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Summer Splash / Eats | RESTAURANT NEWS

Out and Out Tasty : The warmer weather is inspiring several Southland chefs to create a variety of seasonal dishes.


Summer dining style is as carefree and spontaneous as billowing sails. That's when tables and chairs move outside and farmers' markets burst with culinary inspiration.

The season's vitality manifests itself on restaurant menus, too. And summer dishes entice with bold flavors.

Here's a preview of the season's dishes:

Cold noodles from Japan inspired Michi Takahashi, of Michi in Manhattan Beach, to create a chilled appetizer, gazpacho with scallops and rock shrimp--and angel hair pasta. "I've always liked cold soups. Gazpacho was just right," he says. "The vinegary edge cuts the richness of the seafood." Among the new desserts is a cheesecake mousse served in a Parmesan cup with fresh peach puree.

* Michi, 903 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach. (310) 376-0613.

At red on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, owner David Reiss recently added outdoor seating for 36. New entree salads by chef Mary Cleary showcase fresh herbs. Red-O-Chine, a toss of shrimp, shredded cabbage and peanuts, comes with an apricot-sesame vinaigrette. "Using whole leaves of cilantro and mint instead of chopped makes the difference. It's a bolder taste," says Cleary. Her brownie dessert plate--a pair of ultra-dense brownies with vanilla ice cream and warm bittersweet chocolate sauce--is big enough to share. One thirst quencher, called Arnie Palmer, blends fresh lemonade and iced tea.

* red, 101 Broadway, Santa Monica. (310) 260-1100; outdoor dining also available at original location, 7450 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 937-0331.

Dining on the patio of Coco Pazzo isn't exactly a picnic in Tuscany. But the idea of eating outdoors inspired executive chef Roberto Aita to create stuffed agnolotti with a fava bean ragout. The potato filling is scented with thyme. Fruit finds its way on the dessert menu with a watermelon parfait ribboned with almond-flavored cream.

* Coco Pazzo in the Mondrian Hotel, 8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (213) 848-6000.

Dandelion salad with a citrus dressing accompanies all the seafood specials this summer at Delphi Greek Cuisine. So does skordalia, a garlicky sauce that makes some customers wary about getting close.

To lessen fear of skordalia breath, owner Estelle Prineas advises diners to adopt a proven Greek antidote: Eat a clove of garlic before the meal. Throughout the summer, live music will be featured Monday evenings.

* Delphi Greek Cuisine, 1383 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 478-2900.

Summer to Stephane Collomb means vegetables and gardening. The executive chef of Cafe Jardin, the latest venture by Pascal Olhats, of Pascal, at Corona del Mar's Sherman Botanical Gardens, picks what he needs from the restaurant's garden. One appetizer plate, a trio of silver-dollar-sized tartlets (pesto, pissaladiere, ratatouille) shows off his devotion to the cuisine of the South of France and fresh herbs. Even the orange sorbet has a basil kick.

* Cafe Jardin, 2647 East Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. (714) 673-0033.

Forget potato chips. Chef Serge Burckel, of Splash, a new cafe in Redondo Beach, makes his own vegetable chips by drying carrots, cabbage leaves, daikon and beet root overnight in the oven. "The drying process intensifies the flavor and makes them crisp," says Burckel. An eggplant puree and black caraway seed vinaigrette tag along. One dessert--a chocolate dim sum basket with raspberry and vanilla sauces--was inspired by a stint working in Hong Kong.

* Splash, 330 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach. (310) 798-5348.

Restaurateur Fred Eric, of Vida, cranks up the barbecue every Sunday, beginning June 1. What determines the prix-fixe menu is whatever looks great during his morning visit to the farmers' market. Skate, a fish that tastes like a cross between a Chilean sea bass and Dover sole, is a source of inspiration. One new entree features skate wings cooked three different ways--braised, smoked, and blackened with cornmeal crust and fried). It comes with a saute of mixed greens and mashed yucca. Another find is fresh chamomile, which he adds to honey ice cream.

* Vida, 1930 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz. (213) 660-4446.

Executive chef Tony Zidar of Twin Palms in Pasadena and Newport Beach is partial to the light, refreshing flavors of Mediterranean cooking. It shows in a new dinner entree, a warm lamb salad on a bed of citrus couscous with watercress and crumbled feta. The roasted fig vinaigrette, he says, gives a rich taste without the use of rich ingredients. Among pastry chef Jacques Savoie's new desserts is an almond brittle shell filled with a tropical fruit saute and mango sorbet.

* Twin Palms, 101 W. Green St., Pasadena. (818) 577-2567; and 630 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach. (714) 721-8288.

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