Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lazy afternoon at Musso's

The east side room at Musso & Frank

Our Son is leaving next week to go to graduate school in a distant city. We asked him if there were any L.A. experiences he wanted to take in before leaving, and he said he wanted to go to Musso & Frank Grill - Hollywood's oldest restaurant, and the place where Hollywood legends customarily ate, drank, and hung out.

We arrived around 3:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon - the place was quiet, lazy in between lunch and dinner. We were seated in one of the booths along the west wall in the main dining room. To either side of us, the booths were occupied by Japanese tourists.

Our waiter, elegant in a short-waisted red jacket, white shirt and black bow tie, took our order. We ordered cocktails - a gimlet for me, a gibson for [The Man I Love] and a martini with a twist for Our Son. And then we considered the menu.

[The Man I Love] wanted a steak and a baked potato. Our Son, whose diet is adventurous, considered the sweetbreads. I was intrigued by the Welsh Rarebit - a dish I was taught to make in 7th grade home economics, and never had since. Nevertheless, it was included in Jonathan Gold's list of 99 Things to Eat in L.A. Before You Die. (It's on page 4 at the link.)

Our waiter seemed to nod in approval, especially surprised that a young person would order sweetbreads.

We also ordered a plate of olives and the celery sticks stuffed with blue cheese.

The celery sticks were fetchingly garnished with dots of black olive - the same canned black olives that nestled on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce on the other plate. In the gimlet, a neon green marachino cherry bobbed. The crunch and the tongue-tingling taste of American Blue cheese were perfect with the austere cocktails.

When our plates arrived, the illusion teetered. Unlike Gold's description of golden cheese sauce carefully spooned from a salver, with crisp bacon to crumble on as I desired, my Rarebit was a plate of orange glop surrounded by white crustless toast, the bacon and tomato slices drowning in the goo.

Our Son stared, mystified, at his plate, where a large brown lump sat amid peas and carrots. "Is this sweetbreads?" he asked.

"Are there bones? It looks like short ribs," I said. He prodded it, and nodded. "Short ribs." It was the Saturday special. He decided to go with the flow.

Our waiter returned with a bottle of wine - A cabernet blend from Raymond Burr vineyards. Yes, Perry Mason. He flung a white napkin over his shoulder with a flourish, his eyes behind huge-rimmed glasses focused on the corkscrew. The cork was stubborn. We watched, breathless in horror as his hands trembled, then the cork popped out. He poured a taste into [The Man I Love]'s glass, then bent to retrieve the napkin, which had slid behind him onto the floor during the struggle.

We shared tastes all around. The steak was wonderful. The short ribs were tender and meaty. The Rarebit was....interesting. I really should have taken a picture of it - I don't think I'll ever order it again.

When our waiter stopped by to check on us, we chatted a bit. His name is Luis. Originally from the Yucatan peninsula, he used to be a fisherman in the Gulf before he began working at Musso's in 1955. He fondly remembered the music he used to listen to in Merida, his home town.

"The short ribs were delicious," we assured him.

No dessert for us this time. We peeked into the bar. The stools were all full, even at 4:30 in the afternoon. Could we handle just a little more atmosphere, in honor of the occasion?

Yes. Manny makes the perfect sidecar.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said... Rarebit was a plate of orange glop surrounded by white crustless toast, the bacon and tomato slices drowning in the goo.

I remember buying my Mom a fondue set when I was a kid. It sounds like this was a blend of approaches?

In any case, congrats to Aunt Snow son. Good luck!

Anonymous said...


Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Sounds like the perfect "Congratulations and Going Away" celebration. I haven't been to Musso & Franks in 20 years, and I'm pretty sure Luis was our server, too.


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Sweetbreads are a favorite of mine- I usually get them in a Chilean/Uruguayan restaurant, they are on the Uruguayan side of the menu.

Here's wishing your son good fortune in his coming academic endeavors.

Anonymous said...

I've had Welsh Rarebit once, in Colonial Williamsburg, about 30 years ago. I doubt I would order it again, but it was... interesting.

I love that you take the time to get to know your server.

Congratulations and good luck to your son!