Charcoal: 425 Washington Blvd, 310-751-6794, Merv Hecht

When I write a restaurant review one of the things I do is look at reviews on the internet. Mainly I do that to evaluate the service. The service was so good when we went to Charcoal last month that I suspected it would get good service reviews, but they were even better than I predicted. Even the few people who didn’t love the food complimented the service. And that is what I would expect from a restaurant owned by Josiah Citrin, clearly one of the top restaurateurs in California.

The first time I went to Charcoal, when it first opened (who can remember that far back?) I was not impressed. The grilled vegetables were good but I ordered wrong. Charcoal is primarily a beef restaurant and to fully appreciate and enjoy it you have to order beef.

When I was there last month we ordered a variety of dishes. The lamb rib appetizer was too fatty for my taste. The octopus salad was OK but better at Spago. The tuna tartar with an avocado topping was good but just about the same as a lot of restaurants.

But the beef for four, grilled to perfection and sliced for easy division among four of us, was outstanding. I don’t recall a more flavorful slice of beef anywhere, including those famous cows in France and Italy. And Japanese would have to spend a lot of time massaging those beer drinking cows to produce this flavorful and tender piece.

Because there was a delay in bringing out the beef, we were treated to good bread and butter and some assorted grilled vegetable dishes. The manager Rick Martinez was on the spot, attentive to our needs, and made us feel good about the whole experience.

Yes, as many of the reviews on the web suggest, Charcoal is pricey, but it is worth it for the quality of the food and the service.

The wine list is extensive, and well-rounded with selections from around the world. From a price point of view, it is one of the most reasonable in town. You can get a good bottle for between $40 and $60, something that has become less and less available in Los Angeles restaurants.

Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3rd Edition” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to: