When food people visit New York, they may check out what David Chang or Mario Batali are up to, contemplate a fancy French meal and swing by the latest place given three stars by The New York Times. But the place where they all end up, where the weekend before the James Beard Awards or the Fancy Food Show you can see more kitchen stars than you can watching a weekend of the Food Network, is Balthazar, the Soho replica of a Left Bank brasserie that is somehow more perfect than the originals, where you can be sure that the oysters will be crisp, the white wine cold, the steak tartare rough and well-seasoned.
L.A. is going through its brasserie moment, and an alarming percentage of the high-profile restaurants that have opened in the last year or so have goose fat running through their veins. It has never been easier to find steak frites, onion soup or flagons of Muscadet. Delphine, the restaurant in the brand-new W Hotel in Hollywood, took a run at its competitors by actually hiring a chef, Sascha Lyon, who helped to open Balthazar and was chef at its sister brasserie, Pastis. He seems right at home in the airy, Riviera-themed restaurant, with its massive windows and the sun-bleached blue tile that feels straight out of Cannes.
Even in its first week, despite the confused service, a weird 15 percent service charge and the usual opening-night jitters, Delphine has among the most assured brasserie cooking in town: mussels steamed in a Le Creuset pot with white wine and slivered fennel that had been tossed with Pernod; Caesar salad with bacon; killer fries; and onion soup blanketed with bubbling Gruyère. A crisp-skinned trout Meunière, sluiced with brown butter, garnished with a handful of sautéed shrimp, is probably the best trout Meunière I've ever had in Los Angeles. Although I could find it in neither Saulnier nor Escoffier, there must be a proper French name for the dish, but it reminded me of fish I am always happy to eat at Galatoire's in New Orleans. Decent wine available in carafes.
DELPHINE: 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 798-1355,restaurantdelphine.com. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner appetizers, $7-$14; main courses, $17-$36; desserts, $9.
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