If there's anybody out there who doesn't yet know that Mr. Chow of Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills has just opened his first restaurant in 20 years, and in Westwood of all places--which warrants hardly a blip on the glitterati radar screen--listen up. The advent of Eurochow has been heralded with the kind of hoopla normally reserved for important Hollywood premieres.
Chow, who is the restaurant's designer, has done an impressive $4-million restoration of Westwood's landmark domed building. The all-white interior will reduce even the most blase to gawking. Light emitted from the tip of a slender (white) obelisk lights up the dome high above. Industrial aluminum chairs are disguised neatly with quilted silver or white slipcovers. There's a tall communal table for singles, and a monitor by the glamorous bar shows the image of the swirling room, a feed from a camera high above. And a choice table for two is set on a little balcony overlooking the scene below.
You won't need your pocket flashlight to the read the menus in this brightly lit setting, but those over 40 may need reading glasses to decipher the minuscule lettering. The shock is that the menu is so, well, boring. I like the idea of offering Chinese and Italian (and even some French) dishes from the same kitchen. But everything Chinese sounds, at least, much more appealing than filet mignon carpaccio, minestrone or yet another Caesar salad.
Waiters assure us that everything is wonderful, but we can't help being disappointed with the greasy, dried-out pork spareribs or the bland filling in the Shanghai Little Dragon dumplings and the Butterfly Pillows. Eurochow pizza topped with sausage, mushrooms and Combozola cheese is much better than anything Chinese we try. And as for pasta, Marco Polo must have forgot to test the recipes. Tagliatelle with carciofini (baby artichokes) is gummy and stuck together; a gratin of green tagliolini with julienned prosciutto is drowned in cream, cooked far past the al dente stage.
The pork chop tastes like something from a mid-level chain restaurant, and the roast chicken isn't anything you'd plan on ordering again. Even the shoestring fries that come with it aren't very good.
A cultural glitch? Maybe the shortcomings are due to an over-stressed kitchen: The restaurant has been jammed since it opened two weeks ago. We actually had to fight our way to the door past a gaggle of eager twentysomethings waiting for a table. And when it did, Mr. Chow himself straightened the silver and patted the napkins in place.
What's great is how urban this restaurant seems for Westwood--or anywhere for that matter. I'm looking forward to lunch on the sidewalk terrace that runs along one side of the building. A plateau de fruits de mer (iced seafood platter). Eurochow should be an ideal rendezvous before a movie or play and the late-night menu is served till midnight (1 a.m. on weekends).
The question is whether this scene and particularly this food will convince L.A.'s notoriously early-to-rise to stay up a little later.
Eurochow, 1099 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 385-1678. Open daily 11:30 a.m.-midnight (until 1 a.m. Thursday to Saturday) for lunch, late lunch, dinner and late supper. Dinner appetizers $6 to $18; main courses $15 to $20; bar sandwiches $3. Valet parking.