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Dine like it's 1981: Saint Estèphe returns

Stestephe

"It was just going to be a casual evening, with a couple of dishes from the Saint Estèphe menu," says chef John Sedlar, "but now it's turning out to be a much bigger thing." 

It's the return of '80s-era Saint Estèphe for the month of September at Sedlar's Rivera restaurant. The event celebrates the 30th anniversary of "the birthplace of modern Southwest cuisine" with a retrospective menu available for 30 days.

Sedlar, along with co-owner and sommelier Steve Garcia, opened the seminal Manhattan Beach restaurant in 1981, introducing Southwestern ingredients through the lens of nouvelle cuisine. "There was something about Saint Estèphe -- people had never seen or tasted food like that," says Sedlar. "They had never tasted a chile or tortilla in a composed dish that had layers of flavors that were international yet regional. It's like that food burned this image in their brain."

Now some of those images will be projected onto the plasma screens at Rivera, collected from archival photos and menus. The special Saint Estèphe menu will feature classics such as "salmon painted desert"; green chiles rellenos with mushrooms duxelles; posole with seared sea scallops and tarragon; veal chops marinated in burnt chile pesto with sopapillas and Rio Grande honey; and blue cornmeal crepes with canela ice cream and grapefruit Grand Marnier sauce. 

"We've had 19 food revolutions since then," Sedlar says. "We were worried it would feel dated, but we did test dinners and tasted the dishes and they hold up really well and are in synch with how people are eating today." 

Sept. 1–30, dinner only. Call for reservations or go to Open Table. Rivera, 1050 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, (213) 749-1460, or go to OpenTable.com.

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-- Betty Hallock 

Photo: Steve Garcia and John Sedlar. Credit: Los Angeles Times

 
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