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EATS: Restaurant Reviews and News | FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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Book Soup Bistro has a new chef and things are looking up where they once looked down.

March 20, 1997|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

Despite lackadaisical service and erratic cooking, I've kept a certain affection for Book Soup Bistro. How can you not like a place that has emblazoned the words EAT . . . READ on its awning and etched the scrambled letters of the alphabet on the door? The room is wonderful, with its slightly sunken banquettes, library chairs and Craftsman-style lamps that cast a golden glow. Handsome black-and-white photographs of literary figures decorate the walls.

Rummaging through the shelves of Book Soup and then retiring, new books in hand, to the bistro next door for a glass of wine and a bookburger is my idea of weekend bliss. But ordering anything much more ambitious than alphabet soup or a green salad was a risky business--until now.

The service is still just as slow and disorganized, but Andre Lechien, a French Vietnamese chef with a formidable resume, is now in the kitchen. The plates are not only more interesting, they're cooked with more finesse.

I'll happily trade in the burger for his light and fragrant seafood pasta or the robust "slowly roasted" Provencal pork chop. Specials, such as grilled wild Boston striped bass with fennel-Pernod cream sauce or smoked peppered duck magret salad are worth investigating, too, as Lechien rewrites the bistro's old menu and introduces his own dishes.

BE THERE

Book Soup Bistro, 8800 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 657-1072. Open seven days for lunch (brunch on the weekends) and dinner. Major credit cards accepted. Parking beneath the Carolco building. Appetizers $3.50-$8.75; pastas $8.95-$11.50; entrees $9.95-$17.95.

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