The days of ticky tacky newspaper decoupages that plastered the walls at 9010 Melrose Avenue near Doheny are a distant memory. That's because the large space has been a revolving door of restaurants since the West coast outpost of Cafe Figaro closed sometime in the late 80s or early 90s. The latest incarnation, an urbane bar/lounge called Murano, is the most extreme design tabula rasa yet.
All the major elements get a check in the "it totally works" box: thin metal alloy piers that modulate the facade, contrasting spotless white surfaces and ebonized floors, a few silver glitter-slathered walls, comfy chairs, and Lucite bar stools. Best are the dramatic scarlet and black glass lighting fixtures that honor the restaurant's namesake. Think upscale South Beach and Palm Springs -- a smattering of alter-kakers included. But the ten lively WeHo boys in our group who were there to celebrate a friend's birthday (plus me and the hubby) were more the target audience.
A panzanella centered around polenta with heirloom tomatoes, cubes of cucumbers, plus a bit of burrata topped with microgreens needed streamlining. (On a related note, I must stop confusing panzanella with anchovy-dressed Roman puntarelle!) In an effort to bring all our main courses at once, the flat iron steak arrived lukewarm; the meat was a little tough and even for me too salty, but the potato galette and pile of spinach were extremely satisfying. Both dishes, however, seem like they're stuck in the time when Balsamic vinegar was the most exciting Italian ingredient to hit our shores since Parmesan and olive oil, and kitchens everywhere were reducing it by the gallon. I liked the clean white fish served next to a generous pile creamy leeks. Murano's portions are generous, plus the Veuve and pinot grigio were flowing heavily enough to somehow eliminate interest in dessert. We all took small bites of a cute little flourless chocolate cake.
There's a nice specialty cocktail menu, but the wine list isn't terribly interesting. We're also in $14 cocktail territory here. Really? $14? When did that price become OK outside of a hotel bar,
especially for drinks without fresh squeezed juices?
Criticisms aside, it was the most fun group dinner in recent memory (which, admittedly, I generally hate), mostly because of the company. But I can't discount the setting. If we go back, it'll be to enjoy the slick-as-a-mofo room in daylight for brunch.
9010 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood 90069
Photo from Citysearch.