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Karen Salkin Out to Lunch

         Restaurant Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin
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For about a year now, I’ve been attending parties at Mark’s, or ones by their catering company, Crumble. The food was always delicious, and the all-male personnel adorable. So, I figured it’s about time to actually have dinner there and see if it’s as good as the party fare.

Well, I’m here to say the experience was even better than expected. I took along Eadie and Lou, two of my regular reviewing assistants, and Laurel Wiley, a beautiful red-headed singer, who was a first-timer for critiquing with the gang. She fit right in.

I knew I was in for a great time immediately because Kenny Simkins was manning the door. I’ve met him before and he’s always so upbeat and positive, but has the juiciest dish on everyone. A guy after my own heart. He had the best lines of the night, but I can’t repeat most of them. I quoted him in my recent Fashion Week column, when he uttered the words I’ve longed to hear for about two years now, “Oh honey, fat is the new black.” Amen to that!!!

Casey, our brave waiter, was fabulous, too, and within one minute of meeting me, he sing-songed “Diva!” How could he have caught on that quickly?! Mr. X must have called ahead. (Or maybe Casey has just seen my show.) We loved Chef Mike Smith, too, who seems to have taking over the main culinary duties from Chef Wayne Elias, the co-owner (with Chris Diamond) who also runs the aforementioned Crumbles.

They’ve recently unveiled a new “bistro” menu, which I gather means you can just have smaller plates and don’t need to order a whole dinner. I never saw their former menu, but this one is pretty good. They kept their Half-Price Mondays, which I hear are packed to the rafters, and feature week-end Prime Rib Dinners, and Lobster Night on Wednesdays, with half-price wine bottles at Sunday Brunch. That doesn’t leave a lot of nights open for plain old dinner, which is what our foursome enjoyed.

roast beet & goat cheese I loved most of the appetizers so much that I filled up on them and could barely eat my entrée. I would do it that way again because what we had early on is special. First of all, they were all works of art, especially the roasted beet and goat cheese “salad.” We seriously wanted to frame them.

The consensus favorite was the Trio of Tastes. The four of us shared two orders because they consist of two of each: coconut shrimp, filet mignon tacos and potstickers. Laurel said the honey-tasting sauce that accompanied the shrimp was amazing. She just may write a song about it! (What an artistic bunch we are--we want to ensconce our food in glass and compose music as we eat.) Lou’s fave was the shrimp salad. (To call these stunning creations “salads” does not do them justice, in my opinion.)

I was too full for anything other than dessert, but the other three forged ahead. Eadie said her Turkey Meatloaf had an interesting taste and perfect texture. Chef Mike told us that his choice is the Pacific Sea Bass, and Laurel loved it, too, but said the cabbage it was on was a tad too bitter for her. Lou ordered Teriyaki London Broil, which he normally doesn’t like, but as he pointed out, he ate the whole thing when he didn’t even intend to. (He actually ordered it because he knew I really wanted to taste it, which I did, happily.)

trio of tastesThere were so many desserts that caught our attention, mainly chocolate ones, but Kenny surprised us with two pans of their famous hot chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream. It was even better than it sounds! I

was sure that I didn’t want it, though I had heard tell about it for some time now, but we all went for it so much that no one could eat the desserts that I had picked out. (As opposed to it being Kenny’s choice, which he’ll never let me forget.)

We were seated in one of the roomy, yet cozy booths, which is exactly where I wanted to be. Mr. X could have joined us, actually, as this was one of the very few times I didn’t want to

switch tables until I get comfortable. I was happy immediately! The room is pleasantly dark and warm, with an open bar area that my compatriots loved. Most people like to sit on the patio that can be opened or closed as the patrons wish and allows for some good La Cienega yenta-ing.

markNow I just have to get famous enough to be invited to Sir Elton John’s annual AIDS Foundation Gala on Oscars night, and I’m assured of Crumble’s fabulous food at least once a year, as Chef Wayne is the exclusive caterer. Or else I can simply eat at Mark’s and hum “Tiny Dancer.”

Mark’s Restaurant 861 N. La Cienega Blvd. 310-652-5252

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