Eating OUT – Incredible Journey to La La Land
by Barry Becker

We began our incredible journey through LA LA LAND (22 Wilmington Avenue) at its Bamboo Bar, tucked away back behind the two houses that make up this luscious purple restaurant. You have to love a bar that advertises Mega Martinis and Foo Foo Drinks, now, don’t you, and with a personable and fun bartender like David Engel mixing drinks, you feel like you’ve left town and found your own little hide-away.

While we enjoyed our cocktails and conversation, a large artistically arrayed plate arrived with Crispy Lobster Rolls with Mango Cilantro Relish. With an edible purple pansy as the radius, the four rolls radiated out from the center like spokes on a wheel atop wonderful mixed greens. The rolls were crispy, delicate and tasty, the relish a light, flavorful and perfect complement. What a way to start a meal!

Each room in the restaurant holds its own personality, all intimate and cozy. The walls are bright aqua, splattered with color, and the oversized chairs are also colorfully designed. The tables, decorated with violet table cloths and sprinkled with glitter of hearts and stars, add a magical touch.

Our delightful waitress, Leslie, started us with appetizers that were just too over-the-top. Having been raised north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I can’t say that if I saw grits on a menu I would ever order them, but the Grilled Marinated Portabello over Soft Sexy Grits with Crispy Onions and Mache Greens, well, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The wide bowl had a forest of tender greens on one side, with smooth grits on bottom, the mouth watering grilled portabello on top of them, followed by crispy onions and a smoked sundried tomato sauce. It’s now one of my new Favorite Foods. Each texture played with the next, the crunchy onions with the soft grits and the firm portabello, while the flavors danced, and that sundried tomato sauce! We also had Asian Grilled and Chilled Shrimp, with Soba Noodles, Mirin Vinaigrette and colorful edible flowers. The shrimp, huge and tasty and grilled to perfection, were wonderful. Other appetizer selections included Roasted Beet and Avocado Salad, a Smoked Salmon Timbale with Creme Fraiche, and House Made Veal and Pork Paté with apples and Calvados.

We then tasted the soup du jour, a rich, dark, spicy gumbo with a light stock full of shrimp, rice, sausage, and more, served with dense wonderful breads and wonderful olive oil.

Next Leslie brought us one of the restaurant’s signature plates, the Hearts of Romaine salad with Passionfruit Vinaigrette, Blue Cheese Crumbles and Sun Dried Cherries. It’s easy to see why this would stay on the menu for years.

Now we had the toughest decision to make. What to do about the entrees? When everything sounds so amazing, and you’ve already sampled such fabulous food, what do you choose next? We could have tried the Cedar Plank Atlantic Salmon Glazed with Maple, which sounded incredible, or the Iron Skillet Seared Magret Duck Breast with blackberries and ginger glaze with wild rice. The Herbed Roasted Cornish Game Hen and Virginia Surrey Sausage with a melange of Morel Mushrooms sounded yummy, but so did the Angus New York Strip Steak with caramelized garlic Pinot Noir Sauce and Gorgonzola Mashed Yukon Potatoes. You can see the dilemma we were in. We finally selected the Pan Seared Halibut with Sauce of Langostines, with Basil Mashed Golden Yukons and Baby Spinach, and the Grilled Rack of Lamb with Caramelized Honey-Thyme Sauce and Rustic Mashed Red Skin Potatoes. Is it possible to do justice to such food with mere words? What adjectives can describe the talents of such a chef? The halibut was superb, fresh and scrumptious atop the spinach and potatoes in a light sauce with rich langostines, and a big sprig of lavender. And the lamb? Perfection; with a huge flag of rosemary flying from the mound of perfect mashed potatoes that allowed a hint of horseradish, the asparagus spears a perfect complement. The sauce on the lamb added a rich wonderful flavor, and the meat was tender, juicy and exquisite.

Is it possible to have dessert after all this food? Of course.

Leslie brought out a sample plate that included a bundt cake with Grand Marnier and strawberries in balsamic vinegar with a hot fudge sauce—divine; the amazing Triple Chocolate Dream, which is a flourless chocolate rum cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache icing, sitting atop a grid of drizzled chocolate and caramel, served with whipped cream and mint leaves; and finally, keeping it company on the plate, a moaccachino cheese cake, light and fabulous.

An evening at La La Land is a great escape—a sumptuous oasis of intimacy and comfort, of amazing and creative food, attentive service, and great attention to detail. Make sure it’s on your list of one of the town’s finest dining experiences (and don’t forget to try the grits).

LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 6, June 4, 1999