Thursday, July 13, 2006
brunch at campanile.
i don't know if i have too much to say about campanile. it's nice, in a large but somewhat cozy space, good food under the direction of chef mark peel, discreet and cordial service, home to its überpopular offshoot, la brea bakery....it's very grown-up, yo, which i don't feel like i am most of the time. however, when you are up to being all grown up and adulty, this is the place to take your friends and family to show them that yes, you are in fact a functioning member of society, that all your food does not come from a drive-through window nor trader joe's, and that you don't flinch at eating in establishments where valet parking is $5.50, and streetside parking is practically non-existent.
to be fair, although it is all starched linens, shiny silverware, and dutiful waitstaff, it does have a rather casual and easygoing clientele, with lots of families, presumably from the nearby hancock park neighbourhood. although, that laid back thing might just be a los angeles thing. my neighbour, larry, is rather bemused that people go to "nice" restaurants in flipflops and t-shirts here. it's true, that describes more than half the crowd during the sunday brunch i attended, but is casual really a bad thing?
the food itself is somewhat casual (at brunch/breakfast anyway)--lots of omelettes and egg dishes, pancakes, french toast, some open-faced sandwiches, some salads. all rather expertly done, with very fresh ingredients. no one shirks their responsibility in the kitchen, and it shows, both in quality and in price (a bowl of granola is $9. nine dollars. ) most of the entrees range from $10 to $15, and you don't get a huge amount of food, but you are well satisfied.
i think i lost my mind momentarily when i ordered a tuna melt sandwich, which was a thin plank of grilled la brea bakery country bread topped with albacore tuna, dill, lemon and caperberries and then covered with melted gruyere cheese and tomatoes. madness, because i know la brea bakery bread all too well--although it is tasty, it can severely test one's mastication ability: hard, hard, hard. although the bread is nowhere near as crazy difficult to eat as it once was (flying shards could take an eye out), grilling or toasting can still give somewhat zwiebackish results. which it did in this case. i think i spent most of the meal testing the strength and control of my forearm muscles, trying to get my ineffectual dinner knife to cut through the plank without crashing into the other tableware and avoiding the rest of the sandwich from flying into the party next to me. good tuna salad, though. caperberries are a nice touch.
my cousin, thud, definitely made the better menu choice with poached eggs on beef brisket, which was described as beef brisket hash on the menu, but i don't remember anything hashy (hashish?) about it. it was just brisket cooked slowly until meltingly tender and falling apart, with perfect roast potatoes, poached eggs and country toast. the country toast is good when it's on the side, and you can sop up all the lovely juices from the brisket.
we decided to split something sweet between us, and picked the fresh strawberry cobbler with cream. the cobbler seemed a little more like a crumble to my cousin, but i don't know. it was a lot strawberries, tossed with a bit of sugar and maybe lemon, and topped with a butter, flour, sugar mixture. with all the strawberries i'd been picking up in ventura, i had already been down this route, and was perhaps hoping for something slightly flashier or different. like their fandabidozy coffee eclairs, cinnamon buns, and sour cherry brioche. alas, it was just a simple cobbler that i hung my disappointment on, despite the fact that it was well made, obviously bursting with fresh fruit and buttery goodness.
which is probably the reason we devoured it.
624 s. la brea ave,
los angeles 90036.