photo by Howard Wise
When I was little, one of the days I looked the most forward to (and that’s an understatement) was my family’s annual visit to Uncle Aaron’s in Penn’s Neck, N.J, a suburb of Trenton. As much as I loved my uncle, that’s not the reason I anticipated it with bated breath. It’s because he owned the town’s general store and we could just walk around the whole place and eat anything we wanted!!!
He sliced ham and cheese for fresh sandwiches and there was always something chocolate. I felt like a Willy Wonka kid! (The good one, of course.)
Well, I attended a lovely restaurant opening last week that evoked memories of Uncle Aaron’s place. It’s Cube on La Brea, a new café, marketplace, charcuterie, and cheese-bar. We wandered around the packaged delicacies, eating great prepared food the whole time.
The cheeses, dried meats, and classy fruits (fresh figs, champagne grapes, etc,) were set up along the bar, and the mainly cordial staff passed trays of creative nibbles, all of our favorite being the mini Valrhona chocolate pudding cups.
Chris, who manned the door, couldn’t have been more helpful, and my favorite waitperson was Manuel, who has the most beautiful hair. (Very important when you’re serving food. I mean it.)
LA hipsters know restaurant locations by what was there previously. In this case, it was the Divine Pasta Company, from the same owner as Cube, Alexander Palermo. He now serves, and sells packages of, the same brand in this new incarnation.
My party stationed itself mainly outside, which is always a risk because there’s the possibility of sitting near a selfish smoker, who’s too self-absorbed to realize that he/she is harming others. (Not all smokers are like that, but you should know who you are.)
photo by Howard Wise
But I must report, happily, that we were there for well over three hours, and there wasn’t a smoker in the bunch! I was so proud of LA! Gives me hope for dining al fresco in the future.
People who don’t know me that well think that food is the most important thing to me, and often try to bribe me with it. (If you goof-up, a meal is still a great way to get back in.) I had just been sitting at Cube, telling my friends that goodie bags are even more special to me than food, but that there would be none at this party because the place was too small and the crowd too big for that kind of thing.
All of a sudden, here comes Chris, handing out giant ones! These were black cloth bags chock full of products from their market; pasta, sauce, jarred mushrooms, chocolates, recipes. I could go on, but why make you all jealous. (And let Mr. X know what I secretly kept for myself before I shared with him.)
There’s also an inviting back room, which is for private dinner parties. Maybe when I do the full review in the near future, I’ll get to sit there and report on it. Or maybe, if you take me out to lunch first, you’ll get to join me.
Cube 615 N. La Brea Ave. 323-939-1148
Roger Karnbad/Celebrity Photo
There was one of the best art openings at Mark’s Restaurant last week, with an amazing turn-out. The art portion is in my entertainment review. But read on to find out about the food.
This is the third event I’ve been to there in recent months, and I haven’t eaten the same dish twice. And it’s all delicious.
This outing, some of the most popular were grilled shrimp, mini tuna burgers, baby lamb chops, and my fave, flat chicken bites on crispy crackers. (Okay, I’m sure the restaurant has a better description for that last one, but, as I once told a bemused Johnny Carson, I never know technical terms. Some things never change.)
It seemed that no one wanted to leave, but in what was billed to be the last hour of the party, the waiters brought around trays of mini-desserts, which was perfect. Some events serve their sweets and savories concomitantly, which makes it hard on the taste buds. (Look it up for now; English lessons will be featured on www.karensalkin.com when I get the chance.)
They had one heart-shaped cookie, half-dipped in dark chocolate, that was one of the best dessert items I’ve ever tasted. Good thing I was already stuffed or I would have eaten every one they had.
The waiters were as adorable as they always are, with some hunky new bartenders I hadn’t seen before. Where does Mark’s find these guys?! And can we have the exact address? Or at least the GPS coordinates?
Mark’s Restaurant 861 N. La Cienega Blvd. 310-652-5252
And lastly, Roy’s just had their second annual Island Hop Dinner. It was held simultaneously at all his restaurants around the country. Each of the five courses was created by a different chef and featured foods and flavors indigenous to one of the Hawaiian Islands.
My friend, Eadie, and I showed-up, attired in slightly Hawaiian garb because I tend to get into the spirit of whatever it is I’m doing. (Trust me--you DON’T want to run into me around Halloween.)
I assumed that we’d be sitting in the party room, along with the other patrons who were there for the special feast. But being the fabulous restaurant critic that I am, the management thought I’d like to be out in the main room, with the OTHER celebs that night, Rebecca Romijn and her fiancé, Jerry O’Connell. (I’m kidding about me.)
We had a good time, but I felt a tad bad that we missed out on the group fun. All the other Island Hop diners were together, in their tropical clothing, with leis of fresh flowers and live Hawaiian music. I would have loved that! I guess the powers-that-be didn’t know just how goony I am.
That being said, Eadie loved every dish, her favorite being the steamed red snapper, which she proclaimed to be “melt-in-your-mouth” delicious. I was too busy with other aspects of the restaurant to pay close attention to the food. All the presentations were lovely, though. And we appreciated that this was a happening restaurant that was not blasting music, so we could have an actual conversation.
The best part of the evening, by far, was our waiter, Jeff, who was incredible. Regular readers of this column may have noticed that I consider service to be the most important element of dining-out, and we were really lucky to have gotten him. (In fairness, the other servers seemed wonderful, too, but I can’t imagine anyone being BETTER.) Jeff immediately made us feel welcome. He was genuinely attentive and warm. And explained each Island dish as I could only imagine was being done in the party room. Now, if he could have just played the ukulele….
Roy’s 6363 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Woodland Hills 818-888-4801