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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

A Lazy Afternoon in the Charming Lipp of Luxury

August 08, 1993|LAURIE OCHOA

The best time to visit a Paris brasserie might be midafternoon, the magic hours between lunch and dinner, when there is little bustle and rush and plenty of time to linger over oysters and choucroute and a crisp Alsatian white.

The Lipp, a new Melrose restaurant that is selling itself as an American version of Paris' brasserie Lipp, is missing the aproned waiters, the iced platters of shellfish, the patina of age. It doesn't even have a good beer selection. But the Lipp has got one thing down: the lazy afternoon charm of a brasserie, when the sun casts long shadows over the sparsely occupied booths and banquettes, and couples take their time eating some of the city's best cheeseburgers, thin french fries and freshly fried potato chips.

When people try to open a Southern California brasserie, and they do every few years, they usually import traditional brasserie cooking, and then end up serving burgers and fries when the pig trotters don't sell. The Lipp, more '30s New York swank than 1890s Parisian, doesn't even attempt to be French.

Consulting chef Fred Eric put together an appealing menu, based largely on modern American classics. At dinner: shrimp cocktail, braised short ribs and herb-crusted chicken with mashed potatoes. A risotto cake comes with the skillet-seared whitefish, but the pasta is simply called noodles. You can even get a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, with fixings. Best of all, no entree costs more than $10 and the wines are all less than $20.

* The Lipp, 7313 Melrose Ave., (213) 930-0256. Entrees $8.50-$10.

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