DINING OUT:

Now this is what I’m talking about! This is what Montrose has wanted all along. And it isn’t down the Verdugo corridor or on restaurant row in the shopping park. It’s a block up the hill, away from the hustle and bustle, on the corner of Ocean View and Florencita.

The new Ocean View Bistro took over the spot where Ocean View Bar and Grill resided for many years, and created a haven — a relaxing spot of peaceful elegance and amazing food.

The place is bright inside and features a high ceiling lined with white crown molding. Cool-colored walls boast French Impressionistic paintings by a contemporary artist. You can buy one if you want, but they look so nice where they are! The dining area has a floating wall separating the deep green booths from the beautiful semicircular bar, and in the back is a room for extra diners or a special event.

They have created a small garden patio for alfresco dining. The wall of the building is covered in creeping fig, and the low railings surrounding the tables boast overflowing flower boxes. If the Sunday Brunch menu calls for a Fresh Herb Frittata, they just walk out and trim the herbs right there.

And one of the neatest things about this place is it’s owned by members of a Montrose dynasty, the family that owns and runs Anderson’s Pet Shop. Everyone was smart enough to bring back son/brother Craig Russell, a New York Culinary Institute-educated chef who trained in Tuscana in Northern Italy as well as Brennan’s in New Orleans and was executive chef at Boa in West Hollywood. West Hollywood’s loss. No kidding.

The small lunch menu includes salads, sandwiches and square pizza, as well as a daily special, like the tuna melt ($9), the one offered on the day I was there. How do you make a roadhouse diner dish like a tuna melt fit in at a contemporary bistro like this? By using the best stuff. The bread is from Montrose’s own Berolina Bakery. The tuna was tender, not fishy-tasting, and the cheddar had a good bite, not too strong, but complemented the meat for a great, flavorful sandwich.

There’s a secret to the Montrose BLT ($9). It’s called “pastrami bacon,” which is double-thick applewood smoked bacon from the top end of the slab so there’s more meat and less fat. Tender and tremendously tasty. The sandwich is a hearty size with lots of lettuce and beautiful red tomato. You’ll find the bacon on the Chicken Club, too ($12) with moist and luscious chicken breast.

Sandwiches come with fantastic fries. Not the afterthought kind of fries you get at most places. They are crispy-soft and are without all those sparkly spices and stuff. That’s because you want to dip them in the special creamy salsa verde sauce they serve with them. Oh my goodness! A little bit of spice and a lot of fun flavor; it’s a unique dip.

The prices are a little higher (iced tea is $3.50), but so is the quality, by far. Let’s face it — you aren’t here for a Carl’s Jr. burger. In fact, this steakhouse burger ($13), with supple, braised short rib meat that fairly melts away at your bite, red, red tomato, butter lettuce and gorgonzola was one of the most astounding flavors I’ve ever tasted. The whole thing was heaven on a perfectly grilled white-bread bun.

To complement all this wonderful cuisine is organic coffee, Italian sodas, freshly made sangria and an ample wine list with a range of prices to easily find something to your liking.

The summer dinner menu, served after 5:30 p.m., has such wonderful-sounding dishes as shrimp vegetable tempura ($10) with black tiger shrimp. The bouillabaisse ($26) has scallops, shrimp, clams, braised fennel and rouille, a sauce of olive oil, bread crumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers. There’s half of a roasted Jidori chicken ($18), and the petit filet ($28) comes with “sour cream smashed potatoes.” And this artist-chef always creates a special dish for the day.

Speaking of artistry, I have to tell you about his desserts. There is always a personal banana cream pie, strawberry shortcake and citrus cheesecake made with uzu, an Asian citrus, and a brown sugar and graham cracker crust. But then Chef Russell indulges his creativity and comes up with one or two special desserts. The flourless chocolate cake ($9) was fabulous! Served with fresh whipped cream and a few heavenly berries, it was so moist it was like a mousse with a brownie crust.

Naturally, service was polite, gracious and friendly. We even showed up on our waitress’ first day on the job and we couldn’t tell, she was so efficient and lovely. And Craig’s mom is often there to take good care of you.


 JOANNA LINKCHORST is a lifelong resident of La Crescenta. She can be reached at NoTipForYou@aol.com.

WRITER WANTED: The Life and Leisure section is seeking a dining critic to write a restaurant review twice a month. Please submit a sample column on a local restaurant to joyce.rudolph@ latimes.com. For more information, call features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241.


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