Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cafe Stella Al Fresco

There has been a minor remodel at Silverlake's Cafe Stella, and I thought this weekend was the perfect time to have a late supper with friends, enjoy the summer night and see if they have improved their service. Last time we were there the service was abominable. So poor I e-mailed the manager, described it to him and he offered to buy us dinner if we came in again. I never took him up on it because a) I don't need free dinner, and b) I don't want to be the identified as the woman who complained about the service at a restaurant in my own neighborhood. But it was enough to make us stay away from Stella for over a year. It was nice to be back and despite a few minor glitches we had a great time and good food. A recent reviewer on Yelp mentioned that Stella probably pays $500 a month for rent and wonders why their prices are so high. I had to laugh out loud at this. Clearly this person has very little knowledge about the east side neighborhoods. Silverlake is the new West Hollywood of Los Angeles, and Cafe Stella is situated in prime real estate near the Sunset Junction next door to the new and fabulous Intelligentsia coffee shop, The Cheese Store of Silverlake, a high end florist and an even higher end tennis shoe store, and across the street from *gasp* a gelato cafe. Make no mistake, this is not the Silverlake of even 10 years ago. Things are changing fast. I think the changes bring a love/hate dynamic for locals. I personally love it...and I am glad that Cafe Stella remains despite what must be severely elevating rents.

D and I started off in the bar with a glass of red and a glass of fizz, served by a lovely,warm and loquatious bartender. They have taken the nice little booths out of the bar, which I miss. We used to always eat in those booths. The tables that are in there now aren't big enough for more than two people. But I think the bar does look more spacious. T & C arrived and we moved out to a table on the patio, which they have now extended all the way past the Cheese Store. LOTS more room out there, and it looks very, very nice. Below is the view from out table sitting in front of the Cheese Store of Silverlake, best cheese store of all time.

Here is my view looking into the window of the world's best cheese store.

I am going to mention that our service was beyond slow, and D had to get up and ask for a bottle of wine and tell someone that we were ready to order. Aside from that, our server was very good at her job, I think they were understaffed that night. It seemed as though they had too many support personal (bussers, runners, hostesses) and not enough actual physical wait staff for the busy evening. Maybe someone called in sick. Nevertheless, we were in great company and having a great time.

I started with simply heirloom tomatoes in a light dressing with thinly sliced red onions. My favorite thing in the summer. T started with the beautiful looking Caesar, we were both unhappy with the citrusy dressing. Too much citrus, not enough egg yolk, garlic or anchovy, in both our opinions.

D & C both had the seared scallops for a starter, they looked beautiful on a bed of cooked greens, and I meant to taste them. I was so entranced with my fresh heirlooms, I forgot.

For dinner, T & I both had the moules frites, in white wine and shallot cream. T thought the mussels were a bit on the small side. And she was right, of course. Even though this must be TMI, I prefer my mussels smaller because the larger ones get stuck in my teeth. ANYWAY! I enjoyed my moules thoroughly.

The frites came with truffle oit as an option. Need I say more? The taste was nice, but they were small pieces of potato, there were no long, satisfyingly crunchy frites. There were lots of short greasy bits. I was not thrilled with these. I think I ate them all anyway.

D & C ordered the steak frites (frites all around, please!). D wanted steak frites with a New York cut, but the chef won't cook a New York well done. The chef would cook the filet well done so D ended up with the filet au poivre. Both cuts were lovely and tasty looking.

We had a truly nice dinner Saturday. We all left happy. We then made our way over to our new most favorite spot, Bar C. Saturday it was really so crowded, we were turned away. Jas, the beautiful hostess, asked for our number and did we mind going to a bar down the street? She would call us when a table opened. I am a huge fan of a place that will not accept too many customers. She would only take what they had seating room for. Fortunately for us, after a quick trip to the ladies room, a table opened up immediately. We hung around Bar C til closing. It turns into a very upscale karaoke bar after the kitchen closes. Again, a high man-to-woman ratio, but this a very gentile crowd. Everyone was polite and jovial, there were two French maids, lost of singing and swilling of drinks. Hurrah! A perfect Saturday night.

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