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Netty's: Where the Menu Is as Savory as It Is Unpredictable

Silver Lake has embraced the restaurant despite its semi-open room and tiny lot. Must be the food.

November 30, 2000|CHARLES PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Netty's is a settled part of the Silver Lake lifestyle. Quite a few people eat there regularly, even in winter, when the tiny semi-open dining "room" needs space heaters, and even despite a shockingly small parking lot. Having had a leisurely breakfast at the bakery up the block, they drift back in the afternoon to the corner of Silver Lake Boulevard and Effie Street for huge, meaty sandwiches at Netty's. And sometimes they return to Netty's for dinner.

In effect, it's a bohemian version of a fine-dining restaurant. Westside places have exposed ceiling beams? At Netty's you can see not only the beams (which are painted with tropical fruits on a black background) but even the underside of the corrugated roof. They have striking wall treatments? Netty's has a small amount of '50s-style field stone wall . . . right next to a chain-link fence.

Upscale places have wine lists? Netty's keeps bottles of soft drinks, beers and some unusual wines (e.g., an excellent Spanish Tempranillo) at the counter; just point to what you want. And they have candles and flowers and linen tablecloths? Well, everything on Netty's menu is available to go. If you have a linen tablecloth at home, you're in biz.

The menu changes every lunch and dinner, so there's a phone number to call for the current menu. At lunch, the emphasis is on sandwiches served on big French rolls, such as pork tenderloin with paprika, which tastes a bit like Hungarian goulash topped with feta cheese and basil.

If there's a pattern in this highly eclectic menu, it's that everything has forceful flavors and is rather casually dished up. No pools of lobster nage or thatchings of shoestring potatoes here, and no tall food at all (it wouldn't fit in the takeout containers, of course).

So at dinner you might find blackened beef tenderloin in lemon butter: an exceptionally tender piece of steak with butter and lemon juice. It's quite meaty and good. Skirt steak is usually rolled up and a slice is cut through the roll and cooked in this spiral form. I've had it rolled up with quite a lot of sage and served with a cream sauce that must have included some blue cheese.

Pork chop with Creole mustard often shows up at dinner. Besides whole-seed mustard cream sauce, the plate might include lots of fried mushrooms. The result is not exactly photogenic but certainly savory.

*

Meat dishes come with a couple of vegetables on the side, such as carrots, fresh beets or small potatoes. They tend to be cooked to death, unfortunately. You also get a good salad, usually romaine with shreds of carrot and red cabbage in a garlicky vinaigrette, accompanied by three thick slices of baguette bread smeared with pesto.

There are always a couple of pastas too. I've had linguine tossed with walnuts, Gorgonzola and a bit of oil. Penne may come with bits of prosciutto and mascarpone in a garlicky, dark-red tomato sauce that tastes almost like a red bell pepper puree.

Cajun dishes come with a cornmeal muffin and are pretty good for California. Red beans and rice with andouille is thick and savory; shrimp and crayfish etouffee has a quite authentic taste.

The pan-American section of the menu always seems to feature a Salvadoran-style tamale, in honor of Netty's original chef. As I've had it, it was a rectangular packet of well-done chicken and chunks of potato with green olives and a suggestion of hot pepper, all wrapped in a banana leaf. You could also order something like a blackened pasilla pepper stuffed with shrimp and feta.

Netty's best-known dessert is its espresso brownie; there's a bowl of cellophane-wrapped brownies at the counter, along with some chunks for tasting. It's moist and crumbly and tastes strongly of chocolate, espresso and almond extract.

This time of year you can get peach-apple betty (served quite hot and heavy on the sweet spices; mix it with whipped cream), pumpkin creme bru^lee (slightly granular, good caramel crust) or gingerbread (both with good pumpkin flavor). If you want to be seasonal in Silver Lake, that is.

* Netty's Take-Out Cuisine, 1700 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 662-8655 (to hear menu, 665-DISH). Open noon to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Wine and beer. Small parking lot. All major credit cards. Dinner for two, food only, $20 to 40. What to Get: pork tenderloin sandwich, blackened beef tenderloin, pork chop with Creole mustard, penne with prosciutto and mascarpone, red beans and rice with andouille, Salvadoran tamale, espresso brownies, pumpkin creme bru^lee.

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