First Bite: Bon Appetit 

Wednesday, Oct 4 2006

Dinner at Canele, a new Southern French restaurant in the old Osteria Nonni space in Atwater, can feel a lot like crashing a dinner party, with oddly minimalist décor, people you probably know and friendly but puzzled waitresses who aren’t quite sure why you’ve stumbled into their domain. The chef/owner is Corina Weibel, a Nancy Silverton protégé who also cooked for a while at Lucques, and she works the urban rustic side of new Los Angeles cooking: the caramelized onion tart called pissaladière and an austere green salad with crème fraîche; rare roast lamb with Israeli couscous and beef bourguignon with noodles, workmanlike roast pork loin with polenta and simmered greens, and an honest flan with bitter caramel sauce. If this were your dinner party, and your kitchen guru of choice is Julia rather than Marcella or Madhur, this is the kind of food worthy of the good china. Some of the rough edges — a handsomely scrawled chalkboard menu invisible to half the dining room, no coffee, a wine list that includes two (count ’em) reds — will undoubtedly be sanded down in the next few weeks. And on your way out, the hostess will hand you a small example of the restaurant’s namesake pastry, a dense, fluted cylinder of crisp-edged pudding traditional in Bordeaux. 3219 Glendale Blvd., Atwater, (323) 666-7133.

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