Hotel Fare Worth Checking Out

H otel restaurant : The phrase suggests boring food served to a captive clientele. Swiss-born Claude and Ruby Oertle are aware of that ghastly reputation, but they have higher ambitions for Capistrano's, their restaurant at the Crown Sterling Suites in El Segundo.

They chose Ramiro Medina as chef. His resume includes a two-year stint at the highly regarded La Chaumiere in the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City proving that a hotel site doesn't automatically ruin food.

The decor at Capistrano's is Mediterranean, with brick arches and a polished stone floor. In addition to the regular tables, it has booths set in an extension that juts out into the hotel's rooftop courtyard, where you can dine near a small waterfall that cascades onto a fish-filled pond.

Some interesting appetizers here include Gruyere cheese fritters ($5.95) served with a chunky tomato sauce. Spinach artichoke gratinee ($5.95) is a wickedly rich casserole of artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan and Cheddar.

An elaborate salad called pasta tango ($8.25) includes spinach cheese tortellini, a boneless chicken breast, artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce tossed with a garlic dill dressing.

Almost as a concession to its location in a hotel, Capistrano's lists the old hotel restaurant standby--medallions of beef chasseur ($15.95), sauteed tenderloins with a brown sauce of shallots, tarragon and mushrooms.

Fresh fish selections vary, but orange roughy is always available. So is swordfish ($11.95), grilled with fresh basil and Key lime butter.

Capistrano's is at 1440 E. Imperial Ave., El Segundo. (310) 640-1070. Open seven days, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.

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