it," I said. "Remember? We used to call it Tays."
"Ah! Tays! Down there on Commercial, right?"
"It moved," I said. In fact, it's been almost 30 years since Taix moved to its Echo Park location.
"Oh, I remember," he said. "It got all fancy and expensive."
"It's not that expensive," I said. "Dinner even comes with soup and salad and dessert."
Still, the long-gone Taix on Commercial was cheaper, a high-volume place with large tables where you might have had to double up with strangers and share tureens of soup and bottles of wine.
While 8 p.m. is the prime dining hour in many restaurants, it's the end of the evening at Taix. As Uncle Jack and I walked in, families wandered out. At the front desk, we waited only briefly for the hostess to seat us and peered into glass-doored cold cases full of wine--the Taix wine list has more than 500 entries.
Taix may be one of L.A.'s older restaurants, but it did not preserve the more alluring aura of its own history. While there is a hammered tin ceiling, the decor otherwise is straight from the '70s: mauve and gray booths, frosted glass, shiny brass fixtures. Unlike other Los Angeles landmarks--Phillippes, the Pantry, Musso & Frank--the ghost of Raymond Chandler does not linger here. The ghost of Sam Yorty? Maybe.
Our waitress that night was tired and unenthusiastic. Although she brought our drink orders quickly enough, there were long lapses between encounters, and we had to ask repeatedly for ice water. A basket of sourdough bread arrived, and though the bread was crusty, it was flavorless and dry.
The first course was a few small squares of uninteresting pate. Then came a stainless-steel tureen of cabbagey white bean soup that was salty and barely lukewarm. The waitress ladled abruptly, and fled. We stirred the soup around in our bowls dispiritedly, and I thought of pouring mine back into the tureen just so the waiter would clear the way for the next course.
The salad, iceberg lettuce with some grated red cabbage and a slice of off-season tomato, cheered us up a bit because the house dressing was bright and vinegary. While nothing fancy, Taix may make one of the better iceberg lettuce salads around.
Our entrees, however, were truly awful. Not only was my chicken dry, it was cold, and the bordelaise sauce that covered it was musty. Uncle Jack's sea bass was warm in some spots, cold in others and served with a lackluster lemon butter. Both entrees came with a thick stalk of broccoli and a few paprika-sprinkled boiled potatoes. This was the sort of meal that makes you want to bolt, which is exactly what we did, even refusing the complimentary scoop of champagne sherbet.
"I remember now," said Uncle Jack, "I used to eat at Taix when I worked downtown years ago, and it was terrible even then."
I wasn't so willing to give up. A terrible restaurant doesn't stay around for 66 years . . . or does it? I returned with my friend Kate one night somewhat earlier in the evening. This time, the dining room was almost full, and our waitress somewhat more cheerful. Some sauteed mushrooms were soggy, but the soup, a thick yellow split pea in which I think I detected vestiges of cabbage-and-bean soup, was warmer this time (though I wouldn't go so far as to say it was hot). The bread was definitely less dry, too. I went for the short ribs, which were quite tasty, although they would have been tastier had they been warmed all the way through. Kate had the rack of lamb, which was delicious. The potatoes and the vegetables were dull as ever. We again refused the scoop of sherbet, but this time because we'd had enough to eat.
* Les Freres Taix, 1911 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 484-1265. Lunch and dinner seven days. Major credit cards. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two, food only, $20 to $55.