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Restaurants | Counter Intelligence

Where Healthful Also Means Creative

The interesting menu at Ammo in Hollywood is good for you--and inspired too.

August 10, 2000|CHARLES PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For years, people have driven down Highland Avenue past a building with the letters AMMO painted on it. Probably they assumed it was some weirdly named fashion industry place.

In 1997, it started serving food on the premises, and the secret was out. Ammo, originally a catering service (the name is owner Amy Goldenberg's childhood nickname) specializing in "healthy creative food for beautiful people," had become a restaurant. It still has a Hollywood sort of clientele--the people at the next table are likely to be talking about their personal trainers--and it does serve healthful, often quite creative food.

The place has a neat, faintly industrial-chic look: blond wood, a hint of Art Deco in the wall sconces, a knot of massive water pipes (apparently part of the building's fire sprinkler system) near the door. As you enter, you look straight down the assembly line of the kitchen. Those sconce lamps don't provide a lot of light, by the way. During the day, the place is bright enough, thanks to the plate glass window, but at dinner, you may have trouble reading the menu, even with the table candles.

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It's an interesting menu, anyway. While you're nibbling the complimentary French bread or the crisp Parmesan flat bread, you can consider ordering bruschetta--prosciutto, arugula, tomatoes and mozzarella on toast--or perhaps a salad. The one of butter lettuce, grapefruit, golden beets, toasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese is light and pleasant in its grapefruit and Champagne dressing, but I was more impressed by the balsamic-dressed field greens with "crispy potatoes" and Gorgonzola. The potatoes are totally crisp and literally shoestring-thin.

There's always a soup of the day, such as a white corn puree enriched with cream and sprinkled with basil and extra-virgin olive oil. The thin-crust pizza of the day is baked in a rectangle and might be topped with prosciutto and tomatoes, like a bruschetta made with freshly baked crackers.

Ammo is proud of its ravioli filled with asparagus, spring garlic and ricotta. When I had it, the asparagus was slightly underdone, giving the dish a faintly chemical flavor, but it's topped with plenty of good shaved Parmesan, so I could pretty much ignore that.

The main dishes at dinner are all wonderful. The roasted chicken is half a flavorful bird, beautifully roasted and richly, but richly, flavored with garlic (so are the roast potatoes and green beans that come with it). The turkey meatloaf is more than just nutritional correctness--it's luscious, sweet and meaty, and so moist (evidently it's mixed with tomato paste or ketchup) that it slumps on the plate. There's perfectly grilled ahi, served on white beans with arugula and mint, and a grilled filet sliced and fanned out on a mushroom-and-fennel compote.

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Likewise the vegetable side dishes are very attractive. Particularly the mashed potatoes, which automatically come with the meatloaf but are available a la carte; they're arrestingly dosed with horseradish.

I suppose a lot of people have one of the famous brownies or chocolate chip cookies for dessert, or one of the soothing fruit smoothies--simple purees of fresh fruit and ice. There are more formal desserts, though, such as a mousse-like flourless chocolate cake in chocolate syrup, a light but somewhat mushy and bland ricotta cheesecake generously garnished with fresh fruit and a very good ice cream sandwich: two butter cookies sandwiching a layer of strawberry ice cream.

Weekend brunch is a mixture of breakfast dishes--such as eggs with apple-wood-smoked bacon (fried very brown, tasting a lot like country ham) or poached eggs topped with basil sauce and shaved Parmesan--with a couple of lunch dishes, like vegetables or brown rice and vegetables.

Lunch runs to salads and panini sandwiches. There's also a beef or turkey burger with tomatoes, caramelized onions, sharp Cheddar and arugula standing in for lettuce. The shoestring potatoes that come with this dish have an odd, limp texture and there were some scorched bits on my turkey burger. Moi, I'd go with that turkey meatloaf.

BE THERE

Ammo, 1155 N. Highland Avenue, Hollywood. (323) 871-2666. Breakfast and lunch, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner, 6-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; brunch, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. No alcohol; beer and wine license pending. Street parking. All major cards. Lunch for two, $16 to $18; dinner for two, $40 to $72.

What to Get: white corn soup, field greens with crispy potatoes, roasted chicken, turkey meatloaf, grilled ahi, ice cream sandwich.

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