A lunch most spectacular
Right smack dab in the middle of downtown LA is an old firehouse, the former home of Engine Company 28. The building was decommissioned in the late ’60s, and turned into a restaurant in the mid ’80s. We had lunch there today, and it was an experience we will long remember.
Given it’s provenance, is isn’t surprising that the decor is old-firehouse chic. Souvenirs, mementos and artifacts from fire companies decorate the walls, and the original fire pole still stands in the center of the dining room.
The menu is firehouse hearty, too. The meatloaf recipe is reputedly the original from the fire company that first occupied the facility. The place is mucho macho, without being chauvinistic.
There were 8 of us at lunch, and we ordered the usual ton of food. Even in very good restaurants, some days, the kitchen just doesn’t get it all right. The mark of excellence is how well they recover, and make it work.
Problem one: the menu said the lamb shanks came with pappardelle (wide noodles). I love pappardelle, and that was a strong part of the reason I ordered this dish. You will note the mashed potatoes on the plate–the house has changed, but not bothered to change the menu. I mentioned this to the waiter. He got me a dish of linguine to put the gravy on. I was a happy boy after that.
Hard though it is for me to imagine, some people actually like liver and onions. This dish, though, was overcooked. Again, the house did the right thing, taking the plate back and bringing out another, cooked properly, in just a few minutes.
There were a couple of other minor glitches–Gail didn’t get the guacamole for her nachos, I didn’t get the asparagus I ordered. The staff made everything right, and quickly.
It’s an experience we’ve all had–one thing goes wrong, then it all cascades and there are a bunch of problems. Meanwhile, things are going swimmingly at all the other tables. That’s life, and even in the midst of these relatively minor issues, it’s nice to see a well trained and motivated staff make work to fix the problems.
By way of apology, the house then brought out FIVE desserts for us. Apple pie, banana cream pie, lemon meringue pie, chocolate cake and creme brulee. Although we were stuffed, we didn’t want them to feel bad so we ate the desserts just to be polite.
It turns out that our waiter is also the manager–and his skill and interest in making it all right explain why he got promoted to boss. His name is Robert Perkins, and he runs the place for it’s owner, who turns out to be the celebrity defense attorney, Mark Geragos.
It was a great lunch. Too much food, but you can hardly complain about that. Great service, not just from Robert but from the entire staff of runners, bussers, even the hostess–I made the reservation online, and routinely ask for a table instead of a booth. They called me within minutes to see if half booth, half chairs would work, and it did. These people are on top of their game.
I wish they had a place in the Bay Area. I’d like to eat here more often.