Whatever West Hollywood Lola Wants, Lola Gets...
Loren Dunsworth, nicknamed "Lola" arrived in Los Angeles via Vancouver, British Columbia and has become one of the city's hippest and most influential female epicures. Less than 6 months in to her arrival she met and formed a partnership with restaurateur brothers, Frederic and Nicolas Meschin (The Little Door, Bo Koas).
Back in Vancouver she learned the ropes, earning her restaurant chops by opening the incredible Pan Pacific Hotel. That experience prepared her to partner with the brothers as they opened the West Hollywood hangout, The Paris & Mexico Café in Los Angeles. The three continued their successes by opening The Flaming Colossus, a 700 capacity supper-club extravaganza in June, 1987. Their next endeavor was a Moroccan Supper Club, Po Na Na Souk on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, which opened in May, 1989.
Opportunity knocked again for "Lola" when the Colachis brothers, along with Mario Oliver wooed her back downtown to head up the Special Events department at their world famous Vertigo Night Club-until the club was bought by "the artist formally known as Prince" in July 1991.
After that, she decided to take a year off, utilizing her celebrity contacts to land a job as Segment Producer for The Dennis Miller Show. Lola was approached by longtime friend John Lyons, the renowned nightier from Boston and hired by Isaac Tiggrett of Hard Rock Cafe fame to find "just the right person" to introduce his latest project, "The House of Blues," to Los Angeles. She became the first person hired by House of Blues, coming in as Director of Special Events.
After an exhausting-yet-exciting year, Lola decided it was time to fulfill her lifelong dream of opening her own restaurant-and so Lola's was born. She has created a space (previously a house and two restaurants) that is both elegant and comfortable, with an inviting mix of warm earth tones accented by animal prints. She strives to keep it professional yet personable; making sure her guests feel like they are entering her home to dine-which she has done with great success.
Ken Radcliff, the general manager greeted us; an affable man with great energy who has been with Lola's right from the start. He sat us at a table that offered us a perfect view of other diners in the various nooks and crannies throughout the inter- esting restaurant. We ordered cocktails immediately; John the Chardonnay and I a Martini from their dozens of selections. Ken explained when they first opened, they reinvigorated the idea of fresh martinis and claim to be originator of my choice, the Apple Martini, which is their signature drink. It lived up to its reputation; the perfect bal- ance of sweet and sour, taste quenching, topped with a thin slice of Granny Smith apple.
On to the food, the menu has been refined wisely over the past 15 years and is an array of international, Americanized comfort food. Our well-informed server was named Wayne (apparently a reality TV producer on the side with an edgy new show), who brought us a tasty teaser of fresh sliced carrots and pickles, accompanied by fresh potato chips fried in truffle oil. His suggestion for appetizers started with the Baked Artichoke; a work of art with layers of artichoke and Emmen cheese wrapped in a crusty phyllo pastry. Next came their Calamari in a healthy portion, cooked to crispy perfection, served with marinara and tartar sauces.
Other tempting menu items included; Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup with Black Bean Cakes, Seared Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna and Blue Crab Cakes w/fennel/apple slaw and a vanilla bean aioli. It was tough to choose a salad, but Wayne suggested the Warm Goat Cheese & Spinach Salad-baby spinach, grilled asparagus, fennel and roasted almonds topped with balsamic vinaigrette; it was flavorful and easily a meal in itself.
For entrees, I chose the Parmesan Crusted Halibut, which was beautifully served as a generous portion, accompanied with mashed potatoes and sautéed baby spinach in a citrus cream sauce. It was sensational! John went for the Pan Roasted Caribbean Striped Bass, served with whipped Yukon Gold potatoes and a spring vegetable med- ley in a tomato butter sauce-another hit. We also sampled a bit of their Italian fare; An- gel Hair Pasta with Lobster in a pink sauce (I never found out what was in that sauce, but it was heavenly).
We couldn't eat the whole menu in one sit- ting, but there were some definite standouts worth mentioning; Lola's signature Mac & Cheese for one, is quoted to be "simply-the- best!"More Italian choices consisted of Lola's Classic Pizza with a fun choice of toppings, the Vegetarian Lasagna, her Smoked Salmon Penne Spinach or the classic Spa- ghetti and Meatballs.
A young lady at an adjacent table had the fresh-ground Top Sirloin Burger (it may have been the ground Salmon Burger) and I overheard her use the word "excellent" to describe it. The diverse menu also includes an Asian Vegetable Stir-fry, Chicken Marsala or Picata, grilled Pork Chops, N.Y. Steak with Béarnaise sauce or a Cabernet demi-glace, Horseradish Crusted Salmon with Orange-coriander sauce, or Grilled Mahi rubbed with Thyme and Garlic (I understand that I must go back for Lola's Meatloaf as well).
Stuffed to the gills, with no room for dessert, we ordered the Chocolate Bread Pudding and Strawberry Shortcake to go. I ate the bread pudding while writing this article-totally decadent, inducing an intense sugar rush that got my creative juices flowing. Sadly the Strawberry Shortcake is missing, guess I know who ate that (hmm, must go back to sample that one)
In Lola's kitchen at the helm, is Chef Reagan Moore, Jr. with his own fascinating back-story. While training at U.S. Marine Corps', Food Service Specialist School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in May of 1990, his staff Sergeant was conducting roll call and out came the words "Private Moore!", so began his culinary career.
Not only did he learn to cook, but how to function under pressure while being yelled at-a skill set which benefits him still today, especially busy nights when the food order printer spits out ticket after ticket. After thereservesheattendedTheCaliforniaCulinaryAcad- emy, where he received the Founder's Award and The Danielle Carlisle Walker Award for Culinary Excellence upon graduation. He then traveled up and down the California coast making various stops, broadening his culinary horizons. He became the executive chef at The Bali Hai Restaurant in Shelter Island, The Belly Up Tavern/Wild Note Café in Solana Beach and was the restaurant chef for the Park Hyatt San Francisco.
On Valentine's Day 2010, Chef Reagan found himself rediscovering his love for food while dining at Lola's in West Hollywood;"Lola's was very honest cuisine, mak- ing everything from scratch, focused on serving com- fort food and doing it well which appealed to the chef in me." An off-hand conversation with Loren about how he liked to cook breakfast led to her challenging him to start a weekend brunch, which they did with great success. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The full menu is served from 5:30 p.m. until 2:00 a.m., every night of the week. They accommodate groups from as few as few as 6 to 350 for any event and can cater your party or meeting off-site as well. It's a great spot to catch a late-night nosh after a movie, concert or the theatre, or to simply hang out in the bar with its 72"flat screen TV and the adjoining pool table room.
LoLa's is located at 945 n. Fairfax avenue, between Melrose avenue and santa Monica Boulevard, on the corner of Romaine in West Hollywood. Reservations: 323.654.5652 or lolasla.com (catch the theme song on their website; it's "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets" from the musical Damn Yankees).