Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Brendan's Irish Pub - Agoura Hills

Brendan's Irish Pub
30315 Canwood St, Agoura Hills, California 91301(818) 874-9400

There's an old Irish proverb that goes What butter & whiskey will not cure, there's no cure for. Good food and drink are the perfect remedies for everything. Where should you go? To Brendan's Irish Pub, that is, in Camarillo, Newbury Park and Agoura Hills. Proprietor Brendan Searls opened the one in Newbury Park in October; his Agoura Hills pub opened in March 2012. What a spacious and wonderfully laid back place it is to have a Guinness and chat with a group of friends or to go all out and have a scrumptious Irish meal like corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, shepherd's pie, Kenmare lamb shank or a nice filet. For those of you non=Irish folks, shepherd’s pie is ground beef simmered in Guinness gravy with sautéed peas, carrots and onions then topped with a mashed potato crust. Does it whet your appetite? Well, it should. It’s delectable!

I am of Irish heritage on my mother's side of the family, my grandparents both from County Mayo; Brendan told me he's from County Cork, and from the minute you start conversing with this affable gentleman, it is obvious that he is possessed with a wee bit of the devil. He loves to live life to the max, which means to drink and eat to the fullest, and so has designed his pubs to provide the most ultimate pleasures for every customer. Those who are not familiar with Irish cuisine may take comfort in the fact that there are plenty of menu choices for lovers of good old American grub like burgers-of every kind, salads, salmon, chicken pot pie, fries, onion rings, potato skins and chicken strips. And of course, for folks like I, who prefer to eat a la When in Rome, do as the Romans do, there are delicious Irish appetizers such as corned beef sliders, whiskey wings, blarney beef sliders, drunken mussels as well as potato leek and roasted tomato soups. Other Irish specialties not mentioned before include bangers and mash, fish and chips and steak and mushroom pie. The service is great and the prices surprisingly reasonable. I, of course, ordered a steak, the bone-in blackened ribeye at $28. There's also a filet mignon at $24 and a prime cut sirloin at a mere $18. I could not believe the low prices...and the portions are huge. My ribeye was oh so tender and juicy and covered the plate, served with mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables of broccoli, carrots and zucchini. I had to try the small portion of shepherd's pie, which is a favorite dish of mine on St. Patrick's Day. Big portion, high on flavor! My friend ordered the lamb shank at $20 and raved and raved. He also loved the drunken mussels in Gobshite Ale, and the mixed berry salad.

For dessert, Brendan offers a Sherry trifle, Irish brownie, seasonal fruit cobbler and their famous bread pudding studded with a whiskey glaze. I, chocoholic that I am, had the brownie smothered in vanilla ice cream and my friend, the bread pudding, which I did sample...and yes, it's to die for. I did indulge after dinner with an Irish coffee, another all-time favorite.

As well as Guinness,wine and beer of every kind, sangria, and plentiful mixed drinks, Brendan proudly displays over 200 liquors on shelves near the bar. The ceiling is an attractive and rare copper-colored metallic. We sat at a lovely table, but there are also spacious booths for your dining enjoyment. The restaurant is definitely big with plenty of leg room so you can sit back and enjoy a dynamite meal, lift a glass of your favorite libation and celebrate the Irish traditions. Brendan's Irish Pub is open for lunch and dinner, and I'll definitely be back. Faith n' begorrah!

with owner Brendan Searls originally from Cork, Ireland and  marketing director Tyler Rex

Friday, November 8, 2013

Vino Tapas & Wine Bar

18046 Ventura Blvd.
Encino, CA 91316
Tel: 818-343-2525

When I heard I was invited to Vino Tapas & Wine Bar in Encino, the first thought that came into my head was...Spain, the beautiful country that offers sangria, gourmet paella and scrumptious tapas. I wonder if an LA restaurant can duplicate this real European ambiance and cuisine? Located in Encino, close to Tarzana, the establishment owned by Alla, is hardly large; in fact, it's a long, narrow room with an ample bar in the rear and whose lush wall decor includes glorious still life paintings by renowned Spanish artist Luis Melendez, among others. Yes, Vino Tapas & Wine Bar does have the look of old Spain. Now, what about the food?

Alla, who was away at an appointment, left handsome manager Chris Warmling in charge and we could not have been in better hands. Chris graciously allowed us to photograph the room and made suggestions about serving us a variety of tapas to satisfy our cravings. Happy hour is every day from 4 pm to 7 pm, and since we arrived at 4: 45, we were right on time to partake of a lovely, rich sangria, made on the premises. Our happy hour tapas included a sampling of albondigas, Spanish meatballs in tomato sauce; eggplant crujiente, crispy and drizzled with honey - one of the more delectable and distinctly different eggplants I have ever eaten; and croquetas, crispy mashed potato croquettes filled with chicken and served with tomato aioli. There was also a tortilla espanola, the traditional Spanish potato omelet; patatas bravas or crispy potatoes with spicy aioli sauce - truly heavenly; ceviche de pescado, seafood marinated in fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and shallots served with pita tostada chips. And to top it all off, sliders, or mini burgers with lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, bleu cheese and tomato aioli and served with thin fries! What a divinely prepared array of flavorful treats...and with the authentic taste of Espana! Dish after dish arrived at our table, and my thought was, OMG, I ordered a filet mignon and my friend, paella for two. Would we have room? It was all too delicious, but box some of the tapas, or I will never be able to eat the entree, listed as a big tapa on the menu.

with manager Chris Warmling

When the steak and paella arrived, I could not have been more thrilled with my tender, juicy filet, beautifully cooked, which was topped with bleu cheese and served with green beans, tomato confit and mashed potatoes. I sampled the paella, and found it delightful, except from memory, I expected yellow saffron colored rice, which is the way I had it in Spain. Maybe that rice is difficult to obtain in the states? Not sure, but not a major prob, as it was all delicious including shrimp, mussels, squid - a lovely seafood paella Valenciana. There are also soups on the menu such as gazpacho and mushroom and a nice selection of salads, but because of the overabundance of tapas, we decided to pass.

But...there's always room for dessert. I ordered the flourless chocolate cake and served with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. It was sheer bliss! My friend had leche frita a vanilla citrus custard with berries and wrapped with a thin fried coating. There's also the Spanish staple... flan, bread pudding and banana bread.

Besides the sangria there's a terrific wine list to suit every palate, and the price for the small tapas, about $8 each...and the steak? Only $15. The paella is $26, but considering the plentiful amount of seafood, that's really quite reasonable.

I noticed that the clientele included couples, both young and middle-aged, and a group of young ladies, perhaps dining out after work. Vino Tapas & Wine Bar is a nice, casual place to sit back, relax, and share friendly conversation over a great glass of wine or sangria and some truly delicious tapas, big and small. As they say in Espana, que sabroso! Alla delivers 'delicious' with a touch of class.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Padri's Restaurant and Martini Bar

Padri's Restaurant and Martini Bar
29002 Agoura Rd, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Phone:(818) 865-3700

Tucked into the side of Agoura Road in Agoura Hills Padri's has a quaint, old-world charm that makes it stand apart from the citified decor around it. If you disregard the mini-mall behind, you would swear you were out in the country, most likely in Italy, not Los Angeles. The old-fashioned atmosphere grabs you first and then the elegant food, all adding up to a unique dining experience.

Manager Ramone Saldivar was on hand to welcome us and to fill us in on the restaurant's history. Owned by Saverio Posarelli from Florence, it's been in this location for about fifteen years, and every five or so, it's renovated. All I can say is the aura of old Italy is there at Padri's. One can practically smell it, as you walk through the front door. I should mention that in the courtyard are hanging some lovely autumn/Halloween decorations and so I assume with Christmas right around the corner, Padri's will look fetching with sparkling trees and lights. I'll just have to return in December. And that I will do in a heartbeat based on the dinner and friendly service that accompanied this first visit on October 23.

Good to state right up front that even though Padri's is Italian cuisine, they are not limited. Their expansive dinner menu includes steak, chicken, lobster and other delightful seafood. Let's start at the top. There's a superb wine list and as Padri's is known for their fine array of martinis, that's a must for the martini lover.

Lending authenticity, the menu is in Italian with appetizers including Salumi, Formaggi, Assaggini and Affettati, a combination of the first three. More to Share includes calamari fritti, crab cakes, pancetta wrapped jumbo shrimp and bruschetta. The calamari are sweet and delicious, as are the crab cakes and jumbo shrimp stuffed with gorgonzola. The Insalata course includes a variety of salads, my choice being Insalata Cesare. There is also Zuppa which includes minestrone and soup of the day. Since I am a steak lover, as many of you have read in my past reviews, I ordered the Tagliata di Manzo or grilled Angus New York steak with balsamic reduction sauce, mushrooms and on the side, potato gratin. It was served to me sizzling hot on a board and was delectable, tender and juicy. I like it cooked medium, and it was done to perfection. The potatoes were a lovely golden brown and seasoned just right. My friend ordered Linguini con Frutti di Mare with a mix of seafood in a garlic, tomato white wine sauce. He raved and raved. My entree did not include a pasta, but when I mentioned the special of the day, a homemade lasagne with roasted pumpkin and soffritto ragu, my gracious server suggested they bring me a tiny portion to sample. It turned out to be a scrumptious side that I just could not finish, so I took it home with me.

There's always room for dessert chez Grigware, so from a list of Dolce, sweets, that includes Spiked Bread Pudding, Chocolate Torte, Tiramisu, Apple Tart, Creme Brulee and Banana Cream Pie, I chose the special Pumpkin Creme Brulee and my friend the Banana Cream Pie, which is pictured below. Artfully presented, and, by the way, the creme brulee was lovely, not screaming pumpkin but with an essence of the spice.

with manager Ramone Saldivar
To say that I enjoyed my meal is an understatement. Padri's is a lovely place to dine with a lot of ambiance, delectable food, great service and...the meals are reasonably priced. Most entrees are under $25, and the steak $28, with a filet mignon slightly higher at $32. In comparison to other high-class restaurants, this is a steal. And there is also a banquet room for your private parties, as well as a beautifully sunlit patio for your enjoyment. When you eat at Padri's, expect to eat with style in an atmosphere of sheer elegance.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Revisiting Cookin' With Lenny Smokehouse

I had my birthday party at Lenny's this year and told Lenny (above, top) that if I had to do an encore review of his place, I would not rate it less than an A+. He was so pleased!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Above, bottom) the Sappuchinos and sweet waitress Crystal

Monday, August 5, 2013

Redwood Grille at Santa Monica Place

Located on the dining deck of the third floor of Santa Monica Place smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of mall shoppers and open to the cleaner, fresher LA air of Santa Monica, the sky-high restaurant Redwood Grille is a casual, comfortable place to drop by for a drink or excellent dinner. Specializing in American cuisine with all-natural ingredients, the Redwood, which opened its doors about a month ago, is spacious with its high ceilings and large tables and chairs of reclaimed wood that offer plenty of leg room to just sit back and relax. It was designed a la Ralph Lauren, so I was told by Vice President - CEO George Bozikis, to be classified as New York chicRedwood Grille, in fact, is the brainchild of George and Spiros Bozikis of Unique Hospitality, partners with over two decades of industry experience and a track record of success with the award-wining restaurant Baton Rouge at Eaton Centre in Toronto. The two American founders have modernized classic cuisine and placed a strong emphasis on fresh, premium ingredients. Redwood has a warm ambiance for a big open place and a genuinely friendly staff.  George, who greeted us, also served as amiable host throughout our fabulous two-hour four-course meal.

I chose a Prime New York Strip steak, always a favorite, with Yukon gold garlic mashed potatoes. The steak - I like it served medium - was cooked to perfection, succulent and juicy. For the appetizer, I had the smoked Alaskan King salmon filet with dill sauce and pita bread slices. And I chose the classic Caesar salad with smoked bacon, and including at my request, cherry tomatoes. Everything was delicious. My friend chose the avocado Ahi tuna tartar as appetizer, the chicken Tai salad and grilled Colorado lamb chops with garlic mashed and fresh asparagus for his entree. To top it all off, for dessert I chose the Chocolate Fudge Sin Cake a la mode and he, Key Lime Pie Cheescake. Not able to resist I did try a taste of the cheesecake. Fabulous! The entire meal was scrumptious and the service, impeccable.

Other Redwood Classic dishes are:  Danish baby back ribs, lemon Oregano roasted chicken, spinach and avocado fettuccini, seafood linguini, and for vegetarians, a grilled vegetable plate. The reasonably priced menu also includes burgers and other sandwiches such as a fresh fish sandwich, lobster grinder, the ever popular club sandwich, and a special Santa Monica chicken sandwich. Among the other appetizers, I thought it interesting to note: lobster tacos, lemon California quail, grilled octopus, and Poutine, which consists of french fries with cheese curds and gravy, items you do not often see included at most Southern California restaurants.

Also of special note at the bottom of the menu is the fact that Mary’s free range organic chicken is served as well as other organic California products when available. Customers are requested to advise the staff of any allergies. Redwood really cares about the fine quality of the food they serve and about the health of their customers.

There is also a fine list of wines, which include all reds, whites, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Syrah sparkling wine, Merlot, Pino Grigio, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfindel, and dessert wines.

I was exceedingly pleased with my visit to the Redwood Grille, for its lovely ambiance, fine food, drink and expert service throughout my two-hour stay. I will most definitely return for lunch, dinner or a relaxing conversation over drinks.
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Fleming's Steakhouse and Wine Bar
6373 Topanga Canyon, Woodland Hills

by Don Grigware

This is my second review of Fleming's since January. This visit was even more memorable due to the maitre d's presentation at each table and at the bar of the new WiNEPAD, bound to delight and brighten each and every customer's dining experience at Fleming's. In January I highly recommended Fleming's for its delicious aged prime beef and fine service and still do - and now with the wonderful addition of the WiNEPAD, Fleming's is introducing us to a totally unique and  novel treat!

The WiNEPAD, like an iPad, is easy to use and with the flick of a finger, you can bring up Fleming's entire magnificent array of wines to accompany your meal. We're not just talking entree here but... you can perfectly match a wine to every single course. Our lovely waitress Lindsey chose a wine flight selection at my request of Merryvale Stanly Ranch Rose, Mer Soleil Silver Chardenay and BR Cohn Cabernet. These are just three of the hundreds to choose from at Fleming's. The Chardenay I drank with my appetizer of crabcakes and calamari, the Cabernet with my scrumptious New York strip and the rose with my dessert of ice cream and whipped cream combo. Each wine was ideally suited to the food I chose for each course, setting them off even more deliciously. I am not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but, boy oh boy, you learn pretty fast about wine choices by playing with the WiNEPAD. After you read the detailed explanation at bottom of all that the WiNEPAD has to offer, you will understand why it's a gadget that becomes an indispensable guide as well as a delightfully fun tool to use at Fleming's. 

Located in the heart of Topanga Canyon, Fleming's means elegant dining. Its ultra modern design, spacious dining room with tables and booths, a full bar in front and kitchen partially visible to the side, all add up to providing the comfortable surroundings one expects in a top-notch restaurant. Thanks to Lindsey and maitre d Matt Tietig, this Saturday evening was a relaxed and uber lovely dining experience. As I mentioned earlier, I chose the New York strip...and as luscious sides garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and onion rings. My friend and I shared the gigantic plate of onion rings and the creamed spinach, which, by the way is about the creamiest I have ever tasted. My friend chose the Ribeye steak which he truly relished with blue cheese mashed potatoes. Every item was delectable. And it goes without saying that each steak at Fleming's is cooked perfectly to your specifications and is unbeatably tender and juicy.

For dessert, there’s a lovely Crème Brulee, as well as Fleming's renowned Chocolate Lava Cake. It's a sinful concoction with luscious, warm chocolate filling, that literally spills out when you cut into the cake. It is served with ice cream, real whipped cream and cookies over chopped pistachios. Since this was my choice the first time, I let my friend try it this time, and he just raved about it. It is difficult to stay on your diet when you eat at Fleming's. The rich food is simply divine, so plan a fast before and after you eat there, but, please, do not miss the foods I have mentioned, or their wonderful prime rib, a specialty on Sundays.

The pleasant atmosphere lends itself favorably to a romantic table for two, but at the same time can also serve the event/party needs of a larger group. Surprising to me was the fact that there were many families with small children for Saturday dinner. This speaks volumes about Fleming’s menu choices and popularity when whole families choose to dine there. There are 3 locations: Woodland Hills, Beverly Hills and El Segundo. Visit their website for more info like exact addresses, complete menus and pricing:

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(more detail about the WiNEPAD)
Available tableside or at the bar, the Fleming’s WiNEPAD™ has other standard features including: • Wine List Tab – Sorts wines in progressive order from lightest to fullest by region, varietal, Fleming’s 100® selections, wines rated at 90+ by Robert Parker Wine, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast and local selections chosen by the location’s Wine Manager; • Maeve’s Raves – Presents wines selections recommended by the National Director of Wine Maeve Pesquera; • Perfect Pairings – Showcases wine and food pairings based on the Guests’ menu selection by providing three perfectly paired wine options that deliciously accentuates complementary flavors. This takes the guesswork out of selecting the perfect glass of wine for each course; • Spin the Bottle – Provides a fun and adventurous take on ordering wine for the indecisive. The bottle icon spins and lands on a different selection each time; • Share This Wine – Gives Fleming’s Guests the ability to email themselves any wine on the wine list. The email comes to the guest’s inbox complete with their new favorite wine, tasting notes and an image of the label; • Register for ‘Friend of Fleming’s’ – Encourages Guests to sign up directly from the Fleming’s WiNEPAD™ to receive exclusive offers from Fleming’s and the opportunity to be the first to know about seasonal menus, exclusive wine tasting events and other extended offers; • Tonight’s Features – Gives the inside scoop on everything happening at your Fleming’s tonight. 
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

PizzaRev - in Studio City

slice and serve
craft your own pizza

On Wednesday April 17 PizzaRev invited the press to its newest location in Studio City, which had its grand opening 7 months ago, to partake of their delicious hand-crafted pizzas... and to celebrate the inclusion of a full array of wine and beer to the beverage menu. We were allowed to craft our very own pizzas and to sample the various beers/wines on tap. What a taste treat for Valley residents of Studio City, North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks! Practically right next door to The Counter, where you can create your own burger, you can now craft your own delectable pizza and enjoy a glass of wine or beer...and, if you are still hungry... order a dessert pizza.

Moderately priced at only $7.95 a pizza, or hand-crafted salad for only $7.95 - dessert pizza a mere $3.95 - PizzaRev's offerings cannot be beat, considering pizza joint pizzas like Domino's or Pizza Hut cost at least $10-$20. They're higher-priced and by no means as good as PizzaRev. At PizzaRev they offer only the best ingredients that are fresh and healthy...only the finest meats, veggies, cheeses, sauces and PizzaRev's very own homemade crust made fresh daily. There's also Gluten-Free crust for $2 extra and Vegan Cheese for only $1 more.

And the service? Unbeatable! Manager Edward Martinez and his team aim to please and give service with a friendly smile. Martinez was on hand to greet us and talk about the amazing pizza ovens which cook your pizza in less than five minutes...that's right, you can watch your pizza being prepared right before your very eyes and then you only have to wait about 4 minutes before it is brought to your table piping hot...mmmmm, delicioso....The thin cracker-like crust is light, easy to chew and very tasty. (check out photos above!)

Stop in at PizzaRev on Ventura Blvd, Studio City, near Laurel Canyon for lunch or dinner...Check the website below for hours of operation and multiple reviews from very satisfied customers...PizzaRev caters your party...and you can order online for faster service:

out of the oven in only 4 minutes
with affable manager Edward Martinez

Monday, March 18, 2013

Porto's...or Bust...

I love Porto's with its Cuban treats...their sandwiches, particularly Medianoche or Medianoche Preparada with ham croquettes, their potato balls with ground meat inside...and ahhhh, their scrumptious desserts...flakey empanada pastries, those polvorone sugar/shortbread cookies that just melt in your mouth... the small pina colada pastries with whipped coconut mousse and pineapple cake at the bottom...and the cakes... tres die for!!! The frosting is real whipped cream and the fresh fruit inside and out - blueberries and strawberries - give the cakes a special taste that is incomparable. I cannot believe that there are only 3 stores in Southern California: in Glendale, Burbank and Downey. But thank goodness, those 3 exist! The hustle, the bustle, even though I have to stand in line every time I go there, it doesn't matter, because the ambiance is friendly with servers offering pastry samples and ample room to sit and enjoy your food while you're there.
For your next wedding, birthday or anniversary, order a cake from Porto's. It's the best! Claro...alli se halla lo mejor!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I am hardly a chef, but I do appreciate good food and love to eat. So, folks, what you will find on this blog is a lot of lovin' for really fine restaurants/cafes and the great meals/specialties they offer. Stay tuned for a tribute to Porto's Bakery/Cafe coming soon...and...  and...
yummm; my mouth is watering...

Friday, February 22, 2013

review-Cookin' with Lenny Smokehouse

Cookin’ with Lenny Smokehouse
23360 Lake Manor Drive

Do you long for the flavor of a home cooked meal? In most cases nowadays - even in good, well-established restaurants - food is mass produced, without those extra special ingredients and TLC that mom used to add. True, most people are health conscious, so they avoid sugar, butter, eggs and cream, but every once in a while these cholesterol busters make food fun to eat. As Lily Tomlin's raging teen Agnes used to bellow, "Not so rich, not so good!" A biscuit can taste like it came right out of a Bisquik box - bland as hell - or, it can be savory and rich, which calls for milk and butter. If I'm going to eat a biscuit, like a sinful dessert, I'd rather splurge. Caterer Lenny Bent really knows how to cook and gives the food he prepares these extra special qualities. Once inside Cookin' with Lenny Smokehouse in Chatsworth, the laid-back, homey ambiance, exceptional cooking and genuine, personal attention will make your dining experience truly one-of-a-kind. It's that good, believe me!

As the name indicates, a smokehouse means meat - steak, tri-tip, pulled pork and ahhhh, babyback ribs. If they are cooked right, they taste out of this world. Well, suffice to say, Lenny knows how to make every meat dish savory with the right amount of seasoning and boy oh boy, are the portions hefty. I left with a couple of boxes for my tri-tip and a pulled pork sandwich, which I was told I must try. My friend ordered a ribeye steak. It too was huge and exceedingly tender. Lenny marinates his tri-tip to make it real juicy – a melt in your mouth quality - making all the difference. Very interesting mashed potatoes! I usually like them smooth, whipped, but his had pieces of potato mixed in… I loved them. So flavorful and definitely made from scratch! The barbecued shrimp? Spicy, yes, but succulent... and the ribs, to die for! We were presented a duet: two raspberry chipotle and another two, whiskey glazed with roasted garlic and pineapple. I could have ordered another helping, they were so delightful. There were those luscious garlic biscuits, big salads - I had a Mexican Caesar and my friend, a Commander, and for dessert: I can't resist cobbler, and so a scrumptious blueberry cobbler came my way. Warm and smothered with vanilla ice cream, enough for two people! My friend chose the Beggar's Purse, a rich chocolate concoction covered with a flaky puff pastry and served with white chocolate ganache and fresh berries.

Lenny cooks, is your friendly host and checks in periodically to chat with you while you await the various courses of your meal. He loves to talk about old movies made in Chatsworth. The walls, in fact, are adorned with posters of classic westerns, shot right in the area.  There is a lovely brick fireplace and a stage in front of it for musicians. I understand that on weekend nights, waitresses sing and Lenny plays guitar. A full jazz night is forthcoming. More about the layout: the kitchen opens onto the dining room and so, if you have a hankering, you can watch your meal simmering. Lenny comes right to the table with cart and electric pan to make bananas foster, another favorite dessert. (see photo below) Space-wise, there is also a huge patio out back with a separate barbecue and room to accommodate about a hundred guests.

Oh, did I mention that petite, pretty Olivia was our terrific waitress? Between Olivia and Lenny, we were wined, dined and entertained heartily for two hours. Cookin’ with Lenny Smokehouse is open every day from 11 am to 10 pm. All entrees are reasonably priced at $20 or less. Is that why Lenny boasts so many regular customers? That and…try Lenny’s! The unique wholesome experience speaks for itself.
lenny makes bananas foster
wow! cobbler just like mom used to make!

review - Fleming's Steakhouse

Fleming's Steakhouse and Wine Bar
6373 Topanga Canyon, Woodland Hills

by Don Grigware

With a couple of very slight criticisms, I highly recommend Fleming's for its delicious aged prime beef and fine service.
Located in the heart of Topanga Canyon, Fleming's means elegant dining. Its ultra modern design, spacious dining room with tables and booths, a full bar in front and kitchen partially visible to the side, all add up to providing the comfortable surroundings one expects in a top-notch restaurant. On the weeknight I attended, it was early – restaurant opens at 5 pm daily – so, not yet crowded. This made for a very relaxed, pleasant experience. Our friendly server was Steve and the maitre d Kenne Hoffman, both accommodating and very efficient.

A steak lover, I was excited to try the New York strip steak, which is always a favorite. My friend had filet mignon. As it turned out, both steaks were cooked to perfection. When you ask for a steak, cooked medium, it sometimes arrives overdone, with you querying, "Where's the pink?" Not so at Fleming's! It met my total satisfaction. My only suggestion is that there be some garnish on the plate or perhaps an onion ring or two, as the presentation was simply the steak, nothing more. Not a complaint, just a tiny suggestion! We shared the a la carte potatoes and vegetables: delicious garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach that I swear was one of the best I've ever tasted – must be the added cheese, and a dish of nicely prepared broccoli with tiny grilled tomatoes on top. For starters, I had the French onion soup baked with gruyere and parmesan cheeses. This is also a favorite of mine, so my only qualm is: I felt the soup needed more seasoning to give it that extra special touch a la francaise, but, as is, it was excellent, especially the thick and tasty mass of melted cheeses. My friend and I shared one other appetizer, the sweet chile calamari. It had a sweet and sour taste which was delectable. For non-red meat diners, Fleming’s also offers a lovely chicken breast, pork rib chop and select, fresh seafood, such as barbecued Scottish salmon fillet, shrimp scampi, Alaskan king crab legs and North Atlantic lobster tails. Something to suit and satisfy every pallet! And, the extensive award-winning wine list is incredible, featuring Fleming’s 100 wines, served by the glass.

For dessert, there’s a lovely Crème Brulee, but we chose to share Fleming's renowned Chocolate Lava Cake. It's a sinful concoction with luscious, warm chocolate filling, that literally spills out when you cut into the cake. It is served with ice cream, real whipped cream and cookies over chopped pistachios. It is difficult to stay on your diet when you eat at Fleming's. The rich food is simply divine, so plan a fast before and after you eat there, but, please, do not miss the foods I have mentioned, or their wonderful prime rib, a specialty in January – that will be carried over until February.

February 10th, that is. It is a special 3-course meal on Sundays for only $29.95. There is also a great menu planned for Valentine’s Day from February 14th -17th. To sweeten the deal every couple who dines between Thursday the 14th and Sunday the 17th will receive a $25 dining card toward a return rendezvous at Fleming’s. Now, that’s something to look forward to, so, guys, treat your wife or your sweetheart to an unforgettable night out at Fleming’s. The pleasant atmosphere lends itself favorably to a romantic table for two, but at the same time can also serve the event/party needs of a larger group. Some customers had their kids in tow the night I attended. That speaks volumes about Fleming’s popularity. There are 3 locations: Woodland Hills, Beverly Hills and El Segundo. Visit their website for more info like exact addresses, complete menus and pricing:

review - Dining at La Frite

Celine Ramillon carries on the tradition of her owner father

La Frite Café is celebrating their 40th year of serving the San Fernando Valley with their French/American cuisine. Chef-Owner Andre Ramillon opened his doors in 1972, and La Frite  is still a family run business to this day. Ramillon, born in France, attended culinary school and created La Frite’s original menu, known for its variety. At 69, he is still the head chef for both locations, Sherman Oaks and Woodland Hills. Every dish has a true French flavor and appeal. His children Alex (32) and Celine (31) are now running front-house at both locations and are learning to continue his legacy.

With many of the city’s movers and shakers and celebrity regulars such as Melissa Gilbert, Jon Voit, Tony Danza and more, La Frite has remained a staple on the boulevard for years. Serving escargot, steak tartare, mussels, crepes and other traditional French fare combined with hamburgers, eggs benedict and other American fare, La Frite’s menu is well varied and perfect for an array of different palates. “We can only hope to have the success our father has,” says daughter Celine Ramillon, “We have grown up here and many families have grown here with us. It is nice to see generation after generation enjoy our food and continue to come back.”

On Saturday May 19 to help celebrate the 40th anniversary Celine invited me and a guest to dinner at the Sherman Oaks cafe to partake of the restaurant’s finest cuisine and to experience the atmosphere that has made the establishment so popular over the decades. We were first greeted by Julian, who turned out to be our server for the evening. He quickly introduced Celine who was the perfect hostess. She had Julian move two small tables for two together so that we would have more than ample space to enjoy a hefty platter of scrumptious hors d’ oeuvres. The platter contained: pate, halibut beignets, brie, small pieces of garlic toast, mussels and steak tartare. There was also a separate bowl of escargots. Yes, the escargots are every bit as wonderful as you may have been told. If that didn’t provide enough appetizers, when I mentioned that French Onion Soup Gratinee was a favorite, it seemed that no sooner did I open my mouth than a bowl was placed in front of me. I do not exaggerate, it was the best I have tasted! The onions are delectably sweet and there’s enough cheese on top to satisfy two people. I realized I needed to make room for my entrée which I determined would be a steak. Filet mignon or New York steak au Poivre? It was an easy decision, as I have a huge appetite and the New York steak usually fits the bill. Not in the least disappointing! In fact, it was tender and ‘magnifique’ served with potatoes au gratin and broccoli al dente. 

My friend ordered short ribs which (as you can see in the photo) was a plate fit for a king. Surrounding the ribs are: polenta, Brussels sprouts, and turnips. I sampled a bite, and like the steak, the meat was tender and juicy. Both my friend and I raved and knew when we were told that we had to order a chocolate soufflé early, that somehow we would make room for it. Oy, such decisions while eating gourmet food! (ha, ha!) I love cobbler, so we shared both the soufflé – with real whipped cream – and a warm strawberry rhubarb cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. And a cappuccino, to top it all off, … but of course! What a delicious meal!
I highly, highly recommend the ambiance, service and food of La Frite Cafe. July is the official anniversary, so make early reservations. The dress is casual, with most entrees moderately priced.

-don grigware
La Frite Woodland Hills 22616 Ventura Blvd. (Shoup & Fallbrook) 818.225.1331
La Frite Sherman Oaks 15013 Ventura Blvd. (Kester & Noble) 818.990.1791