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RESTAURANT REVIEW : The Tropical Madness of Paradise Beach

Interesting thinking, Century Market Place. With branches of a fashionable London restaurant and a famous New York deli under your belt, you’ve added a Hawaiian restaurant complete with silly rum drinks. I guess I’ll have an ice-cold Mango Maggie with a parasol, thanks.

Paradise Beach is the name, and naturally it has a lively bar, half a dozen big-screen TVs and plenty of aquariums full of tropical fish. Foodwise, though, it is not the traditional California “Polynesian restaurant” serving Cantonese appetizers and quasi-Indonesian entrees.

A lot of the food, in fact the best of it, is fairly straight American stuff. The best item is the really excellent hamburger, thick and juicy with white cheddar and some unannounced pimentos. There’s a decent, rather smokily grilled New York steak and an outstanding mixed grill of teriyaki chicken, prawns and meaty, surprisingly hot sausage.

On the other hand, that cross-cultural “ char siu pork burger” isn’t bad, either: sweet Chinese barbecued pork served like a burger with watercress in place of lettuce (they give you lettuce on the side too). The “tropical quesadilla " is pretty good too, possibly because you can’t taste the advertised papaya, which does not sound so good.

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But having resisted so much of the tropics, this menu succumbs to a peculiar and fatal Italian temptation. “ King pau pizza” (shrimp, peanuts, baby corn, water chestnuts and carrots with cheese topping) teaches us the unwished-for lesson that water chestnuts become limp and dry if baked. “Primo pasta” (prawns, shiitake mushrooms and peas) is said to come with sherry-hoisin sauce, which seems to have lost some vote of confidence--the sauce tastes to me like tomato puree.

And what’s this? “Kapalua artichoke,” a boiled artichoke filled with butter, Parmesan and garlic and then baked: tasty if a bit gross. It seems to make sense after a couple of Mokapu Punches, though. We seem to be getting tropical rapidly at this table.

On the other hand, “Maui wowie wings” closely resemble the kind you sometimes find at catered wedding buffets. And it is positively weird to put the provided pineapple and mango sauce on the wonderfully crisp shrimp appetizer or the unfortunately dry rotisserie chicken. Save it for dessert.

Speaking of desserts, it happens that the best of them are chocolate (and also rather gross, requiring a couple of tall The Itches to get you in the proper frame of mind). The turtle torte, a chocolate pecan pie, is impressively rich, as is the hula pie: rather fierce Kona coffee-macadamia ice cream in a chocolate cookie crust with chocolate sauce. And Tu Tu’s Wipe Out is just a very good and rather huge devil’s-food cake with a shredded coconut frosting.

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The kiwi lime pie, though, doesn’t make much sense, and the watery custard sauce that comes with it has a defeated air. The banana royal in brown sugar rum sauce with vanilla ice cream is also soupy and vague, and I must warn that macadamia nut cheese cake is not a major inspiration.

The incessant beat of those beastly drums! I swear it, I’m going mad! Oh. It’s just the live jazz band.

But the danger of tropical madness does worry me here. My table has switched from Mango Maggies to Maui Chi Chis, more or less pina coladas with extra coconut. Next it’ll be that drink of rum, vodka, gin, tequila, Grand Marnier and cola, and I won’t take responsibility for anything.

Paradise Beach Club, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City. (213) 203-0841. Open for lunch and dinner daily; Sunday brunch. Full bar. Validated parking in Century Market Place lot. American Express, MasterCard and Visa accepted. Dinner for two, food only, $25 to $55.


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