Friday Night 05-APR-13
Our evening begins with a drive on the 405 from the San Fernando Valley. A quick shortcut up the hill to Mulholland, and across the bridge at Skirball Center, and onto Sepulveda and then up the new onramp to the 405 Freeway south. Of course, it’s necessary to mention the MAJOR CONSTRUCTION that is always a potential nightmare for the freeway traveler. CalTrans and the contractors are widening, replacing and retrofitting the bridges and overpasses. They are building huge retaining walls, literally moving mountains and rebuilding the on and off ramps between the valley and West Los Angeles.
I’m in the passenger seat tonight, so don’t freak out.
At Hotel Angeleno, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel, every room includes complimentary valet parking, free wireless internet access, courtesy shuttle service, and a complimentary wine hour every evening in the lobby. This L.A. landmark building, once was a Holiday Inn, and is the last of a vanishing breed of circular hotels from the 1960s. Mixed reviews after the renovation and renaming as Hotel Angeleno, a joie de vivre hotel, because of the high noise level due to it’s proximity to the 405 freeway!
The new retaining walls that were recently built and remain unfinished (that’s unfinished interlaced rebar in the picture) are true feats of engineering! Think about the half-mountain and mammoth pile of earth that was once there. The carpool lane runs the entire distance of the 405, from the valley to the airport and beyond. They are doing construction on some of the busiest on and off ramps in the nation, rebuilding massive bridges and under/overpasses and widening the freeway on both sides. Maybe someday they’ll be done….
Traffic was light until we got past Sunset Blvd, which was amazing considering it was Friday at 5:30pm and then we hit traffic and it took a little time to get to the Santa Monica Blvd exit. They are doing construction at Sunset, Wilshire, Santa Monica and Olympic. The Santa Monica exit was down to only one lane because of the road work, opening up into four turn lanes only at the bottom of the ramp. I used to work in West L.A. and the traffic was bad with all four lanes open, so I can’t even imagine what it must be like at rush hour these days!
We exited the freeway, turned west and a short distance down Santa Monica Blvd, in a neighborhood with ample metered street parking, we arrived at our first destination: Dinner at Nan Ban Kan restaurant in West L.A.
I’m going to take a moment here to mention Los Angeles’ Homeless Problem, before we get to the foodie stuff. This neighborhood is adjacent to the V.A. Hospital in Westwood and has a large homeless population and disabled veterans living in crappy motel/apartments. It’s impossible to not be moved by the presence of the less fortunate among us. I saw a guy in an army jacket sitting and counting a huge stack of one dollar bills, the earnings from a long day of panhandling at his freeway exit. And I watched a woman in a wheelchair, with only one foot, push herself backwards across an intersection and up the ramp at the curb, and it only took her two traffic light changes and a ton of effort to accomplish this simple task we take for granted. So, think of these people who aren’t as lucky or blessed as you and do something about the silent problem across “the richest country in the world” (please volunteer or make a donation if you can afford it)
Thank you for your attention and now back to Dinner at Nan Ban Kan.
Party of six for dinner! Reservations are suggested because it’s not a very large restaurant and the yakitori grill and sushi bar take up a lot of the dining room space. They actually fit us in and we had a nice table against the wall, but we promised to finish before 7:30pm because they had a reservation for another party. That was fine because we were going to the show and had to get to the theater. We started with drinks. a hot towel, a raw vegetable salad appetizer with dressing/dipping sauce and an order of shrimp and vegetable tempura, which was good, but not great.
I’ll mention the service right now, it was CHAOTIC. We were served by three waiters, one waitress and the host/owner, and they didn’t get the order right! It wan’t really bad service, there just wasn’t proper attention to detail and timing. I had to ask for another coke three times and they didn’t write down the my order of chicken meatballs when I ordered them.
We ordered a lot of different things, it’s a “small plate” experience, from the grill or sushi bar. On the Menu: spicy yellowtail roll, hot sake, grilled shishito peppers, grilled brussel sprouts, live scallop, chicken meatballs, pork belly, spicy tuna roll, california roll, and a grilled rice ball filled with salmon. Other people in our party tried the black cod, yellowtail collar, stuffed shitake mushrooms and grilled zucchini. The food was also kind of “hit and miss”, some things being terrific and other things being just okay. I recommend the chicken meatballs, shishito peppers, live scallop, (real crab) california roll and everyone loved the stuffed mushrooms. The pork belly was overcooked and very chewy, like bacon flavored gum (which I actually think might be a great product).
We finished dinner and split the check, six people ate and drank for just under $200, including the tip (~$33 per person). It was a fun dinner with good company, and although it was “hit and miss” on the food and service, we had a great time. So we paid, and as promised, we were done before the other party arrived.
We got back into our cars and drove around the corner for the “Assisted Living” Opening Night Performance and Party at the Odyssey Theater on Sepulveda Blvd. Parking $3, Ticket to the Show $45, witnessing a great performance and laughing for 95 minutes straight, PRICELESS. http://www.odysseytheatre.com
SPOILER ALERT! – although not key to the plot, the following may be considered by some as a spoiler, so I will warn you to read at your own risk. (Thank you!)
“Assisted Living” is a wonderful two person-four character production starring and written by Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman, and directed by Larry Biederman. The actors are married in real life and wrote the play over twenty years together. Both actors play dual roles: In Act One, Dooley first plays Frank Maxwell an aging soap opera actor who has played “Doctor Dan” for his entire career and Holzman plays his long-suffering girlfriend Emily. And then in Act Two, Dooley plays Edgar, a dying man whose son has put him in an “old folks” home and Holzman plays his long-suffering daughter Heather, a true soap opera fan. And finally in Act Three, Dooley plays Frank and Holzman plays Heather. The play runs 95 minutes without an intermission.
The play’s writing and dialogue is witty, smart, touching and funny. The characters were incredibly genuine, real, and portrayed by two fantastic actors. The chemistry that Dooley and Holzman have as a married couple is ever present in their acting performance. He is a great actor and she was terrific. The set, lighting and technical effects worked great to serve the story, and 95 minutes later without an intermission, they received a standing ovation from the opening night audience.
Following the performance there was a catered reception outdoors next to the theater, with food and drink and many industry friends and other familiar faces. I was still full from dinner, so I didn’t eat and only drank a bottled water at the party.
And the high point of my evening was meeting Charlotte Rae again (Mrs. Garrett from “Different Strokes” and “Facts of Life”). She is such a sweet and wonderful woman (and a cancer survivor). I had met her a long time ago and we spent some time talking at the party before I asked her if she would take a picture with me. Of course, she was happy to oblige:
We hung out and schmoozed for awhile, while waiting for Paul and Winnie to join the crowd. When they finally emerged, we congratulated them and then said goodnight.
West L.A. Fadeaway! We’re back on the 405 freeway, dodging lunatic drivers in a hurry to go wherever, and we drove back home to the valley. It was a terrific Friday night. Dinner was fun, the show was great and a good time was had by all! (And big thanks to my designated driver, even though I didn’t drink anymore after dinner)