Fresh Fare at Mogan’s Cafe (Pacific Palisades)

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Mogans Cafe in Pacific Palisades offers fresh fare at reasonable prices.

In any new restaurant owner’s venture, there is the attempt to make a mark, to put your own stamp on an eatery, and to offer the best fare possible, with hopefully reasonable prices. Ryan Newcomb of Mogan’s Cafe in Pacific Palisades is such an owner.

A few months after he and his partner bought the place, he was found at the outside patio of the cafe, which is located in Highlands Plaza at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Palisades Drive, building a wall to separate the dining area from the food serving station. Newcomb said he knew exactly what he wanted and to get it right, he decided to build it himself.

It is such care and concern that make a visit to Mogan’s Cafe a breath of fresh air. This care extends to the extensive menu, which Newcomb said has not changed much since he took ownership in December.
Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the offerings are extensive. The dinner menu lists breakfast, lunch and dinner items on its own. The variety of almost a dozen sandwiches-from the Cajun chicken breast, with red onion, cilantro pesto and mozzarella cheese on grilled sour dough to the hot brisket sandwich, prepared with slow roasted brisket with onions, apple juice, wine and herbs and served with caramelized onions and roasted garlic mayo-will whet the appetite of any food aficionado.
Oh yes, there are the paninis, too, and the salads, gourmet burgers, stir fry, a large range of appetizers and the specialty main courses, which include a plethora of chicken dishes, from Marsala and Picatta to Flat Grilled Chicken. For a Mexican flair, try the steak or tofu fajitas, or the tostadas of chicken, fish or veggie. There’s even fish and chips that can be downed with beer, or wine if you prefer. A recent daily menu listed fresh halibut served with steamed veggies (cooked perfectly, with some crispness) and freshly whipped potatoes. The daily soup, butternut squash, was creamy, sweet and simply delicious.

Newcomb is definitely not new to the restaurant scene; he’s been the manager of Mogan’s for the past five years, and after much consideration and consultation with his business partner, he decided to make an offer to the previous owner that couldn’t be refused.

Once you’ve made a visit to Mogan’s, which is only about a 15-minute drive from the Malibu Pier, you won’t be able to refuse a second visit, and a third, and ….

Mogan’s Cafe, 548 Palisades Dr., Pacific Palisades, 90272; 310.454.0040; www.moganscafe.com

Tasty Dining, Smart Surroundings (Pacific Palisades)

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The moment you walk into Taste at the Palisades, you feel right at home. The decor, in a palette of brown and

Taste at the Palisades offers an elegant, yet cozy environment for unique fine dining.

white with black-and-white photos by artist/celebrity photographer Paul Robinson adorning the walls is upscale, yet welcoming. Curtains separate tables, giving a sense of privacy, yet are short in width, enough to allow one to take in the buzzing scene. A library (a bookcase, literally) of wines separates one dining area from a small bar in the back, where guests can enjoy a special bar menu, with items priced less than $10.

Opened earlier this year by owners Morten Kaag and John Halter, the cozy ambience sets the scene for a wonderful meal, created by Chef Brian Sheard. Kaag said they wanted to create a neighborhood spot where people can come in and use it as “their kitchen.”Taste offers a fine selection of wines such as the Terrazas Malbec Reserve 2006 and more than a dozen starters, like the Ahi Tuna Tartare and the Roasted Red and Golden Beet Salad. The tuna tartare, made with little squares of ahi tuna and avocado shaped into two small towers, is light and served with a gentle spicy aioli. Dill gives it a pleasant tang, and jicama adds a nice texture. The presentation, with a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds, surrounded by a quartet of thin crostini, is quite nice as well.

The roasted beet salad is served with fresh arugula, which compliments the tasty beets, and two fried goat cheese balls served on the side are rich in flavor, yet light in texture.

Entrees range from the crispy Parmesan Chicken Paillard (chicken breast, garlic potato puree, white gravy, baby arugula salad and red onion jam), an eight-ounce Kobe Beef Cheese Burger (served with onion jam, arugula and tomato on a sesame bun) to the Meyer Lemon Risotto (asparagus tips, shallots, Meyer lemon zest, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Parmesan cheese crisp) and the ravioli of the day.

During a recent visit, I had cheese ravioli topped with fresh spinach and Parmesan. The ravioli was light and thin, and the ingredients simple, yet bursting with flavor. For dessert, the Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding was divine. Served with vanilla gelato and creme Anglaise, the bread pudding was just the right blend, not too moist and definitely not dry.

Taste is child-friendly, offering a prix fixe selection of three courses on its Kids menu. The restaurant also serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Dinner menu entree prices range from $16 to $26; starters are $8.50 to $13.

The ambiance of Taste does not fit its new location (the other Taste is on Melrose Avenue), a small strip mall on the corner of Palisades Drive and Sunset Boulevard, just a quarter mile north of Pacific Coast Highway. But once you walk in, you’re enveloped in an elegant environment, served by a friendly staff and made to feel as if you’re right at home.

Taste at the Palisades, 538 Palisades Dr., Pacific Palisades. 310.459.9808