Thursday, November 15, 2007
Sometimes it seems like the only people who actually eat at Taix are the musicians. Taix is kind enough to actually give the performing bands drink and meal tickets. I've never even eaten in the restaurant itself, but I've spent a lot of time in the homey wine bar, where I can listen to local bands while I dine. Whenever I cozy up in the warm brick-interior listening to the edgy jazz, I wonder why I don't come here every weekend.
From the street, Taix can give the impression that it is past its prime. Sometimes there is a fine line between a restaurant being an institution and being outdated. From the looks of it, one would expect heavy white sauces, ladles of butter, and bygone delicacies like duck a l'orange and seafood crepes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Taix is more of a countryside French bistro, serving soups, steaks, and even a throwing a few pastas into the mix. Choose from the menu wisely, and you can have one of the best meals in town at the best price in town. The weekend shows in the wine bar have given this place a much-needed shot in the arm and Taix has become happening again.
The Taix family first opened the restaurant in their downtown hotel in 1927 as a family-style chicken joint. It has been in its present location since 1962, and is now in the capable hands of Raymond Taix and his son Michael, who is the third generation of the family working in the restaurant.
I like Taix. I really like this place. It is amost "our place." Besides the nice comfy banquettes, funky wallpaper, and amber on tap, they have an award-winning wine list that includes some pricey vintages. The little wine bar would be so relaxing if the soundman didn't CRANK the music so loud between bands. I asked him once if he could turn it down just a tad. He snapped, "I already did." and walked outside. He came back in five minutes later and turned it up even louder. I have to say, in spite of the volume, the DJ does play some great stuff, obscure blues, a weird Tina Turner cover, and some songs you are going to have to pull out your Nuggets albums to look up. And I do owe him for rescuing my favorite coat one night when I left it on a chair.
I like Taix even more now that I have noticed their weird fake rose garden in the main dining room. It reminds me of the Madonna Inn. In the spring, the flowers change to wisteria and other pastel fakes.
Taix has simple appetizers; their cheese plate is about as basic as it gets. But when you are drinking and watching a good band, it is actually a much better snack than hot wings. I don't quite trust them enough yet to try the escargot. The place is too old-fashioned, and they are a little too inexpensive. The onion soup is rich, hearty and obscene with an overabundance of cheese. My friend Ralphie, who eats there an awful lot, swears by their Salade de Saumon (Poached salmon on mixed greens with marinated cucumbers).
The petite rack of lamb is excellent, if just a tad gamey. The dauphinoise potatoes that accompany the dish are spectacular. The aged New York steak is tender and meaty, but a bit generous in addition to a soup or appetizer. I usually can't finish it. The braised short ribs are served in a rich reduction and fall right off the bone. In fact, the short ribs may be the best item on their menu. Unfortunately, the bistek is disappointing. On the night I tried it, the charred edges gave off a slight fishiness, as though the steak had been cooked right on the heels of a salmon (Salmon have heels?). I am also not fond of the Maitre d’hôtel butter on the steak, which contains far too much parsley for me.
The Pennettes Monégasque (Penne pasta with tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil) and Poitrine de Poulet Frais Grillée Diable (Grilled fresh breast of chicken with mustard, garlic shallots, capers, lemon butter sauce) are both good choices if you are not in the mood for steak. But I have to say, the braised short ribs and New York steak have stolen the show for me every time.
The daily specials pique my interest, but I always end up there on a weekend. So I have yet to try the Rabbit. And they have been roasting chicken for what, eighty years? So it must have been perfected by now. If nothing else, the specials are certainly reasonable:
Monday - Our famouse Taix roast chicken with Bordelaise Sauce - $10.95
Tuesday - Coq au Vin: Traditional French dish of chicken simmered in red wine with mushrooms- $10.95
Wednesday- Braised lamb shank - $14.95
Thursday - Tender roast pork loin - $11.95
Friday - Braised short ribs simmered in Cabernet with carrots $14.95
After the bands start, it can become difficult to find your waitress. They don't want to interrupt the entertainment. So I often end up having to crash the little cashier area in the back of the bar to ask for the check or order another round of drinks.
In spite of the slight irritations of earsplitting mood music and disappearing waitresses, I still love Taix. On a recent night, I was sinking into my chair with my belly full of steak. The Atomic Sherpas started playing, and we finally got another round of beers. The girls all started dancing, and it was a beautiful night. At one point, the Sherpas were playing a very slow, sappy song. I looked around around the table and we all exchanged easy smiles. Everyone had that contented, vaguely stoned look of peace and satiety. I felt so warm, full of good food, listening to good music, and surrounded by friends. It occured to me that this was one of those moments I would remember for a long time.
Live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Usually post-punk free-form jazz bands.
1911 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
( I guess it is officially called the 321 Lounge, but everyone I know calls it The Wine Bar).