Pico Rivera is home to final Zagat restaurant, #11 Dal Rae! And absolutely nothing else worth mentioning. Southeast of downtown, the drive to this haunt established in 1958 will see you passing local unions for plumbers and welders, block wide stores selling palettes, meat distributors and a twenty-four hour adult bookstore. If any of this is of interest to you The Monster assuredly believes you’re on the wrong site. Pretty country this is not.
First blush of Dal Rae from the street. Awesome. Time machine. Classic building, old school sign, valets at the ready. This portends for greatness. First blush of Dal Rae from inside. Oh lord. Help. Wow. Clientele from 1958, menu from 1964, a room straight out of 1973, a soundtrack wreaking of 1986 (please turn off the Toto), horrid plants from 1994 and prices reflective of today. How this will end is anyone’s guess.
Smoked mirrors, beveled glass, plants with twinkly lights strewn about, wood paneling out of a rec room and a cantilevered ceiling of cork panels gives you a taste of the decor. The menu proves old school American classics. Lobster thermidor, frog legs sauté, veal Oscar, Chateaubriand and their famous pepper steak. Coupled with waitresses who introduce themselves by name and live bands on the weekends and The Monster may break into the Twist.
They start you off with both a bread basket and a relish tray. Classic. Wish the relish tray came with some sort of dipping sauce. Ask for some mustard or salad dressing.
The order on this evening is the crock of onion soup, the Caesar salad, the duck a l’orange and the fish special prepared a la Ben (parmesan encrusted with onions) served with cream corn, garlic mash, string beans and steak fries.
The waitress wheels out a portable table as the salad is prepared tableside. All the normal accoutrement are visible along with Tabasco for added kick. It’s a large salad and quite nice. Good start to the meal.
The onion soup could use some work however as it lacks distinctive taste. A bit mild, the cheese and onions and bread never really come together to make it worthwhile.
On to the main courses. Dal Rae flames the duck tableside (very old-school) and the few children in the restaurant (and yes, The Monster) are mesmerized as the pan shoots fire into the air. It looks delicious but the liqueur overpowers the duck and becomes the prominent flavor, masking the duck itself. The Monster remembers now why he hasn’t had this dish in twenty years.
Onto the fish. It is a bit dry, though not offensively so. Ultimately, boring dishes don’t engender much discussion. Next…
The creamed corn is a bit bland, the garlic mash need more garlic, the string beans a tad limp. Steak fries are good. But they really have to be.
Completely full, desserts (cherries jubilee, soufflés and the like) are passed over in lieu of getting a start on traffic back home.
All in all Dal Rae feels like what it is. A relic from a bygone era that probably makes those who lived in it nostalgic and those who didn’t quite pleased we’ve moved on. But The Monster is feeling generous. He’s now only ten meals away from eating at every restaurant in the 2011 Zagat Guide. And sometimes old school is the right call.
Why go? There’s a book you’ve been meaning to read you can pick up along the way.
Monster rating: 3/5 Monsters
9023 Washington Boulevard
Pico Rivera, CA 90660