West Hollywood, Los Angeles
La Conversation has the feel of a great neighborhood patisserie – exactly as intended. As soon as you walk in the door they have a display case of mouthwatering pastries. The décor is quaint to an extreme and the vibe is friendly and relaxed. The waiters know regulars by name.
It’s a low key and easy weekend brunch spot, always crowded but never a long wait and you can sit inside or outside. They bring you a small basket of iced croissants and mini muffins when you sit down, which immediately eases the pastry craving and allows you to look beyond the baked goods section of the menu. The brunch menu is small and not particularly creative, but executed well and very reasonably priced. I think the best things on the brunch menu are the croissant benedicts, which take full advantage of the French bakery in the kitchen. The smoked salmon benedict is my favorite with my only complaint being that the portion is huge and it’s not a dish that is easily taken on the road. The scrambled eggs are also a consistent winner, coming out fluffy and perfectly cooked, and with a golden yellow color that makes you think that the chickens who laid them maybe ate something besides cornmeal.
I’ve only ordered lunch food once or twice, most recently this weekend when I tried the roasted beet and goat cheese salad with candied walnuts. I almost always order a version of this salad at pretty much any restaurant where it is on the menu so have lots of points of comparison on this one, and I’m sad to say La Conversation was not at the head of the class. I thought the ingredients were all very fresh and the salad was presented in an appetizing and attractive way, with the red beet rounds and round slices of orange placed on top in alternating order. This however, is where the trouble began. Oranges sliced that way are pretty hard to cut up in bite size pieces, and these still had the seeds in them, which somehow made it feel even harder to attempt to eat the oranges. The beets were also in rounds, which while less problematic, makes for really messy salad eating, where you have to pull the beet on the side of plate to cut it, leaving a big smear of beet, and if you’re me, upping the risk of a clothing beet stain with every cut. This may seem like I’m being overly critical – and I am, because it wasn’t a bad salad – but if you’re going for the whole eating experience, not just the ingredients, then it actually really matters how things are cut up so that you can get the right mix of flavors in every bite. One last thing about this poor, embattled salad – the kicker for me was the croutons, which were squarely savory – heavily herbed and possibly from a bag. They didn’t go at all with the salad, but even after taking them out, the herb taste permeated what was really intended to be a sweet salad.
Next time I go to La Conversation – and there will definitely be a next time, because I actually love this place, despite my salad angst – I think I am going to stick to breakfast.More info: La Conversation http://laconversationcafe.com/ 638 N Doheny Dr West Hollywood, CA 90069 (310) 858-0950