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New Chameau Has Already Mastered Art of Presentation

Restaurants | Critic's Notebook

September 28, 2000|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

In Silver Lake, one fetching restaurant (Paio) has bowed out, but another has moved into the same small space.

This time it's Chameau (French for camel), a Mediterranean restaurant with a welcome Moroccan-French emphasis. A black and white photograph of camels nosing toward the desert graces the menu cover. The decor, however, is as spare as before, a pale wood box of a place punctuated with banquettes and a row of vases filled with single gerbera daisies set high along the wall.

It's a restaurant that suits this eclectic neighborhood. Chef/co-owner Adel Chagar is from Rabat, Morocco, and his menu here is small but original. The presentation is polished: He and co-owner Kelly Klemovich have worked as caterers in the movie business and know how to make their dishes look good enough to eat.

Chagar makes a statement with the complimentary appetizer: a briny green olive tapenade, a tiny bowl of succulent dark olives spiked with herbs, and a dot of garlicky potato skordalia to spread on your bread. His individual bestila, a chicken, egg and almond pie, is as pretty as I've ever seen, the filo crust fashioned to look like a full-blown rose on top.

On a sweltering Indian summer night, I love the chilled sugar snap pea and mint soup. Plump little beef wontons with a yogurt garlic sauce and a swatch of spinach and fig salad with oranges and fennel is another appealing first course.

Of course, I had to order the lemon-glazed roast chicken, an update of the classic Moroccan chicken with green olives and lemons, this one served with a savory couscous.

I liked the pan-roasted halibut, too, delicious against its garnish of baby clams, spicy Merguez sausage and a mild harissa sauce. You can also find something as familiar as grilled rack of lamb or a peppered beef tenderloin beautifully cooked.

While dinner at Chameau makes for a pleasant evening, I'm a bit worried. Like Paio, the restaurant that preceded it at the same address, Chameau is busy on the weekends, but diners are scarce on weeknights.

If Silver Lake wants to enjoy the option of such a restaurant close to home, the neighborhood is going to have to support it during the week, too. Chameau, though, may have more of a fighting chance because the owners, who are both veteran caterers, plan to supplement the dinner business with catering.

BE THERE

Chameau, 2520 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 953-1973. Open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. Appetizers $6 to $11.50; main courses $15.50 to $20.95. Street parking.

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