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RESTAURANT REVIEW : Vive La Sauce: Classic French Cuisine Thrives at Le Sanglier

The imitation of other times and places in architecture and design has, unfortunately, become synonymous with Disneyland kitsch. In restaurant design, homages to other countries, regions and times are a tradition. Restaurants done in regional, rustic, turn-of-the-century or ‘30s decor are still found all over Europe, and they aren’t called “Disneylandesque.” The decor of Le Sanglier in Tarzana, one of our old French restaurants, shouldn’t be, either.

Le Sanglier is off Ventura Boulevard, but not so far off that it’s in the middle of the French countryside. And yet its interior makes me feel as if I were in France, in a proper newish suburban restaurant done up in cozy style.

Many of their dishes are also old-style; for instance, cream sauces abound. Those of us who have become accustomed to lighter nouvelle-influenced sauces or sauceless grilled dishes will probably be jarred by this. I certainly didn’t expect lamb chop with garlic and Roquefort, or veal sauteed with wild mushrooms, to be drenched in cream sauce.

These days we rarely see meat, or fish, for that matter, in cream sauce. Health-consciousness aside, it’s simply unexpected. Expectation has a lot to do with reaction, so it’s best to be forewarned.

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Expect the spicy lamb sausage appetizer to be delicious. The filling is coarsely ground and spiced rather like the Moroccan mergez, but without cumin. It’s accompanied by a ramekin of what the menu coyly describes as “ketchup.” This unusual well-seasoned condiment, which seems more like an onion marmalade, is virtually an appetizer in itself.

Entrees are served with soup or salad. If you order the sausage, which comes with salad in an agreeable, though salty, dressing, go directly to the soup. The soups I’ve encountered have been cream-based vegetable purees--mushroom or asparagus, for instance. They were comforting in a nostalgic way.

The entrees have, on the whole, been disappointing. Fish a bit dry, meat sauced too much. A notable exception was calf’s liver with shallots and vinegar, which was tender, juicy and well-served by a creamless wine-enriched pan sauce. Vegetables have been fresh and not skimpy. Waffle potatoes were a welcome treat one evening.

Le Sanglier may at one time have been as adventurous as its name (wild boar) implies, but it isn’t now. I haven’t seen any game on either the printed menu or among the numerous daily specials. The waiter did propose wild-boar pate, though. What I was served was attractive and pleasant but lacking the assertive flavor I associate with the elusive beast.

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Deserts, fortunately, were anything but tame. A real, tangy lemon tarte had a crust that seemed to have no mass whatsoever. Tarte tatin was fresh, light, not sweet, and very apple-y.

The wine list is undistinguished.

The decor is cozy, and you can have a pleasant meal at this pricey restaurant if you choose carefully. But it is not the place for taking random shots.

Recommended dishes: spicy lamb sausage, $6.50; calf’s liver with shallots and vinegar, $17.50; lemon tarte, $5.50.

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Le Sanglier, 5522 Crebs Ave., Tarzana. (818) 345-0470. Open for dinner 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays; till 10 p.m. Sundays. Full bar. All major credit cards accepted. Dinner for two, food only, $60-$70.


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