Monday, 1 August 2011

Dancing with the Stars at The Ivy

“You must do The Ivy, dear; you simply muuust…” my friends cooed when they heard I would be visiting Los Angeles. “OK lah,” I thought to myself, “since I’ve also read so much about the place…why not check it out?”

So, on my i-Phone, under “Must-See”, in went “Ivy”. I knew it would be easier landing on the moon than getting a table at this LA legend.

House signature: Ivy Gimlet
“Guess what?” my Californian friend, Elsa Schelin, said when I arrived in LA, “twisted a few arms; we’re go for lunch this Wednesday, The Ivy.” I almost exploded, but managed a dignified: “Yeah, really? The Ivy? Cool; owe you one, girl.”

The reservation was made days in advance; and we were running late on the day. “I’ve already called to move the time forward twice, honey,” Elsa intoned, as we hurried the last few meters, “the guy at the other end was such a bitch”.

We arrived; and after about ten minutes in line, were shown to our table. I sat down; and I looked at the people at the tables and in the waiting line. Now I knew what the fuss was all about.

It was like a spread from Vogue -- Pradas, Guccis, LVs, as far as the eye could see. Everyone looked and behaved like a model. I spotted a couple of bags swinging on the signature white picket fence, tossed as carelessly as you would some crappy old backpack; they were Chanel (current season, no less!).

Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce
Under such “pressure”, I had to fight an overwhelming urge to rush back to my hotel, and change…you see, my Dolce & Gabbana shirt was one season late!

The open-air terrace in front of the restaurant was, apparently, the epicenter of people- and celebrity-watching. That was where we sat. On the other side of the road, right across from us, cohorts of paparazzi permanently stood by, ready to strike. Because you never know who might just pop in for lunch: Brad Pitt, Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba…

Guacamole with Homemade Tortillas
For all that ultra-glam, the inside of the restaurant was surprisingly low-key. Some of you might even find the homey tavern-like interior familiar, because the restaurant had starring scenes in several Hollywood movies, such as the one in 1995’s Get Shorty in which Danny DeVito and John Travolta over-ordered a meal and then abandoned it.

The Ivy’s menu is not extensive, being basically American cuisine with influences of Louisiana and Cajun. As usual with a first time visit, I stuck to the specials of the day and the signature dishes. The flavors were robust, the ingredients very fresh, and the presentation was tasteful but decidedly home-style casual – very Nigella. But hey, who was there for the food anyway?

The waiters themselves were serious eye candy. They’re just there, I thought, waiting for that lucky break in Tinsel Town. That guy with the dark tousle serving the plate of poached salmon…could he be the next Orlando Bloom? And that athletic-looking guy with straw-colored hair behind the counter…a Matt Damon-in-waiting?
Crab Meat Sandwich

People were shmoozing and there was lots of air-kissing and table-hopping all around. A man in drainpipe jeans looked suspiciously 70-ish but had a face as tight as the skin on my buttocks. He sidled by, like he was some lithe young model on the catwalk, but his calcified gait gave him away.

Old-Fashioned Red Velvet Cake
The Ivy had cast its spell -- I had on my best American “accent” and speaking louder than I normally would, and I was waving my hands around a bit too much. I didn’t realize all this, until Elsa turned around and hissed: “Drama queen!” 

Like I said, who goes to The Ivy for the food?

The Ivy
113N Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles
CA 90048
Tel: (310) 274-8303

Note: Reservations are a must. Try and ask for a table at the open-air patio in summer, or near the fireplace in the front dining room during winter. These are the best seats for seeing and being seen. Expect to spend around US$100 per person for lunch, inclusive of drinks.

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