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Valley Life | restaurant review

State of Art's

March 17, 2000|MAX JACOBSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Art's is still the definitive Valley deli. It's where you go to get abused by busy waitresses, pick up some fractured Yiddish from the menu and eat the best corned beef and pastrami on the boulevard.

It's a bright-lights, big-city place of cramped booths and earsplitting noise.

The best time to come is weekend mornings--that's the only time most of us can justify eating these often fatty, salty Jewish-American dishes while, as the saying goes, we enjoy the guilt.

But the other day, my party didn't actually enjoy much about Art's assorted fish platter.

It was bland lox and rubbery whitefish on a huge platter surrounded by bagels, slabs of cream cheese, a nice coleslaw, cucumbers, olives and a few slices of unripe tomato. It cost a whopping $31.95, and I'd like to add this fish platter to the subtly humorous "Dictionary of Basic Yiddish" found on the menu--under chutzpah.

Beyond that, though, there isn't much to kvetch about at Art's, unless you're put off by cabbage rolls that taste more of sugary tomato sauce than of meat, or anything else. Art's sandwiches really are the best for miles around.

The rye bread is warm and moist, with a nice crust, and both the corned beef and pastrami are tender, fragrant and generously piled.

*

"I want it all" chicken soup is the menu's best bargain. It's a boat-sized crock of delicious chicken broth, and it's stocked to the gunwales with kreplach, noodles, kasha, rice, soft pieces of steamed chicken, carrots and a huge, fluffy matzo ball even a Yiddishe momme would have to praise.

Among the many hot dishes, standouts include tender short ribs in the pot; a retro platter of knockwurst, beans and a fine, creamy potato salad; and first-rate potato pancakes, golden brown latkes that are crunchy around the edges and wonderfully light on the inside.

As for the desserts on display in the large case by the front register, the one that always evokes nostalgia in me is a thickly frosted black and white cookie, like a sphere cut in half, the top schmeared with equal parts vanilla and chocolate frosting.

The flaky apple strudel, served warm, is another good bet, and so is the excellent rice pudding, if you ask them to go light on the cinnamon sprinkled on top.

They don't go light on much else here.

BE THERE

Art's, 12224 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Open 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Beer and wine only. Valet parking. All major cards. Lunch for two, $18-$29. Suggested dishes: corned beef sandwich, $9.95; pastrami sandwich, $9.95; "I want it all" chicken soup, $7.95; short ribs in the pot, $13.95. Call (818) 762-1221.

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