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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Taste-less Dinela Duds



Dinela is an addiction. I can't stop. But alas, forces of nature are trying to tell me to back off from the gluttony because the three places I tried, The Foundry, Taste and Smeraldi's were intermittently passable at best and down-right awful at worst. Call me harsh, but after the transporting experiences at The Bazaar and Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, I can't say I was moved in the least by any of the above.

If I were to throw them a bone, I'd say the fried and grilled calamari at Smeraldi's in the Biltmore in downtown L.A. was crispy and good. The pulled slow braised beef lasagna was hearty and comforting. The ambiance was like a bad hotel restaurant, however. I was further horrified when I witnessed a separate lunch buffet stand on my way to the restroom. Indian lunch buffets are the only acceptable buffets in my book. The unfortunate clincher for this restaurant, besides its dubious service, was the desserts. The concoction it claimed was tiramisu was a disgrace to Italian cuisine. 'Nuf said. It virtually redeemed itself with a mango panna cotta but there was no turning back after that kind of damage.

The only reason I'd return to Smeraldi's is if I had an intense craving for rustic Italian standards like calamari or lasagna. I certainly wouldn't come for the decor, service or appetizers/desserts. Oh, and I must say -- it served Chilean sea bass, which is at risk from overfishing and I recommend avoiding as many result from illegal fishing. Believe me, I love this fish more than anyone but not at the expense of our environment. Plus, its mercury levels are apparently high too.

The Foundry had better desserts -- the chocolate banana bread pudding and donuts were winners -- but the food up to that point was somewhat uninspiring and bland. The salmon with crushed potato, orange and fennel was clean-tasting but the chorizo-crusted chicken was ill-conceived and amateurish. The combination of the chicken dish simply didn't jive. The live music (male singer) by the bar didn't help none -- what were they thinking? It was like a bad SNL skit. Thank God we were on our way out.



The biggest disappointment, however, was Taste. It's basically a "see and be seen"-kind of place. Lines were long and the place was filled with hipsters from the neighborhood. The food? An afterthought. The tortilla soup was unremarkable and oversalted. The grilled artichokes were fine but that's hard to mess up. The Kobe beef burger with gorgonzola cheese, onion jam, arugula and tomato on a sesame bun was overcooked (asked for medium rare), the overpowering cheese seemingly a way to mask the mediocre quality of the patty meat. Kobe beef? Pu-lease. The shoestring fries were oversalted and borderline stale. The service? Fogedaboutit. Not returning!

The Foundry on Melrose
7465 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 651-0915

Smeraldi's
506 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 612-1562

Taste on Melrose
8454 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 852-6888

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