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RESTAURANT JOURNAL

Changing the salad paradigm

August 20, 2003|Leslee Komaiko

It's salad season, which means Caesars, Cobbs and chop salads -- the three mighty Cs -- are everywhere. But some restaurants around town are taking a break from the just as ubiquitous balsamic vinaigrette topper.

At Capri, an Italian spot in Venice, the salad becomes the dressing in a recently introduced summer special.

Capri's white salad consists of cauliflower florets, sticks of jicama and hearts of palm. This cool, crunchy mix is finished with a dressing of arugula, watercress, cilantro and basil blended with olive oil, salt, white pepper and water.

"I was so tired of the usual leaf salads and greens with white dressing," says Alona Hamilton Cooke, Capri's owner. "I wanted to reverse it. And the color is gorgeous. It's a light jade green. It's like a modern green goddess dressing, but it has more oomph and more flavor."

Up the street at Joe's, Joe Miller serves an heirloom and cherry tomato salad drizzled with a watermelon vinaigrette.

"The watermelon vinaigrette sort of came from an old Chinese thing. They use a lot of pickled watermelon rind," Miller says.

Miller pickles his own watermelon rind and uses the pickling liquid as well as fresh-squeezed watermelon juice, along with basil oil, dill oil and chopped opal basil, to prepare the dressing. "It makes a nice sweet-sour type sauce," he says.

Makoto Tanaka of Beverly Hills' Mako restaurant created a dried oba leaf-plum vinaigrette to accent a summer tomato and tofu salad. The vinaigrette is made with salty Japanese pickled plums, seeded and chopped very fine, along with shallots and oba (also known as shiso) leaves Tanaka dries himself. Rice wine vinegar, rice oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper round out the recipe.

"In Japanese restaurants, there's a lot with plum and oba," says Tanaka. "In a vegetarian hand roll, you might have cucumber, plum and oba leaf. I made a dressing out of it."

-- Leslee Komaiko

Small bites

* More than 40 restaurants, including Lucques, Asia de Cuba, Michael's and Maple Drive are participating in Dine Out Los Angeles, a two-week promotion sponsored by S. Pellegrino. Special prix fixe three-course meals are priced at $35 for dinner, $20 for lunch, excluding tax and gratuity, and including a bottle of sparkling water. For each meal sold, S. Pellegrino will donate $1 to Share Our Strength, which benefits L.A.-based hunger-relief organizations. For a list of participating restaurants, visit www.LAdineout.com. Through Aug. 29.

* Could llama be the new buffalo? At Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas, the new tasting menu features grilled llama, and according to managing director Gerhard Tratter, "the response has been really phenomenal." Tratter compares the flavor of llama to "a very full-flavored, strong beef, like a 28- to 30-day dry-aged beef."

The restaurant gets the llama from the same Colorado purveyor that originally brought them yak. Interested carnivores take note: "It's going to be pretty seasonal," Tratter says. "There's only a six- or seven-week window."

Saddle Peak Lodge, 419 Cold Canyon Road, (818) 222-3888.

* Miyako restaurant in Pasadena, home of textbook sukiyaki, among other dishes, is closing Aug. 31 after a 44-year run. "When we opened, we were the only Japanese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley," says owner Robert Kawashima. "Now there are at least 75."

Miyako, 139 S. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, (626) 795-7005.

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