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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The latest restaurant to enter...

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The latest restaurant to enter the downtown dining sweepstakes simply has to be seen, for there’s not another restaurant around that looks anything like Cardini (930 Wishire Blvd., in the Los Angeles Hilton (213) 227-3464). The place is so highly designed it looks like it has sprung, full blown, from the pages of one of the architectural magazines. Arranged like a mini-city, the individual dining rooms are like little buildings off a marbled main street. The place is a neo-modern fantasy, and eating here makes you feel like a child in a very expensive playhouse.

The food itself is more expensive than playful. The chef, Ruggero Gadaldi, was head chef at DDL in both New York and Los Angeles. There are antipasti--eggplant wrapped around goat cheese, marinated salmon with caviar and zabaglione sauce (a strange idea, and pretty skimpy on the caviar), cured meats. Among the pasta dishes is a fine black ravioli filled with shrimp in a slightly pasty cream sauce.

Entrees include your usual fish, chicken and lamb dishes--and a very large veal chop. All the ingredients are good, a lot of copper pans are flashed around the dining room and most of the cooking is done with a deft hand. But the food doesn’t offer many surprises, and in such a setting it seems a shame.


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