It’s a peculiar habit, altered perhaps only...

Share via

It’s a peculiar habit, altered perhaps only by what passes for winter in Los Angeles. “Everywhere else,” said Andre Lachaumette some years ago, recalling the country inns outside London, Paris, Chicago, “people drive out of the city to dine. Here, they drive into the city.” The practice has been a bit of a bore, not to say a burden, to Lachaumette, being, as he is, the proprietor of Le Normandie in far-off Thousand Oaks.

Winter, though, is something else. Who can resist a cozy corner by the fire, a fine meal and maybe a splash of Calvados to warm the auricles on those raw days? (Of course, a “raw” day to an Angeleno is a shirt-sleeve scorcher to your average Estonian; it’s how you hold your mouth . . .).

A suggestion, then, or more of a reminder, that after seven years, everything is intact at Le Normandie (805-495-8900): the nouvelle- Norman- auberge fireplace; the menu (from the ethereal terrine des fruits de mer , a unique blend of homemade seafood pates, through salmon in Chablis and duckling with orange, to patisseries of the day, joyful and triumphant); even--what hath God wrought?--the staff!

Lachaumette is still there, still losing hair over imagined imperfections; Claude Farina, the chef who helped Lachaumette build his restaurant literally brick by brick; sous-chef Peter Thomsen, the Danish pundit of pate and patisserie ; Mounir (Monty) Issa, the waiter’s waiter who could teach Mr. Hudson restraint; even the ineffable Dario Lopez, busboy extraordinaire . In a day of musical chefs, the loyalty of the entire Normandie crew tells all you need to know about the restaurant.


A last word: game. In season, Le Normandie serves quail, pheasant, whatever flies (or clumps) over the pike. You’ve just missed the best-prepared venison in Southern California, but ask what’s up next. You won’t be disappointed, except maybe by the boar: They don’t serve it any more, since the 1981 supply fell on its snout. “That wasn’t boar,” snorted Lachaumette at the time. “That was pig with pretensions.” 2ND-DEGREE BURNS The annual question is: “How authentic is the haggis, Jock?” At Tam O’Shanter, at least, they make a noble effort. Tam, on Los Feliz Boulevard (664-0228), celebrates Robert Burns night, the annual Scottish orgy, again on Jan. 24, with pipers, drummer, Highland dancers, and a grand procession, led by chef Ivan Harrison bearing the infamous haggis (to which an address, and its rebuttal, are recited.) Tam O’Shanter swears that its haggis is not canned, that Harrison grinds it up himself. When pressed, however, they confess that there are “several substitutions” for ingredients impossible to obtain in the United States. (Don’t ask.). . . . Russian New Year celebrated tonight at 7:30 at Mischa’s Restaurant and Cabaret on Sunset (874-3467); $45 per person includes full traditional meal plus entertainment. Same occasion celebrated at the Tea Room St. Petersburg on the top floor of the Beverly Center, where the tab, $30, includes a complete Russian meal plus a floor show beginning at 9 p.m. and closing with a Champagne toast at midnight. . . . Renowned French chef Michel Guerard journeys from Eugenie-les-Bains to l’Orangerie, where his cuisine will be celebrated from Jan. 21 through Jan. 27; along with a la carte selections, a prix-fixe menu will be available at $70; call 652-9770 for reservations. . . . Le Cellier in Santa Monica celebrates its 15th birthday this month, the occasion marked by introduction to the menu of chef Jean Bellordre’s paean to his daughter: “Crepes Catharine.” . . . The Rotary Club of Redlands announces an extensive tasting entitled “Inland Empire Wine Extravaganza,” Jerry Mead presiding, Jan. 26, 5-8 p.m., at the San Bernardino County Museum; call the club for details. . . . Asking rhetorically whether there is really a difference among Beluga, Osetra and Sevruga, the newsletter Taste proposes an answer with a caviar tasting (a generous half-ounce of each, plus samplings of golden, sturgeon and salmon “caviars”) Feb. 12, 8 p.m., at the Chronicle in Santa Monica, $55 per member, $65 per non-member; call 558-3281 for details. . . . The Ranch House in Ojai, which sponsored a tour of Burgundy last year, plans another a trip to Bordeaux Sept. 14-29; space is limited; call (805) 646-2360. Meanwhile, the Ranch House also is planning a New Orleans Weekend Feb. 22-24, with appropriate foods and entertainment.