7:03 p.m. — We arrive at the scene, Tavern on San Vicente. It’s Friday.
7:08 p.m. — After looking at a counter of good looking take out foods and incredibly beautiful desserts, including the walnut cake, which I focused on. We walk past a very inviting bar (filled with what must have been young starlets in short skirts) into a open, airy room with a high glass ceiling, and seated at a comfortably large zinc-top table.
7:25 p.m. — A young man arrives with bread, and asks what kind of water we preferred. We replied.
7:35 p.m. — A charming waitress shows up to take our wine order. We begin looking at the wine list. She disappears. The list is well conceived with an excellent and broad selection of expensive wines, but lacking in bottles in the $25-$45 range. The wine by the glass selection is perfectly adequate and reasonably priced. The wine by the glass is served in small carafes, which is always nice.
7:45 p.m. — The waitress reappears and we order a glass of white riesling and a bottle of 2006 Plumpjack Merlot, even though it was priced at $102. I’ve often seen it at $130. She gives us menus. There were six starters and nine entrees from which to choose. Good selections.
8 p.m. — The wines arrive. We start drinking the white. It’s an Alsatian riesling, very dry with a floral nose and good fruit and acid.
8:15 p.m. — We’ve finished the white wine, and discussed the fact that we have not yet ordered, and probably would need more white wine with the starters, once we get them. The owner, Caroline Styne, shows up with our red wine and shows me the bottle. She then begins to open it off the table, thereby shaking up the sediment. I suggest that she open it with the bottle on the table to avoid this, and she says “there isn’t room on the table.” She opens the wine and sets the open bottle on the table. I suggest a decanter. She leaves and returns later with a decanter, and decants the wine. I like it when the owner is on the floor, and find that this is a determining factor of how good the service will be.
8:20 p.m. — The charming waitress arrived to take our orders. We order the fried oysters, a green goddess salad with crab, the hanger steak, the skewered lamb, and the mushroom ragout, and maybe a few other dishes.
8:35 p.m. — The starters arrive with a nice young man that doesn’t have a clue who gets what. I’m reminded of my dad, who, when that happened, always blurted out “I’m the chicken, he’s the pig.”
8:45 p.m. — I eat my fried oysters. One is delicious, spicy and soft and creamy. The other is hard and chewy. I taste the green goddess salad, which is delicious. I wish I had ordered the duck sausage.
9 p.m. — The hanger steak with the onion rings I especially requested, the lamb, and the mushroom ragout arrive. Everything is well prepared and delicious. The onion rings are perhaps the best I’ve ever had. The hanger steak is flavorful and cooked as ordered. The lamb is top quality. The mushroom ragout would benefit from a better variety of mushrooms, but is well prepared, and since it’s hard to find, worth the trip.
9:20 p.m. — Dinner is over, and we order dessert, one chocolate tart, one walnut cake, and the beignets. Rolf Kindler, who used to work at my favorite restaurant in Zurich, Switzerland, comes over to the table to chat. With him on the floor I know that in time everything will shape up into a first class place.
9:35 p.m.— Dessert shows up. The desserts are A+ and I’m going back for more as soon as this phase of my diet is over.
9:45 p.m. — I ask if there is a list of after-dinner drinks. The waitress says there is not. I go to the bar and introduce myself to the bartender, who is really busy and doing a great job. He pulls down a bottle of Armagnac that I’ve never seen before, and a couple bottles of Calvados. One of the Calvados bottles is from M. Dupont, the cousin of Chef Alain Giraud. I order one glass of the Calvados and one glass of the Armagnac. When leaving the bar I see the handsome young man from the next table complaining to Ms. Styne that they have been there for over one-half hour and have yet to see bread, water, or a waitress. I notice that the bar is three-deep, and every table in sight is filled.
10:25 p.m. — The charming waitress brings the after dinner drinks. One is in a wine glass and the other in a water glass. She apologizes for the earlier error and explains they are just now getting things cleared up. The Armagnac is one of the best I’ve ever had, and for the amount poured at a price of $14 a glass it is an exceptional bargain. I’m going back to write down the name.
10:30 p.m. — We finish that last of the desserts and the after-dinner drinks. I ask for the check.
10:40 p.m. — The check arrives. It’s reasonable — $260 for four heavy drinkers and big eaters. A pleasant evening with friends.
11648 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles.
(310) 806-6466; www.tavernla.com.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org