Having dined at Providence – perhaps L.A.’s ultimate seafood restaurant – we knew we’d be in for a great lunch from the moment we stepped into chef/owner Michael Cimarusti’s more casual West Hollywood eatery. Named after his parents, Connie & Ted’s serves simply prepared fish and shellfish “inspired by the classic clam shacks, oyster bars and fish houses that dot the New England Seaboard and Western Coast.”
We decided to throw the kiddies a (fish)bone and come with for our 19-year dating anniversary outing. We were shown to a mid-high-top table across from the fishmonger/bar counter (there’s also a nice outdoor patio) and the fish-tivities began! Oysters were a must so I chose from a daily fresh selection ($3 per) served with horseradish and mignonette sauce; Troy experienced his very first raw oyster and gave a thumbs up after slurping it down! He and I then moved on to devour “Joanne’s Fish & Chips” — batter-dipped cod, tartar sauce and chips ($21). It was without a doubt one of the best batters I’ve ever had on a fish ‘n chip dish. Meanwhile, Xander was happy as a clam with his fried calamari app ($10).
The girls ordered a Fried Pacific Oyster sandwich with cole slaw and spicy mayo (Irene) and a Little Gem Lettuce salad prepared with cherry tomatoes, hard-cooked egg, bacon and blue cheese (Miss A).
We even caught a glimpse of Cimarusti himself as he ducked into a doorway off the bar (we proceeded to tell the kiddies how we actually chatted with him after our unforgettable Providence dinner). Over at the live lobster tank, one of the oyster bar chefs scooped out a large specimen and plunked him (her?) down on the stainless steel countertop so the kiddies could get a closer look. Troy and Xander were also entertained by a live sea urchin moving its menacing spines ever so slightly in the seafood case – a short time later to become someone’s delicacy.
A sizeable staff is at the top of its game here; for dessert, our server recommended the Blondie with vanilla ice cream and a salted caramel sauce that was the cherry on top of the entire Connie & Ted’s experience.
It’s nice to see the trend in health-conscious, casual dining options that’s emerging in Los Angeles these days. Taking their leads from the Tender Greens and the Veggie Grills of this recent movement, Lyfe Kitchen and Bru’s Counter are two recent places that appear to have what it takes to keep people coming back with their quality menus and mid-range prices.
Brought to us by executive chef/southern cuisine expert Art Smith (a Top Chef Masters alumni and former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey), Lyfe Kitchen offers very tasty food “that’s also good for you” says its web site. The restaurant promotes sustainability, supports local farms and claims to serve organic food whenever commercially viable. At the Culver City location, my grass-fed burger on an oatmeal bun with cheddar, red onion, lettuce, tomato and a farmhouse pickle was tres “umami” and Irene loved her Roasted Brussels & Squash with dried cranberries and a Dijon vinaigrette. There are five different “Menu Attribute Badges,” including Everything, Vegetarian/Vegan, Gluten Free, Seasonal Items and Wine & Beer. Among the child’s menu items are Art’s Unfried Chicken strips and a fish taco, and are served with a choice of baked sweet potato fries or fresh fruit. We took a table on the outdoor patio; inside there are communal seating clusters and a self-serve water tap.
Located on Santa Monica Boulevard just a few steps down the street from Westfield Century City, Bru’s Counter was equally good. After placing our order, the family parked itself at a high-top for five and the kiddies retrieved some ice water from a chilled tank (apparently these healthier-leaning places have an affinity for self-serve water taps!). I was tempted by the chicken & waffle sandwich sample that was on display just off the open kitchen but opted for the Banh Mi – a popular Vietnamese sandwich made with chicken, a fried egg, chipotle mayo, carrots and daikon (jalapenos on the side, thank you!). Like Lyfe Kitchen, there are also grass fed burgers, vegetarian plates, “Greens,” and “Crispy Chicken” as well as six different types of fries; we chose the sweet potato variety but want to go back to try the truffle or avocado fries.
Yep, we will happily take another seat at any of these kitchens or counters!