I have a love/hate relationship with food. I love to eat good food, but hate to pay high prices for it. Another wrinkle is that I’m an awesome cook (and yeah, modest too). I know how easy it is to make a stunningly simple meal, so when I go out and actually pay for food that isn’t at least tasty, I get cranky. Nevertheless, I’m ever hopeful that I will find the perfect restaurant….I envision a neighborhood cafe that has healthy, yet yummy food in a warm, inviting and stylish setting. Something small where the owner gets to know your likes and dislikes and you can always count on getting your old favorite amidst the exciting daily specials.
On the island where I grew up, there was a Cuban place like this, Manny & Isa’s. I still fantasize about a meal they routinely served there: Turtle steak and black beans & rice, with a side of the most delicious salad ever. Yes, I know turtle steak sounds horrific, but it was sooooo scrumptious…and don’t worry, turtle is no longer available as it’s on the endangered species list, but boy was it sensational. Isa also made this amazing salad dressing. She boasted that no one could figure out the ‘secret’ ingredient. Years later, she gave it up to me… mint and basil where key to the delight. Try as I might though, I never replicated it perfectly.
Anyway, I’m still looking for a place that fits this dream of the perfect, easy to eat at, neighborhood cafe. So I valiantly keep trying new restaurants. One opened recently kind of close to me, eat.on sunset. It’s on the Gower/Sunset corner where the old Pinot used to be. It got a great review in the Times so I thought I’d give it a whirl. There were three of us and the bill came to more than $100, so it definitely doesn’t fall into the reasonable-food-for-money category I yearn for. And that was with my honey and I sharing an appetizer, salad and main course. See, while I love to eat, I can never finish a whole meal alone, so this seems to work. I ordered the Sweet Potato soup special as an appetizer. It was out of this world. We couldn’t get enough of it. But from there, it was sadly all downhill.
Our friend is vegetarian and there was only one entree, a pasta dish that would work for him. It was meager and mediocre. He swears chef’s don’t care about vegetarians and it’s a conspiracy that ‘nice’ restaurants don’t put any thought into the high number of vegie eaters out there. Looking at this menu, I’d have to agree. Even all the salads had meat or fish in them.
Our main fish dish was red snapper in a broth with vegetables. While the presentation was nice, it was very bland tasting. Probably perfect following a wild hallucinogenic night full of sensory overload, but on a normal outing you want a little kick. Desert was disappointing too. We ordered a chocolate something…can’t remember, but when it came, it definitely wasn’t chocolate. We must have looked puzzled because the waiter came over and we queried him on the ingredients. He assured us it was the chocolate dish, then moments later arrived with another desert, chocolate banana something and said it was on the house, the chef wanted us to try it out and give feedback. We liked the first one better, but it still didn’t rock our world. The place is cool looking, a great outside area, snazzy bar, nice fireplaces. Some friends of mine went for drinks and late night snacks and raved, saying the bar food menu was pretty reasonable and tasted great. So I’ll try that option out, but for a sit- down dinner, I was not wowed.
Oh well. The great food search continues.