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RESTAURANTS | Restaurant Journal

The lure of the truffle catches the wallet by surprise

October 16, 2002|Jessica Strand | Special to The Times

THERE'S a little ritual taking place in dining rooms all over the city.

Now that it's truffle season -- and the truffles are particularly plentiful this year -- waiters are rattling off truffle specials like there's no tomorrow. Of course, they don't always mention the price. And so the diner, hungry for that first earthy bite, succumbs to the suggestion of, say, the white truffle risotto at the Water Grill.

It's lunch. It's an appetizer. How expensive could it be? Then the bill comes. That little dish cost a whopping $65.

The price stings even more when you learn that last year Italian white truffles fetched $2,300 a pound, while this year, after a good rainy season, they're going for less than half at $1,100 a pound, according to Liaison West, a major truffle importer in Southern California.

Adding to the confusion are the last of the summer truffles. Much less rare and perfumed, they're only $100 a pound. So if you can't resist the idea of steamed asparagus with Parmesan and truffles at Toscana, you're in for a different surprise: It's only $16.

Sushi rolls up

high scores in

latest L.A. Zagat

IS Japanese cuisine the most highly esteemed in the city? The new Zagat Survey almost shouts "Yes." In the 2003 Los Angeles guide, released last week, top food honors went to three Japanese restaurants. Matsuhisa, Sushi Sasabune and Sushi Nozawa each scored 28 on a scale of 1 to 30. Ratings are based on an annual poll of diners.

Karen Berk, an editor of the L.A. edition, pointed to "the entertainment value." She said: "It's pure theater. It's not all about the taste, but the experience as well."

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