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Karen Salkin Out to Lunch

         Restaurant Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin
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CHOCOLAT

Years ago, when I had the misfortune to get my very first traffic ticket in LA and was given a list of traffic schools I could attend, one jumped right off the page due to the cleverness of its name: Lucky Brake. I called right up and bonded with Marcia, the owner, and we’ve been pals ever since. Though that never helps me in the traffic school department, it’s great in many other ways, not the least of which is that she’s one of the good friends who take me out for a birthday meal every year.

We usually pick lunch at the same place in BH, partly because I know Marcia loves it, and though it’s for MY celebration, I always want my hosts to be happy, too. But my dream is to eat at every restaurant in the world, so obviously I’d rather try a new restaurant every time I dine out. The place I picked this year almost made me want to give up that dream.

For a long while now, I had noticed that the perennial Moustache Café had changed to Chocolat, a name that made my mouth water every time I passed it. I did research on it, and discovered that it had the same owners and virtually the same menu, including their famous chocolate soufflé! I was so happy. Since we both LOOOVE chocolate, I didn’t feel guilty making Marcia try a new place because I knew that at least dessert would be great. My bad.

We were on the way to a screening in Hollywood, so, even though I usually eschew early dinners because they make me feel like a Miami Beach senior (and I don’t mean in High School, which is what I usually feel like), we headed there at about 5:30PM. The hostess, Ashley, couldn’t have been lovelier, and our waitress, whom I’ll call Ms. P, couldn’t have been creepier.

We were the only ones in the joint at that time, and loud club music (which I love, when I’m in a club and not an empty restaurant at 5:30PM) was blasting from the near-by bar. Strange. One would think that our sole customers status would afford us great service. One would be wrong.

In a patronizing way, Ms. P came over several times and inquired in a phony, sugary voice, “How’re you ladies doing?” We had made it clear that we were time-constrained, but, after having the main course foisted on us while we were still eating the salad, couldn’t get her attention again for dessert nor the check. And, I repeat, we were the only customers! Maybe she was just too busy looking at all the empty tables.

We were brought exactly two rolls, and when we asked for more, they brought two more, with no butter. When we asked for some of the latter to go with the former, we were treated as though we had asked for doggie bags at an all-you-can-eat buffet!

I ordered pumpkin ravioli, and though it was tasty, the dinner consisted of just six actual ravioli. For $18! That’s $3 apiece. I know that’s de rigueur in many an upscale restaurant, but this wasn’t one; it’s a French bistro.

Moustache Café was known for their chocolate soufflé, so, forgetting how dangerous assumptions can be, I figured at least dessert would be a positive experience. Wrong again. Marcia is even more of a chocolate aficionado than I, but she took one bite and put down her spoon, telling me it was all mine. Having been a fan of this dish here for years, I couldn’t imagine what could be wrong with her taste buds.

One taste was all I needed, too. This was the worst, dry, tasteless soufflé ever! What happened to this place??? It was just plain bad, on just about every level. So, next year, if Marcia’s brave enough to take me for a birthday meal again, you’ll find us back at the usual, and safe, La Scala in Beverly Hills, people.

Chocolat 8155 Melrose Ave. 323-651-2111 www.chocolatla.com

Karen’s Restaurant Revue airs on March 12, 2007 at 8:30PM on Time-Warner Cable, Channels 98, 77, 37, or 3. Check the listings in your area.

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