The last time René and I dusted off our nice clothes and went out to a “fancy restaurant” was months ago on our trip into Toronto, Ontario. So I am extremely grateful to Liz, Tom and the Agredanos for treating us at the Dal Rae in Pico Rivera recently.
Since opening in 1958, it seems like the Dal Rae hasn’t changed much. The atmosphere is pure 1960’s supper club. Complete with piano bar and a proper Manhattan. Its retro look was revitalized in a 1999 renovation, and the dim lighting, comfy booths and wood paneling had me feeling swank and yearning for a cigar. But not before dinner…
I knew I would love this place when we stepped into the bar, after being asked to wait by the hostess who apparently hadn’t changed her hair style – or perhaps her wig – since 1967. The drinks came swift and stiff. The ladies enjoyed their Manhattan and martini, vodka and gin for the men. Tonic makes me cringe, but something magical happens with a good dose of Bombay Sapphire.
I enjoyed watching as an obvious regular walked right through the bar to sit at a reserved table. Apparently he assumed the table was reserved for him. He looked as though he’d been coming in every night since “the day” and acted like you should know it.
When the rest of our party showed up, I sent everyone to the table and went to pay the bar tab. I must not get out that often because I was just a little shocked at the sixty dollar total for four cocktails. Better have another, I decided. Being a firm believer that you get what you pay for, I now knew tonight’s dinner would be a treat. And I didn’t even know I was being treated yet!
Walking through the dining room brought a smile to my face. Until I heard the screaming baby in the booth behind us. Then René noticed the DVD player on their table. I only noticed the little one’s (slightly) bigger brother crawling all over the seat. But the parents were polite enough to take the screamer outside. And I was relieved to hear the waitress ask them about dessert.
On to the appetizers for us! Personally, I like my oysters in a shot glass. With horseradish, lemon, and a beer back. But the Dal Rae Rockefellers were indeed tasty. We backed them up with some of the finest calamari friti since my days at Graziano’s. Or my own that is … light, dry, and crispy, yet succulent and tender.
The hardest part about dining out like this is deciding what to have. My mouth watered over such traditional steakhouse favorites as fillet mignon, prime rib, and the Dal Rae’s reportedly famous pepper steak. But considering I was in charge of barbecuing kabobs the next day, and I wanted something special, I went for the duck. Everyone else chose from the vast selection of fresh seafood.
In all honesty, I wish I would have opted for my second choice, the Tower of Fillet Mignon and Shitake Mushroom. Or perhaps the scallops. But I have no serious regrets. It’s just that I have always loved Duck a l’Orange since I was a child, and it did not quite live up to my expectations. It was tasty, but the glaze was nothing to write home about. More of a gravy really. Finished tableside, the presentation made up for it. But I still don’t recall the presence of any orange zest.
The Caesar salad on the other hand, was delicious. Though that was not prepared tableside. Two orders were more than enough for the six of us to split. And while quite content after a meal of this nature, one cannot pass up dessert. Let alone six of us …
While the Dal Rae prides itself on living by their tradition – “where everybody knows your name” – I must say I wasn’t exactly made to feel like they knew mine. The food was delicious. The service was good. It was quick. It was thorough. It was nice. But I wouldn’t exactly call it friendly. But after all, this is L.A.