Monday, March 09, 2009

Rate-A-Restaurant #200: Pacific Dining Car

(Photo by Ellen Bloom.)

Restaurant: Pacific Dining Car

Location: 1310 West 6th Street (Downtown)

Type of restaurant: Steakhouse

We stipulated: For our sixth blogiversary and our 200th Rate-A-Restaurant review, we decided to keep up with the tradition we started with our 100th (when we threw a luncheon at Cole's) and hit another L.A. landmark. Like Cole's, which we'd never eaten at until our 100th, it had to be an instituion where we'd somehow never dined. Despite my 13 years in L.A. and Maria's 25 years here (hey wait a sec, that sounds like another good excuse to party), neither of us had ever set foot inside the Pacific Dining Car.

That was about to change. Coincidentally, a friend of mine, Todd Beck, hails from the fourth generation family that still owns and operates the PDC. I called up Todd -- and he got me in touch with PDC manager Nick Lerner and chef Michel Cornu, who put together a prix fixe menu just for the occasion.

As you know, we then put out the call for diners -- and got a great group of more than 20 bloggers and blog fans on Saturday to join us. My only stipulation to them? Write their own review, in our Rate-A-Restaurant style. We'll be adding links to their reviews at the bottom of this post in the coming days.

They stipulated: The prix fixe menu would come to $40 with tax -- but tipping and drinks were extra. PDC also comped our parking, which was a nice touch. The restaurant also set up a dining room and printed menus just for the event. Normally, the meal would have cost much more than that -- the PDC, as any of you who've dined there know, is not cheap. But the restaurant was able to absorb some of the cost thanks to the marketing opportunity of the event (after all, several bloggers are in the process of writing their own reviews!)

My favorite artwork in the place -- photo by Ellen Bloom.

What we ordered: As you may gather from the menu photo, the $40 prix fixe included: Appetizer -- Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Spring Mix Salad & Mango Beet Dressing; Entree -- Petit Filet Mignon (I got mine medium rare) and Monkfish with Lobster Sauce with Vegetable Medley; and Dessert -- Strawberry and Vanilla Vacherin / Compote of Seasonal Berries

High point: The steak and the fish were both incredible. I'm not sure what possessed me to get the filet grilled medium rare (I usually go medium), but I'm glad I did. Tender, with a nice crispy crust. And I've never been a huge monkfish fan, but I'm now a convert. The salad was also nice and hearty, almost like an entree salad; and the vacherin, a nice mix of cold and crunch. Needless to say, my plates went away clean.

Low point: The entree's vegetable medley was surprisingly sweet, which was a bit too much after the sweetness of the salad and before the sweetness of dessert. And it pains me to pay $7 for a side order of fries... but it made the Blogger Preschooler happy. (Although, rather than eat them, he preferred dunking them in water. Ahh, four-year-olds!)

Overall impression: This was probably one of the more unusual events the PDC had to put on in a while -- a luncheon for bloggers?! But no need to worry: Everyone was on top of their game. The kitchen, the wait staff, the entire operation had a very, very good day. Here's what makes that even more impressive: Somehow we got our wires crossed, and it wasn't until Friday that the PDC realized that our event was the following day. The scramble to accommodate us meant having to tweak the menu -- and yet they pulled it off, no problem.

Now, as to the restaurant: Maria was definitely impressed with the environment; the place is even classier inside than expected, and it's pretty cool that a portion of the restaurant is still inside an old railway car. I love the fact that the PDC is open 24 hours a day -- in case you're in the mood for a classy steak dinner at 3 a.m.!

Chance we'll go back: The PDC will definitely be on our "special occasions" list. But more immediately, I keep hearing great things about their breakfast -- so we'll probably do that sometime soon!

Thanks to everyone who attended, including Scott and friend, Shannon and Mai, Sean and Pamela, Mika, Ellen and Larry, Chris and Kristin, Eric and Nicholle, Scott, Celia and Jim, Erin and Katie, and Todd. Special thanks to Shannon, who let me use her camera when ours died -- ack, the blogger's worst nightmare!

Here are other reviews from the day:

Ellen Bloom: "The meal was beautifully served and everything was completely delicious; the service was spot-on; the ambiance is clubby and classic; the company was amiable and amusing."

Tropico Station: "The medium-rare filet mignon was superb, which is certainly fitting from a restaurant with a giant steer mounted on their sign."

Meeko On Main: "The waitstaff was amazingly good! Highly efficient and attentive. The atmosphere of the place is high end but not pretentious."

More to come -- send your links to me!

For a complete list of our nearly 200 restaurant reviews, check out our companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.

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