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A Name That Says It All

The Lunch to Latenite Kitchen, with funky murals and an industrial setting, is open until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Smashed potatoes anyone?

March 01, 2001|CHARLES PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Kitchen just overflows with shaggy bohemian vibes. Outside it's covered with a sprawling, disorderly mural of city life. Inside there are more funky murals, one showing abused-looking tableware, the other displaying a rather queasy sense of color. The tables themselves look as if somebody has sawed up still another mural into squares and paired them with chairs or, in one of the two dining areas, a banquette and some stools.

You want exposed bricks? This place has loads of exposed bricks, even an exposed steel I-beam. In an earlier incarnation, the site must have served some heavy industrial purpose, because the two huge windows separating the dining areas have brutal, massive frames of solid concrete.

Just the place for a meditative espresso, you might say, possibly a sandwich. You can certainly order such simple things here, and a few vegetarian dishes, but the menu shows sparks of greater ambition, as you might guess from its phone number: 664-FOOD.

On top of everything, the Kitchen really lives up to its full name--the Lunch to Latenite Kitchen. It stays open till 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, till 1 a.m. on other nights.

It's located where Hoover Street dead-ends into Fountain Avenue, a fragment of a block west of where Sunset Boulevard crosses Fountain: near the border of Silver Lake and Los Feliz, in other words. It has its own parking lot on Hoover, though somehow it's often full or nearly full even when only two or three tables are occupied in the restaurant. In that case, you can usually scrounge a parking spot on Fountain. The place also delivers lunch locally on weekdays.

The sandwiches, which come with a choice of green salad, French fries or roughly mashed ("smashed") potatoes with roasted garlic, are pretty good. As one of the specials one night, there was a clever grilled albacore sandwich on a wheat bun with wasabi, dill and crunchy slices of Asian pear.

An 8-ounce hamburger comes with grilled onions, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard as well as the usual lettuce and tomato and a choice of cheese. (I must say, my waitress asked me twice whether I wanted cheddar or provolone and still got it wrong.) It's a meaty, high-rise burger that you'll probably have to slice up to eat.

Menu Leans Toward Home-Style Entrees

The top of the entree line is pecan-crusted salmon; pretty good, though you taste more black pepper than pecan. It comes with brown rice, baby greens and a ginger-balsamic dressing. One night there was an excellent special of pork medallions with butter and garlic, plus some grapes.

Most of the main dishes are plain and homey. There's a pretty good meatloaf that includes some carrot shreds and a hint of tomato flavor. It comes propped up on some garlic smashed potatoes with thickened meat juices for sauce.

A very tender lamb shank comes rather austerely without any sauce or flavoring, just smashed potatoes and shreds of carrot and zucchini. Chicken and dumplings is a soup bowl full of chicken, carrots, sweet peppers and a fairly rich chicken broth. The dumplings are rather heavy and even chewy--they look a bit like potato pancakes.

The vegetarian options are a roasted portabello mushroom, grilled tofu and a risotto with carrots and goat cheese. It's not really a risotto. The rice is not at all pudding-like; the grains are mushy but separate. In fact, it's like one of the brown rice health-food dishes people used to make in the '60s, except that it's competently done.

Weekend brunch is mostly sandwiches plus some egg dishes--omelet, eggs Florentine, steak and eggs. I've had a quite good egg white frittata with spinach, cumin-spiked turkey sausage with chunks of potato in it, topped with chopped sweet peppers and plantain.

The best part of this menu is the daily changing dessert selection, which runs to chocolate--a flourless chocolate cake with the consistency of a caramel, a crumbly dark chocolate mud pie and a plainly named "chocolate pie" with a ravishing silky texture.

It all goes to show you--no matter how hip you are, one does not live on espresso alone.

* The Lunch to Latenite Kitchen, 4348 Fountain Ave., L.A., (323) 664-FOOD (3663). Open noon to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 3 a.m. Friday, 10 to 3 a.m. Saturday, 10 to 1 a.m. Sunday; brunch served 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. No alcohol. Parking lot and street parking. All major cards. Dinner for two, food only, $22-$42.

* What to get: egg white frittata, pecan-crusted salmon, meatloaf, pork medallions, cheeseburger, albacore sandwich, chocolate pie, mud pie.

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