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G, what a bright idea!

The onetime Meson G gets a colorful, quirky makeover.

October 19, 2006|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

WALKING up the steps to Red Pearl Kitchen, the pan-Asian restaurant and lounge that replaced Meson G, I notice the steps have been painted gold. The building is lipstick red and out front a witty sign with the Red Pearl logo, a comely Chinese maiden, is lighted up like a movie marquee.

When the concept doesn't work, change it. That's what Tim and Liza Goodell of Dakota and the burger bar 25 Degrees in the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel have done with Meson G. The Mediterranean small plates restaurant went through several chefs before the couple pulled the plug and ushered in their third Red Pearl Kitchen.

What a difference a color makes. Everything is red, and although the idea of a Chinese boite decorated with gay paper lanterns and kitschy Chinese furniture, along with the requisite Buddhas, is nothing new, the sheer size and whimsical decor of this one makes it seem fresh and new.

In the bar outfitted with a billiards table, kung fu movies play on flat-screen monitors and the bartender whips up the requisite flirty cocktails. You can stop there, for dim sum and other little plates.

Or move into the dining room dotted with large round mirrors and those fanciful Chinese lanterns. The soundtrack is pulsing, interrupted by the occasional shriek of laughter from girls celebrating a birthday. At one table, a couple smooches in full sight of everyone in the room. It's chilly, but plenty of tattoos are on display in their full glory.

The playful menu dances through dim sum, skewers, salads and wok-fried items that are all meant to be shared. My friend Antonia takes a bite of the shrimp summer roll and is smitten. Me, I love the spicy lacquered chicken wings. But what's with the crispy beef wontons? They're all wrapper, with only a dab of filling.

Chicken fried rice, though, may be the best fried rice I've had in ages. Shaking Kobe beef is another good choice, at $17 about the most expensive item on the moderately priced menu. For dessert, don't miss the cardamom-laced pot de creme or the Vietnamese coffee sundae.

Sundays every bottle of wine is half off, which is enough to start a Sunday night tradition in my family. Even better, they do takeout.

virbila@latimes.com

*

Red Pearl Kitchen

Where: 6703 Melrose Ave., L.A.

When: 5:30-10 p.m. Sundays-

Thursdays, 5:30-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Full bar. Valet parking.

Price: Dim sum, $7-$12; salads, $8-$9; skewers, $7-$9; hot pots, noodle and rice dishes, $8-$12; wok-fired dishes, $14-$19; desserts, $6-$8.

Info: (323) 525-1415, www.redpearlkitchen.com

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