Posted (Rick Lupert) in Brunch, California, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, United States on January-17-2017

We had a great experience at Art’s Table yesterday afternoon for MLK day brunch. We don’t live in the area and were searching for a brunch spot near where we were, and this place came up on the what felt like hidden local gem of the street Montana, which felt like the antithesis to what one might experience on Third Street.

Thanks to Yelp reservations we were seated right away inside, when every other table inside and outside was occupied.

Let’s start with the coffee; I’ve said many times if a brunch/breakfast place doesn’t have good coffee it has no business being in business. Art knows what he’s doing with his coffee. It’s richly dark and bold in taste, with no acidity and served in delightful ceramic owl mugs that are exactly what they seem… It would be worth coming to Art’s just to get a cup of coffee.

The Coffee at Art's Table

The coffee at Art’s Table served in owl mugs!

The only caveat with the coffee is that a cup costs $4. I’ve seen premium pricing for coffee when they bring you a French Press but this, despite how good it was, seemed pricy for a basic cup of coffee.

There are plenty of gluten-free options on the breakfast menu including Johnny cakes, a cornmeal-based pancake that looked amazing (though we didn’t have it.) And the dish my wife and I both got a version of , The veggie eggs, which is served with gluten-free potato pancakes topped with greens delicious portobello mushrooms that are perfectly cooked, and two poached eggs, topped with a wonderfully spiced bernadine sauce. The eggs were poached perfectly. The potato pancakes (and to be fair to all concerned if a restaurant that I’ve never been to before has potato pancakes on the menu that’s all my body will allow me to order) were a little thin for my taste, but speaking of taste, they tasted pretty good albeit a little greasy, but considering the very nature of potato pancakes it’s hard to complain about there being oil involved. In our “eye-vesdropping” that we did of other dishes walking by it seems there were other options which had more substantial potatoes and, again, potatoes of any kind will draw me closer to your heart.

Veggie Eggs

Veggie Eggs, served with a salad.

The dish was served with a generous salad that was tasty though in terms of volume, but visually overpowered the rest of the dish.

We would definitely come back to Art’s Table and try some of the other tantalizing things that we saw walking by (to be clear they were being carried by serving staff and not walking by under their own power.) The only thing which was a slight downer was our super friendly and cool waiter who seemed to really know what he was doing when he took our order and greeted us, but then never spoke to us again until after we finished eating and wanted to know if we were ready for the check. Again he was awfully nice but you kind of expect, or at least hope that a server will check in with you after you’ve received your food just to make sure that everything was OK. Everything was OK so we would’ve had nothing to complain about but it would have been nice to have seen him again before it was time to get the check.

Art’s Table
1002 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90403-1604

Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Los Angeles, United States on July-23-2016

Second time at this restaurant…the first was great…actually ordered the same thing this time. The Wild Mushroom Frittata. (Who wouldn’t order something with the word “wild” in it?) The frittata was overcooked and fairly dense inside. The fingerling potatoes it came with weren’t seasoned at all. (And salt and pepper is not on any of the tables…you have to ask for it.) And the buttermilk biscuit I selected for my bread choice was way overbooked. Almost dark brown on the outside. Very dense on the inside. I’m not the type of person to not finish a biscuit, but, well, I didn’t finish this biscuit.

On the plus side the French Press coffee was great. (Wonder if it’s a weekend thing, but they list a regular coffee on their menu but our server told us they only served French Press which is more expensive…I’d typically try a regular coffee at a place before getting all premium.)

My wife ordered poached eggs and the eggs were poached perfectly. So kudos for that as restaurants often get that wrong.

And they were out of the Avocado Toast because they didn’t have enough ripe avocados. I was before noon so that’s fairly early in the day to run out of something and it was the main reason my wife selected this restaurant over a couple of other choices in the city for this morning.

We also had a side of Tofu Bacon. More tofu in texture than bacon…the exterior of the thin tofu strips was a bit more like a subtly sweet BBQ sauce. Not bad on it’s own terms but hard to classify it as “bacon-like”.

Our son LOVED the fresh-squeezed lemonade and anything that causes a 7 year old to roll his eyes back in ecstasy is certainly worth mentioning.

Very popular place. Very expensive for breakfast (over $60 for 2 meals plus a bagel, potatoes and lemonade for our son.)

Could be the chef was having an off day (or off period of 10 minutes) when preparing my meal. I hope so.

Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Faux Meat, Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, United States, Veggie Dog on March-26-2016

Build Your Own Veggie Dog
Excellent Veggie Dog in the Fashion Square Mall!

I’m always excited to see a veggie dog as an option and this one did not disappoint. Not at all like the smaller packaged vegetarian hot dogs you can get at the markets, but a nicely sized (ok, already this seems dirty…) weiner that tasted really good.

This is sort of the Chipotle of hot dog places. You place an order for a pre-configured hot dog or choose to build your own and follow the process down to the various toppings containers and direct the assembler to put on what you want. I “built my own” with a veggie dog, cheddar cheese, fresh onions, jalapeño peppers and their Dark Ale Mustard. Super tasty all around.

There are many many options…different kinds of buns, different kinds of cheeses, different kinds of mustards, different kinds of sour krauts…it goes on and on.

The presentation is really great too…AND the French Fries are also really good…hand cut style…skin on.

I’ve had veggie dogs at lots of places and this is definitely among the best…very hearty and tasty. Also my son, a very picky 7 year old also had a veggie dog…much simpler with just the dog and ketchup on a bun…and he loved it…that’s a triumph and a half
Quick service, excellent food with lots of vegetarian options and variations. Very excited to have this as a vegetarian option in the mall!

14006 Riverside Drive
(Inside the Westfield Fashion Square Mall
Sherman Oaks, CA 91406

Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Raw, Tarzana, United States, Vegan on March-25-2016

We’ve eaten at raw restaurants a couple of times and we think it’s possible this style of cooking and presentation is not that much for us…so take our review with a grain of salt. (Raw salt…)

Overall we were disappointed with our experience here. Our first disappointment is with the “marketing” of the food in the form of what they call the items, and what they end up bringing you. Raw restaurants tend to call things by familiar names like “cheese” or “taco” and what ends up coming to the table are are only vague reflections of those references. Not that they offer a veggie burger here, but for example, if I’m going for a veggie burger, my preference is one in which they approximate the experience of eating a burger. In this case, we ordered the cheese and crackers plate. We’ve had really great vegan cheese…in this case the three little terrines came with fairly tasty “dips” but didn’t really get us anywhere near the concept of “cheese”. The “crackers” were mostly crumbles, like they were the bottom of the jar of whatever this came from. This was supposed to also come with “house bread” but we found, after we ordered, and as the dish was set on our table that they were out of the bread.

Also had the “Dos Tacos” as my main. This was supposed to come with “cilantro corn slaw”. I chose this over the “Trio of Enchiladas” as the corn element sounded like a nice addition. The food that was brought was fresh…fairly tasty…albeit not particularly filling. I noticed there was no corn slaw on the plate and was told by the server that they were out of corn. A legitimate explanation about how they weren’t able to get organic corn right then was offered. Okay, they have standards…no problem…but giving me a dish which didn’t have everything on it listed on the menu with no substitution offered until after I noticed that an item was missing felt a little shifty.

My wife ordered the special Ravioli…she was told after our server went into the kitchen that they were out of the ravioli. OK, I guess that’s better than just automatically bringing her a different dish with missing items, but now we’re at the point, on a Friday night (I don’t know about you but weekend evenings seem like the time to not be out of items) where three things we ordered were not available. (Bread with the “cheese”, corn slaw with the “tacos”, and the Seasonal Ravioli.

She eventually got the Coconut Curry Wraps…an aptly named dish which again was fresh and tasty enough, but did not inspire her to want to come back for more.

The food overall has a tendency to lean towards being spicy. Nothing wrong with that…but also not something that you’d necessarily be aware of by looking at the menu.

We were generally disappointed with the meal…we left feeling not necessarily hungry, but also not like we’d eat a hearty meal of any kind.

Also, storefront is wide open so there isn’t a lot of difference between sitting inside or outside…though there were a couple tiny little flea-like insects that I had to kept shooing away from the moment we sat down. That’s never fun.

Again as I said in the beginning the whole Raw style of restaurant may not be for us, but in the end we either enjoyed the meal or we didn’t…in this case, we didn’t.

118 Degrees
18636 Ventura Blvd.
Tarzana, CA 91356

Posted (Rick Lupert) in Maine, Portland, Tapas on July-26-2014

What brought us to Central Provisions was an earlier review which said “This place is f*king ridiculous. We weren’t sure if that meant you’d walk in and they’d punch you in the face and then spit on your genitals, or if the food was really good. Turns out it was the latter. We had the Roasted Radish Nori Emulsion which melded together so well…the seaweed in it made it feel like we were having a local seafood dish which was a nice experience to have as a vegetarian in a coastal Maine town. The Spicy Maine Potatoes were crispy and delicious with a nice lingering spice. Served with Heinz ketchup which on the surface seemed low-rent for an upscale small plates place but it actually paired perfectly. The Caramelized Sheep Cheese with onion and Beet and, well caramelized cheese which basically can be defined as “how can you go wrong.” The food and drinks were artisanal. We had plenty to eat as vegetarians and we enjoyed talking with the owner Paige who obviously took a lot of well deserved pride in what she was serving. (See the key lime tart which is her mother’s recipe.) This was one of the very best meals we’ve had, certainly on our 10 day trip around New England. Well worth a stop to anyone who is in Portland.

Central Provisions
414 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101

Caramelized Goat Cheese

Caramelized Goat Cheese

Spicy Maine Potatoes

Spicy Maine Potatoes

Momma's Key Lime Tart

Momma’s Key Lime Tart

Roasted Radish with Nori Emulsion

Roasted Radish with Nori Emulsion