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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Patinette at MOCA Offers Palette of Lunch Options

August 26, 1994|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

What top L.A. chef has opened a humble lunch counter downtown? Two clues from the savvy, well-priced menu: peppered roast beef sandwich with slivered potatoes and caramelized onions on toasted baguette, and sweet potato salad with raisins and fresh coriander.

It's an easy guess: Potatomeister Joachim Splichal of Patina and Pinot Bistro. Set in the Museum of Contemporary Art, his spanking-new Patinette has a handful of white-clothed tables inside, more seating in the courtyard outside. Pick up soups, an array of salads, sandwiches and desserts at the counter. The surprise is the luxury of real china and silver.

Attractive, fresh salads like Middle Eastern lentil and garbanzo or an Asian-accented farm-raised turkey salad can be ordered by the half-pound or in combinations of two or three. The guy knows how to make a sandwich too: Witness the moist roasted garlic chicken on country loaf with grilled scallions and Parmesan cheese dressing.

Patinette's excellent price-quality ratio is definitely a sign of the times, one that makes Splichal's third restaurant an appealing downtown lunch option. Welcome to the neighborhood. (And did I mention, almost everything on the menu can be had to-go as well--hey, fax your order, it's faster. However, they cannot, as yet, fax the food.)

* Patinette at MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 626-1178; fax 626-0773. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; until 8 p.m. Thursday evenings when museum admission is free. Visa, Mastercard and , starting next week, American Express. Parking in museum lot. Appetizers $4.25-$5; sandwiches $4.95-$6.50; salads $4.95 per half-pound; desserts 95 cents-$3.

S. Irene Virbila's regular restaurant column appears Sundays in the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

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