Ken Frank has made his annual garlic menus at Fenix something of an L.A. tradition ever since he concocted his first La Cure d'Ail (garlic cure) in the early '80s at his now-defunct La Toque. In fact, it was so long ago that he can't quite remember the exact year he began courting garlic lovers with the special four-course garlic menu. Fenix's mini-festival lasts all through July, until Aug. 2 to be exact, giving you 24 chances to take the "cure." (For those who don't wish to indulge, he is, by the way, still offering his regular a la carte and nine-course la grande bouffe menus.)
But, hey, not to worry. His menu shows a gallic subtlety. At least on a recent night when nary a naked clove was to be seen. (Frank changes the menu nightly.) We began with a pert "Nicoise" salad of purple Peruvian potatoes, haricots verts, and sweet red onions in a garlic-flecked vinaigrette, topped with crunchy strips of fried conch. Then came an egg fettuccine sauced with tender manila clams and a garlic cream sauce, earthy morels stuffed with duck sausage in a roasted garlic sauce, and finally, beef tenderloin studded with roasted garlic cloves in a red wine reduction.
For $20 more, we drank a different wine with each course, and they were interesting choices: 1996 Rochioli Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc; 1995 Louis Michel Chablis; 1993 King Estate Pinot Noir; and a 1991 Domaine des Tourelles Gigondas, drinking beautifully now. But you may get a different array of wines. Frank, who is one of the few chefs with a real passion for wine, changes the wines about as often as he changes the menu.
No garlic ice cream, merci. If you want sweets, order off the regular dessert menu. Or, opt for a cheese plate, one of the nicest around. It's a fine way to end a meal and it just may help disguise that garlic-laden breath.
Fenix at the Argyle, Argyle Hotel, 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (213) 848-6677. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Four-course garlic menu is served daily for dinner only, through Aug. 2; $50 per person; $70 with wine