Walk into the restaurant and Frank is crooning over the music system, the bar is properly dim and the booths are generous and seem to invite business meetings or rendezvous.
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Old school faves like Lobster Thermidor, Oysters Rockefeller and Veal with Morel Sauce scream food from another era. In fact, many of the most popular dishes at the Dal Rae were created when the restaurant opened and haven't been changed at all.
The Oysters Rockefeller is as rich as its name sake but instead of herbs and bread crumbs, the oysters are topped with hollandaise sauce, creamed spinach, bacon bits and a little Parmesan cheese.
There's also a Parmesan cheese crust on the sea bass alla Ben. Ben and his brother Bill came to LA to become lawyers instead they became restauranteurs. Their first place was in Inglewood, opened in 1951. Now, his sons Kevin and Lorin run the restaurant with a third generation of Smiths already working there.
Back to that sea bass. The fresh fish has a surprising parmesan crust that adds texture and crunch. The sauce is old school lemon butter and the whole thing is topped with sweet caramelized Maui onions. The onion is the counterbalance to the richness of the sauce.
Another dish from the original menu is the "Famous Pepper Steak." To be sure, this is a unique take on a pepper steak; a prime New York cut that's pan seared with a black peppercorn crust, then topped with a wine-y bordelaise sauce and a mess of sautéed onions, scallions and bacon. The meat is tender, the black pepper is prominent but not dominant, the bacon is as much seasoning as it is texture. All in all, there's a reason why this dish is so popular and has needed no tweaking over the years.
By the way, if the preparation is old school, so are the portions. The veal chop with morel sauce is listed on the menu as "Large Veal Chop." The giant bone-in chop comes grilled and placed leaning against a thatch of al dente cooked asparagus. The morel sauce is a reduction that takes hours but ultimately dresses the veal as elegantly as Vera Wang dresses her brides. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I saw a morel sauce on a menu. It's silky with a touch of cream, with a contrasting brightness from a splash of sherry and its chockfull of morels.
Chef Hendrik Christensen also prepared the Cottage Fried Potatoes. What sounds like something you'd get with your eggs at the corner coffee shop, is actually an elegant presentation of thinly sliced potatoes layered in a pan in such a way that the whole dish looks like a flower. It's pan roasted to a golden crisp. Lots of butter, a hidden helping of jalapeño under the top layer and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on the top, ensures a crispy on the outside, tender on the inside dish that will hold its own with either fish or meat.
Complete the sentimental journey with a table side bananas flambé. Kevin, himself, will come to the table and caramelize butter and brown sugar and fresh bananas. Three kinds of liquor go into the pan and with a tilt toward the heat source, whoosh! Flambé! The fruit is served over vanilla ice cream and toasted almond slices.
PS The martini I drank in the beginning of the Dinner Out on Dal Rae was a fake. Too bad, that seems like just the right cocktail for a true Mad Men era experience.
9023 E. Washington Blvd
Pico Rivera, Ca 90660
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