Funky Luna Park
Luna Park, Mid-Wilshire District
Like the yellow brick road to fantasy land in a mixed bag of whimsical décor, Luna Park is known for its atmosphere, funky artwork, and playful fun-loving menu.
It's a post-modern bistro, with dark elevated wooden Pullman booths, some cloaked in muslin curtains, and kitschy crystal chandeliers that might have been decorated with "Mom's" "cheap chic" old jewelry. The ceilings are neatly exposed, and there are candles everywhere, from the popular bar, to the French glass doors that form an entire wall to La Brea Ave. In addition, larger than life interesting cartoon drawings grace the walls, along with back-lighted windows to nowhere. I was there on a Tuesday night and it was wall to wall with the beautiful young & restless, whose animated conversations became pleasantly chatty at times. I hadn't been to the Luna for about two years, and went back because of the memorable food and to take a peek at any changes.
The restaurant recently appointed Executive Chef Todd Butler, previously of Santa Monica's Nook Bistro. He's also helmed as Chef de Cuisine at Clement Ader Golf Club & Restaurant in France. Chef Butler brings a global flavor to the menu, while still keeping in tune with the restaurant's concept of fresh, seasonal cuisine with nothing priced over $18. A new gas and wood burning oven inspired the Chef to add a menu of special pizzas (Moroccan Meatball, and Turkish) as well as freshly baked breads, sweet focaccia and the "Breakfast Pizza" with Bacon, Egg and Cheddar, plus Pear Tomatoes.
In addition, Luna Park now offers outdoor seating (80 seats) with a recent patio expansion boasting an interior re-design, including digital, flat-screen art in the restrooms. Angelenos can still expect the same, casual bistro with their classic Luna Park menu items such as "Make Your Own S'mores" and all the other "doozies!" I must stress that young people really love this place.
One of the stand-out menu items is their warm goat cheese fondue with grilled bread and sliced apples. On other occasions we enjoyed entrée's of oven roasted Sea Bass, but this time I had the marvelous grilled salmon, with black Beluga lentils, topped with oranges, Kalamata olives, and tiny cherry tomatos.
If you're part of the young crowd that gathers at Luna Park, you might be enjoying the once popular home-dish of oven baked macaroni & cheese, and like everything else it's made differently here. One can have it with ham, but the big difference is that it's oven baked with bits of broccoli, and the macaroni is large and chunky, almost crisp! Other menu items were grilled Niman Ranch Flat Iron Steak; BBQ baby back ribs with watermelon and roasted corn on the cobb.
It's a fine menu with excellent pasta, (huge portions) prepared with tomatoes, capers, olives, basil and Feta. Others had meatballs a'la spaghetti, Moroccan style, mixing beef with ground lamb meatballs. Or you could just have a Niman Ranch beef patty with French Fries and cheese, avocado or bacon. Of course there's Pizza with many toppings, including one that's called "The Boli," rolled around hot Salami, Gruyere cheese and oven dried tomato relish, (stromboli style). It's an enclosed sandwich wrapped in pizza dough, that originated in Philadelphia.
Desserts were everything you would make at home if you had the ingredients. The Angel Food Cake was loaded with strawberries and Mascarpone cream. Another interesting sandwich was made with ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate Gelato with candied walnus. I sort of wanted the deep fried apple pie served warm with caramel sauce and ice cream, but I couldn't squeeze anymore in. There were other desserts, including the Banana Foster with banana ice cream. How can you not love this place!
Creativity rules here, especially when it comes to cocktails, such as the Volcanic Scorpion Bowl for two people, a mysterious blend of fruit juices and exotic liquors, ($22). Or their signature award-winning drinks; Mojitos and Appletinis. You will find excellent cocktails, wines, Cognac,
Beers, Grappa, Sangria, and loads of specialty cocktails.
But they outdid themselves by taking a step back into history, turning an American original into their latest libation, the "You're a Pepper" Dr. Pepper cocktail. This was soda pop introduced to the country at the World State Fair in St. Louis, 1904. It's all grown up, making its debut as a contemporary drink at Luna Park. Co-owner, A.J. Gilbert explains, "When I discovered that we could get our hands on the original Dublin Dr. Pepper, I couldn't help but jump at the opportunity to bring back that classic. So, the "You're a Pepper" cocktail was born and requires assembly. The imbiber is presented with an 8-oz Dublin's Dr. Pepper along with two side cars served on a silver tray garnished with a handful of Dr. Pepper flavored Jelly-Bellies. That's their cue to sing, "I'm a pepper – you're a pepper – she's a pepper – he's a pepper; wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?
In addition to all the above, diners are transported back to a state of childhood bliss for "doodlers." Sixty four colored Crayolas are presented to diners that have a need to create.
Starters, soups & salads, $6.50-$11.75; Large salads, pasta & pizza, $9.50-$14.75; Entrées, $10.95-$18.00.
Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2:30pm. Dinner, 7-days, from 5:30pm. Brunch Saturday & Sunday, 11:30am-3:00pm. 672 S. La Brea Ave. Los Angeles, CA; (323)934-2110, (near Wilshire). Valet & meter parking. Major credit cards OK. www.lunaparkla.com. And if you are lucky enough to get a booth, take a cushion along, unless you have a "plump-rump."