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In the Mood / Sweet Corn

June 26, 1997

The corn is especially sweet this year. Here's what various chefs in Southern California are doing with it:

* Buffalo Club: To make the fabulously corn-y corn potatoes he serves with steamed Maine lobster, chef Patrick Healy boils and mashes Yukon gold potatoes, makes an intense, smooth puree of cooked, fresh sweet corn, then mixes the two, adding some cooked kernels right off the cob. The lobster sits on a bed of this heavenly mash, along with Oregon morel mushrooms and pencil asparagus. (Lobster, $28; side of corn potatoes, $7.) Buffalo Club, 1520 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 450-8600.

* Campanile: "Succotash," says Mark Peel, when asked what he's doing with corn this year. His version is made with sweet corn, blue lake beans, garlic, shallots, chicken stock and butter, and is served with sauteed quail or roasted pork tenderloin. For corn on the cob, he'll pull down the leaves, remove the silk, rub it with butter, chopped herbs, salt and pepper, then grill it very slowly in the husk. (Side of succotash or corn, $4.50.) Campanile, 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 938-1447.

* Cha Cha Cha: The most-copied and well-loved corn soup in town has to be Toribio Prado's thin, milky, tarragon-scented corn chowder that he made originally at the Ivy and now shows up on every Caribbean menu in town. (Corn chowder, $4.25.) Cha Cha Cha, 656 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 664-7723.

* Fenix: One of chef Ken Frank's best-loved appetizers is a fresh corn polenta (made from sweet corn, butter, salt and pepper) with seared foie gras and sauteed mushrooms. (Polenta and foie gras, $20.) Fenix at the Argyle, Argyle Hotel, 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 848-6677.

* Gardens: Chef Carrie Nahabedian roasts ears of sweet corn, then puts the kernels in the savory corn muffins she serves in the bakery basket at breakfast and lunch. At dinner, there's a smooth, minted corn soup finished with yogurt and curried sea scallops, and Chesapeake soft shell crab with a relish of corn, fava beans, roasted tomatoes, cilantro and mint. (Bakery basket, $8.25; corn soup, $12; soft shell crab $12.) Gardens at the Four Seasons, 300 S. Doheny Drive, Los Angeles, (310) 273-2222.

* Jozu: "The corn has been sweet and phenomenal this year," says chef Suzanne Tracht, who has been blanching ears in milk and fresh herbs then slicing off the kernels and scraping the cob to make the creamed corn that's served with fresh Copper River salmon. She's also making a corn soup with lobster stock, red chiles, and chunks of lobster meat. (Salmon, $24; soup, $6.) Jozu, 8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 655-5600.

* L.A. Farm: At this tucked away California-French restaurant, chef Jean Pierre Peiny makes individual sweet corn souffles to accompany grilled breast of chicken; baby sweet corn serves as a garnish. (Chicken breast dinner, $14.) L.A. Farm, 3000 W. Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 449-4000.

* Valentino: One of the signature dishes here has forever been the risotto with sweet corn and peppers served in a red pepper half. Sweet corn's juicy crunchiness also garnishes the seafood salads this time of year, and individual corn timbalos are served with fish dishes. (Risotto, $15; seafood salad, $11.) Valentino, 3115 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 829-4313.

* Vida: With the great white corn he's found at farmers' markets this spring, chef Fred Eric has been making a corn and wild mushroom souffle to go with wild bass in a lobster broth. White corn also sweetens a fondue appetizer made with Mexican cheese, cream, and roasted pasilla chiles and served with small, shrimp-filled chile rellenos. (Wild Wild Bass, $18, Super Cheesy Mexican Fondue, $7.) Vida, 1930 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz, (213) 660-4446.

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