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CITY-TO-GO: Urban Grits--If You Know the Menu

Remember postwar movie magazines and their Hollywood moveable feasts? Liz had her chili sent in from Chasen’s and her Will Wright’s ice cream flown to locations 6,000 miles away. Frank (and Deano) had their steaks jetted in from the Sands. Was it really the taste they had to have between takes? Or was it the memory of bright lights/big city they craved?

Next time you find yourself on location (across town?) having an urge for City Restaurant, be advised there’s now CITY-TO-GO.

It’s so much fun to eat at City, to have a jolt of urban culture seep through the pores, but what’s it like to deconstruct the experience, to take the food back home?

The take-out menu is as large, eclectic and original as the eat-in brand with equivalent changing specials every day. If you’re not Liz, Frank or Deano, be aware there’s a 10% packing charge--whether you pick up the food or have it delivered, it adds up.

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There are some pretty wonderful--and frequently pricey--things: Thai melon salad, at once refreshing and hot, is a too-expensive $7.25 but the outstanding tandoori roasted Muscovy duck with braised arugula and a honey-based sauce that tastes like medieval mead, was well worth the 19 modern bucks.

But at home, when dinner entrees turn out to disappoint, you can’t quite send them back. And, at $17 each, a lamb breast stuffed with an overpowering spinach and an underdone grilled baby chicken stuffed with not nearly enough garlic, made us sad.

A steal at $10.50, the vegetarian platter made us happy. It’s a knock-out combination of clearly enunciated tastes--mellow yellow split peas with mustard seeds sit next to ravishing stewed tomatoes, fiery squash curry, spunky blanched vegetables, creamy cauliflower au gratin and the sweetest corn-on-the-cob I’ve had this year. Vegetarians beware, delicious meat juices from the grill perfume the homemade black sesame-seed naan .

A great idea that travels well is the fresh fried sage. Crunchy, even when re-heated, an order comes with two jazzy sauces-- tomatillo and tomato. They are oily . . . and fabulous with drinks.

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The kitchen does seem to be using a great deal of oil these days. Warm shredded chicken salad with watercress and avocado needed a life raft. Forget the lifeless Caesar salad; it was bland and drowned. (In fact, whenever you take out a Caesar, make sure that the dressing’s on the side.) The seared fresh tuna nicoise with its crunchy potatoes and beans comes with a poached egg (think uni and quail egg) but the interesting assemblage of parts needs a smarter vinaigrette.

There are four complete “City Meals” that are more judiciously priced and come with a lap tray. City 4 (a club sandwich, French fries, cole slaw and a chocolate chip cookie) is $12.50. One day, the place ran out of turkey and out came one of the best vegetarian clubs we’ve tried. Eat it right away, though; the divine combination of tapenade, first-rate tomatoes, skinny strips of cucumber, avocados and homemade mayonnaise on heavenly grilled bread gets soggy fast. The shoe-string potatoes (not French fries) are kid-crisp, the slaw’s just right, and the chocolate chip cookie is simply the drug of choice.

At $6, the soggy crusted raspberry tarte was less than a treat--but the red yam flan and the bread pudding made up for it with their sauces of liquid caramel and fresh raspberry puree and a pot of fresh whipped cream.

Next time you’re in your bathrobe at 10 p.m. and have a desire for fried sage, this is the place to go. When I put my own money where my mouth is, though, I’d rather eat these urbanities right in zeitgeist central on La Brea Avenue.

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CITY-TO-GO, 180 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 938-2158. Monday-Saturday, 11:45 a.m.-11:45 p.m.; Sunday, 5:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. Deliveries made between Robertson, Sunset, Olympic and Vine. Delivery hours: Monday-Saturday, noon-2:00 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.-11:00 p.m. $15.00 minimum order for delivery; 10% packaging charge. All major credit cards accepted.


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