Dear Mr. Gold:
As one who believes the true Golden Age of dining peaked in Los Angeles in the ’50s and ’60s on La Cienega’s Restaurant Row, I’m curious to know if my favorite entrée of that time is still being served: veal Oscar, as was offered by the original Frascati’s. Really, me thinks the only truly significant contribution to the dining scene since those days has been the introduction and development of delicious new Asian and other ethnic cuisines, as related to the subsequent added diversity of our populace.
—Sid, West Hollywood
I’m not sure I agree that ’60s-era Restaurant Row was the absolute apogee of Los Angeles dining, but my family did live around the corner from the street for a few years when I was growing up, and it was always the highlight of the week when we occasionally visited Ollie Hammond’s or the Pear Garden, Stears or Mediterranea, Alan Hale’s Lobster Barrel or Casa Cugat, where Xavier Cugat’s wife, Charo, occasionally hung out near the front door. (Realistically, the only Restaurant Row establishments we were likely to visit in the course of a month were Bar-B-Q Heaven and the coffee shop Ma Webster’s, whose cinnamon rolls were the most.) Veal Oscar was the famous specialty of the long-gone Scandia on the Sunset Strip, a curious concoction of veal, asparagus tips and crab legs, blanketed in a thick, bright-yellow béarnaise sauce. As a teenager whose date nights occasionally extended to the bargain late-night smørrebrød at Scandia, I craved veal Oscar more than any food in the world, probably because of its ruinous expense. I didn’t even know Frascati had a version — unless memory is failing me, it had devolved from a Belgian bistro into a mediocre red-sauce Italian restaurant by the time I got to it — but a glance at a menu from 1968 shows something very like it: L’Escalope de Veau Frascati, a take on the dish with sliced lobster in place of the crab. The Dal Rae, an old-time racetrack restaurant in Pico Rivera, is the repository of a lot of old Los Angeles dishes, including shrimp “scampi,” lobster thermidor, duck a l’orange, abalone with lemon butter and their famous pepper steak, which is quite good. I’ve never tasted the Dal Rae version, but there is veal Oscar too — béarnaise, crab legs, asparagus tips, the whole schmear — as well as oceans of the cold vodka that the dish demands as accompaniment. 9023 E. Washington Blvd., Pico Rivera.