Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Larchmont Bungalow wins, in my mind

The new restaurant/coffee house/cafe at Larchmont Village, wait scratch that, I meant takeout joint, has been in the news of late. If you haven't been keeping up on eaterLA, you would be out of the loop on the controversy. Apparently Larchmont Bungalow only has a takeout and not a restaurant license. A complaint had been filed by the city officials, demanding that the restaurant shut down or get rid of their chairs and tables. To circumvent the violation, Larchmont Bungalow is now "selling" its furniture and asserts that the chairs are on the premises if potential furniture buyers need a place to sit. Good thinking but I don't know if that is legitimate enough. Of course the chairs ain't cheap and are priced at $200 or more. But if you buy a table, you get a free lobster. There are supporters on both sides. Some say that the establishment has knowingly deceived the city while others claim that Larchmont has long had it out for landlord and real estate investor Albert Mizrahi. Personally I don't know enough of the Larchmont zoning codes but apparently other coffee houses in the Village are "allowed" to have furniture while Larchmont Bungalow is being treated differently to their detriment.

I decided to check it out with my colleagues before it is forced to shut down (hopefully not!)

The Larchmont Bungalow looks like your regular Coffee Bean inside with its wood decor, clean space, coffee equipment for sale and a wall lined with tea canisters. In compliance with their takeout policy, you have to order up front whereupon you'll receive a number tag and the busboys will deliver your food. The restaurant is known to be eco-friendly and the menu focuses on organic, fresh ingredients.

Display of breakfast items (including croissants, my favorite!!), cupcakes and cakes.

There are patios galore; one on the sidewalk, one on the side of the cafe and a larger one out back with heat lamps. The cafe is very spacious and not cramped at all. Your food will arrive on paper plates and with plastic utensils. Some reviewers online have complained about this. I say, let's cut them some slack and critique them on their food.

Asian Calamari salad
This was such a wonderful surprise. It was fresh, simple and delicious. The salad was served with breaded calamari which was well seasoned, plantains, lots of julienned cucumber, pistachios on a bed of romaine with a light sesame-orange dressing. I'm not a salad person but this was definitely very yummy and very filling. It's the kind of salad that I could possibly eat every week and never get sick of.

Curried lobster and shrimp wrap (or crepe)
This was served with a choice of side which can include onion rings, sweet potato fries, poutine among others. I loved how the sides are actually pretty interesting and not your boring potato chips or lame fruit salad filled with cantaloupe. I went with the papaya, mango and cucumber salad. I can't say no to papaya and mango. Besides I didn't want to load up on onion rings especially since I had a 7 course meal at Sona waiting for me in a couple hours ;-)

The wrap was absolutely delicious. The curry sauce was mild and there was a generous portion of seafood which was fresh and luscious. I even liked the addition of spinach and the rice soaked in curry sauce was delicious. Even the wrap itself was tasty; it was toasted and delicate. This dish had so much flavor and the portion was huge. Even as a BIG eater, I could only finish half my wrap. I also enjoyed the salad which was crunchy and refreshing.

Stuffed turkey burger
The homemade patty was surprisingly very juicy. It was stuffed with caramelized apples, sauteed onions, brie cheese on toasted bun and served with tomato and arugula. I liked how the bun wasn't your regular hamburger bun and instead had onions in the top center. The fruit salad was a combination of good quality fruits.

As I looked around, I noticed that every one's dishes looked great. The menu is rather extensive so I know we'll be back very soon. Everything on the plate was colorful and vibrant. Even the fruit salad was fresh and not the generic kind. The berries were plump and the melons were balled and not your supermarket slices.

To end our meal, we shared two cookies.

Chocolate brownie cookie for $3 each. It was flaky and crunchy on the outside but soft, warm and oozing of chocolate in the inside. It was a very rich and large cookie and I couldn't even finish half of one.

When I got back to my office, I was delight to remember that I had also bought some brittle.

Yes, the food is not super cheap but it's comparable to other places that serve fresh ingredients and organic food. My wrap was $15.95, the burger and the salad were $12.95 each. And some may complain about the plastic utensils but you have to see it for what it is: right now, it's a takeout joint. I really have little complaint. All of us enjoyed our meal and agreed that we were itching to come back. I'd like to try the Asian style crepe with crispy scallops (yum!), the red velvet pancake and the chicken curry salad.

To Larchmont Bungalow, please get the appropriate permits; I want you to stay opened. To the city officials, please don't shut them down. Consumers just want to have a decent meal. Please leave the politics and egos at the door and let me have my curry lobster and shrimp wrap!

Hits: lobster curry wrap, calamari salad, burger
Misses: ain't the cheapest lunch, may shut down if the city gets their way
Rating: ****

Larchmont Bungalow
107 Larchmont Blvd.,
Los Angeles CA 90004
(323) 461-1528


ilovelarchmontblvd said...

Great advice:"get the appropriate permits."

Better yet, get straight with the neighborhood and operate legally as a retail/take out like you promised.

How about offering gourmet groceries, housewares, cooking utensils, books, etc.; all the things you promised you would offer before you opened as an illegal restaurant turned furniture store?

Instead of trying to circumvent the zoning laws designed to preserve street, just operate a really good, legal business that everyone could support.

swrobel said...

I still don't get what you Larchmont people are so upset about. Is a restaurant with seating really destroying the neighborhood? It seems like a perfectly nice place...

stuffycheaks said...

I suppose the neighborhood just wants the LB to comply with the same rules that (most) of the other business have to. That said, I really liked the food, ambience and service there, and that's sometimes hard to come by.