Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, California is the place where world cuisine collides in the most appropriate way. You have Pan-Asian cafés, state-of-the-art destinations like The French Laundry, Hollywood-particular Jewish delicacies (during the recent fires here, the 11,000 evacuees holed-up in Qualcomm Stadium were, in typically enlightened California fashion, offered kosher catering after their free acupuncture sessions) and some of the best Italian restaurants this side of Rome (the latest is All'Angelo). And in Los Angeles you have the sickly sweet smell of cinnamon pumped out into department-store malls, forcing you to sit right down and immediately order a coffee and a bagel.

At the dinner following the opening of Tracey Emin's show at the Gagosian gallery in LA last week (overheard: "Is that a vagina?"), we sat down to an almost quintessentially generic modern American restaurant meal. In a good way. At Dominick's, we were treated to market greens, roasted beets and fried goat's cheese; to grilled broken steak with arugula and Parmesan; to sweet Italian peppers and polenta; and to grilled shrimp in butternut squash purée and wholewheat sheep's milk ricotta ravioli. And garlic fries, of course. It's not au courant; on one hand you could say it's the culinary equivalent of the city's pick'*'mix architecture, and on the other simply a manifestation of LA's mania for reinvention.

But this obsession with feeding the beast can bring out the worst in the city. There are still too many waiters intent on telling you the name of the farm where your zucchini came from (they take provenance oh-so-seriously here), and too many waiters who take a little too much pleasure asking, "Are you familiar with how our menu works?" Also, there are still too many vodka sommeliers (the namedropping of brands is almost as fashionable as the razor clam), still too many menus made of metal, wood or fabric, and too many menus that are bigger than the table you're eating on.

Another trick employed by serving staff here is ownership of the food, something you'll notice in shoe shops too: "I don't have any of the ranch pork and heirloom squash, but I do have a half-timbered black walking boot in a nine and a half. I can seriously recommend it. They come as a pair."

We're thrilled, but can we eat now?

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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