A Taste of the Big Apple


Transplanted New Yorkers believe that eating out should be a heady experience in a lively place with people coming and going and enjoying good food--exactly what Peter Karkos and his manager August Nazzaro have in mind for their Studio City place, the OutTake Cafe.

They serve goodly portions of well-priced food here, and quiet and intimate it isn't.

"This is a high-energy place, and we try to serve quality food at a fair price," says Nazzaro. "Our kitchen is out in the open, and you'll see me busing tables and the busboys sometimes taking orders and the waiters seating people.

"Everybody does everything here, and everybody gets a show. We wanted to keep the place small, and in the restaurant business that means you have to turn the tables over two, three times a night.

"That's how they do it in the busy New York places--and it can be a lot of fun in those restaurants. That's what we want here, too."

The OutTake Cafe even looks like some New York places--a simple storefront restaurant, longer than it is wide, with a limestone floor, a granite bar, white tile halfway up the walls and lots of paintings.

And the menu? Chef Carlos Garcia offers three specials for dinner every day, including on one recent day a pumpkin ravioli with a butter sage sauce, and grilled mahi-mahi with vegetable rice cakes and a black bean sauce.

Dungeness crab cakes are a specialty on the list of appetizers; Garcia serves them with a homemade remoulade. People also come here for another Garcia specialty, potato dumplings stuffed with caramelized onions and creme fraiche, and for the braised lamb shank, on the list of entrees.

Garcia also does a boeuf Bourguignon, a roast duckling, a grilled salmon served with savoy cabbage and a sherry wine sauce, and a roasted ling cod with a mushroom caper sauce over a puree of new potatoes.

The prices range under $8 for most of the appetizers and under $13 for most of the entrees.

OutTake Cafe seats 48, so reservations are a good idea. It is at 12159 Ventura Blvd., just west of Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Studio City, (818) 760-1111.

Farther west on Ventura Boulevard is another unusual restaurant, Mimo's Patio Cafe, which is about as unlike a New York place as you can get.

Mike Kamel took over Mimo's--a fixture of the restaurant scene in Tarzana for the better part of a decade--about 18 months ago, intending to serve a mix of the foods of the Mediterranean at reasonable prices.

He offers daily specials weekdays for lunch, and Friday and Saturday for dinner--for example, a baked chicken breast stuffed with rice and pine nuts,$9.50; a boneless trout stuffed with garlic, Italian parsley, celery and spices, $9.50; and a shrimp and chicken combination served with vegetables, $9.95.

Also on his menu:

* Mediterranean fajitas with lamb, chicken, or shrimp;

* Moussaka with ground lamb, eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes served in a white cream sauce.

Kamel makes everything from scratch, including his popular house salad dressing, made with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic and available for $5 a bottle.

Prices range under $9.95 for the entrees.

Mimo's Cafe occupies a small space in a courtyard behind a popular Starbucks, at 18672 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, (818) 996-8070. It is open for lunch and dinner.

Father's Day comes on June 21 this year. Here are two suggestions:

* Gaetano's Ristorante in Calabasas will serve four Father's Day specials, including one spectacular Italian dish rarely seen hereabout, branzino--a whole fish, head and all, boned and fileted table-side and served with a sauce of lemon and white wine. Gaetano's Ristorante is at 23536 Calabasas Road, Calabasas, (818) 223-9600.

* Cafe Sierra in the Universal City Hilton and Towers will serve a Father's Day special barbecue and brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 21. On the menu: marinated flank steak and chicken, grilled on the patio outside, plus the restaurant's usual brunch fare. The price: $32 for adults, $16 for children 3 to 8. Cafe Sierra is at 555 Universal Terrace Parkway, at the entrance to Universal CityWalk, (818) 509-2030.

Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at jhovey@gte.net.

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