For years – well, really, decades – the dark maroon bar at the corner of Culver and Sepulveda Boulevards was the place to go retro. Martinis, steaks and a time capsule atmosphere that delivered you directly to 1962. It’s new, and it’s old, and it’s back.
From the new management – Hans Rockenwagner and Josiah Citrin – some fine old ideas are being put into practice. A simple menu, excellent ingredients, attentive staff and just a touch of glamour.
Starters include a table-side presentation of caesar salad for two, a shrimp cocktail, or a French onion soup. There are no bad choices here, and while I confess to being a fanatic about French onion soup, I’m only slightly less fanatical about caesar salad. The soup is very good, and salad is great.
I was truly knocked out by the caesar, one of the best I’ve ever had. Making the dressing from scratch in the salad bowl as a performance piece is the kind retro that reflects on how much of any dining experience is about the people offering it. Dear John’s is a small room, and with almost one-quarter of that taken up by the bar, presenting this kind of dining requires a waitstaff with a sense of choreography and a kitchen with serious timing skills.
The spotlight is on steaks, with three styles available, but there is also a bit of old school Italian; a ‘cordon bleu’ style take on chicken parmigana, with the sauce and the cheese stuffed inside the chicken breast, which is then breaded and fried, and a plate spaghetti and clams with a really delightfully seasoned red sauce, dedicated to Sinatra.
Speaking of the steak, it does fall into the “if you have to ask you can’t afford it,” category, but it also falls into the ‘”absolutely worth it” category. Selecting from Prime New York Strip, Ribeye, Filet of Beef or Prime Sirloin, it’s a carnivore’s slice of heaven, with Bernaise, Maitre d’Hotel butter or Peppercorn-Brandy sauces to make it all just a touch more indulgent.
Don’t miss the sides – creamed corn, pan seared broccolini. creamed spinach; all done to perfection. How does one make a perfect creamed spinach without the traditional touch of nutmeg? It can happened. It happened at my table. Important to begin with perfect spinach.
If you have the time and space for a really indulgent dining experience, Dear John’s serves some unforgettable meals. But don’t put it off for someday; the restaurant is scheduled to close when the lease runs out in 2021.