More Menus from the Eighties: LA Game Changers

November 7, 2018

It’s hard to convey to a contemporary audience what a huge breakthrough Mandarette was at the time.  Philip Chiang, who’d been running his mother’s Beverly Hills Mandarin Restaurant, decided to open a casual little place of his own serving the food the staff made for themselves back in the kitchen.  But there was a twist: Philip was brought up in Japan, and the food had a spare, clean quality that was completely new to inexpensive Chinese fare.

I couldn’t get enough of the food.  i think of that, wistfully, each time I pass a PF Chiang (after Philip sold Manderette he went on to co-found the fast food chain). If only he was still serving this!


Angeli was another huge game changer.  Marcella Hazan once told me she considered Evan Kleiman’s little cafe one of the only authentic Italian places in America. (There seems to be some question that Evan may have invented the caprese salad. Not sure about that….)


Although it came a bit later (1986), Bruce Marder’s Rebecca’s, with its wonderfully weird building designed by Frank Gehry, was another seminal restaurant.  Back then, before John Sedlar started opening his beautiful places, upscale Mexican food made with top quality ingredients and served in a fancy environment was not part of the LA dining scene.

And finally, just for the fun of it, here’s the late, very great Michel Richard’s wedding banquet, created by a group of friends:

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