SERVING FINE UPSCALE COMFORT FOOD
When I first heard about Continental, a new establishment with a rich history, there was a lot of back and forth whether it was in Burbank or Toluca Lake. It’s right smack down in the middle as far as I’m concerned but I can tell some people like the Hollywood studio connection to Burbank, while others prefer the fancy schmancy association to Toluca Lake as it’s where a lot of stars like Bob Hope lived and where newer celebs like Andy Garcia, Steve Carell, George Lopez and Miley Cyrus, among others call home.
The space at Continental, located at 4301 W. Riverside Drive, was home to the original International House of Pancakes (IHOP) before becoming Hampton’s, a legendary movie-business hangout that boasted Paul Newman and other stars as regulars. I’m old enough to remember that Hampton’s is where you would go for a gourmet burger and an expensive glass or bottle of wine.
After Hamptons closed, owner Jay Sadofsky opened Mo’s, or Mo’s Continental depending on who is telling the story. Now, he and business partner and Executive Chef Jesse Genovese have opened Continental, a dining and drinking destination that is aiming to be home to locals, studio employees and local celebs. The sign at the door playfully reads “Walkens Welcome” and during our recent visit for dinner, Hollywood legend Gary Marshall was casually dining inside.
The folks at the Continental like to call it an upscale, casual eatery combining classic elegance with delicious contemporary cuisine. “Continental is the classic restaurant—a meeting place where anybody can come in, alone or in a group, enjoy a proper cocktail, and great food that is innovative, but still very approachable,” says Sadofsky.
While I’m not a big fan of their specialty cocktails, I do recommend the Tattletale, made with Famous Grouse Blended Scotch, Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch, bitters and a dash of honey, if you’re a fan of a boozy, smoky cocktail. Sorry, guilty.
Unfortunately I wasn’t fond of many of the cocktails on the signature menu, like the Honeysuckle, or the Bertita (think mediocre margarita), but I was a fan of the Christopher Oaxacan mezcal drink, which was sweet but nicely balanced. Likewise, the Toluca Fizz is good for day drinking (think brunch) even though it had no wow factor. Luckily the bar does offer a good selection of wines courtesy of Toluca Lake’s Spin the Bottle Wine Studio and craft beers.
We started dinner with the highly recommended Beer Battered Pickles served with sriracha 1000 island. I admit I was skeptical but these fried pickles are pure bliss. They are definitively a great starter item to share. The Turkey Meatballs with parmesan cheese and rustic pomodoro sauce were tasty, and we loved the Shrimp Ceviche with guacamole and corn sopes.
From a previous visit, I was a fan of the Thai Seafood Bouillabaisse, a stew of fresh shrimp, scallops, calamari and vegetables, cooked in a creamy coconut, lemongrass and kaffir lime broth. “Bouillabaisse is a classic French recipe that every chef learns to make in culinary school, and Thai tom kha soup is one of my favorite things on Earth to eat,” Chef says. “This dish is my take on both dishes at the same time.”
For our entrees, we opted for the hearty Skirt Steak—marinated Angus beef served with Peruvian white beans, sweet potatoes, roasted radicchio, kale, cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, feta, cilantro, crispy chickpea, and cucumber yogurt sauce. I recommend the steak fries as a side item. You can opt for the mashed red potatoes too, but I’m a fan of steak fries and these just make for a real satisfying meal. The steak was a definite menu favorite and paired so nicely with the red wine Chef and our server selected.
We also enjoyed the Salmon served on a cauliflower-apple purée with fennel, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens and a mustard-caper-balsamic sauce. This is a great, guilt free dish. It’s light, fresh, tasty and good for you. It’s also nice with a fine, light wine.
While there are some very decadent desserts to choose from, I say you should really get the La Dominicana if you’re a fan of liquid dessert. Featuring Zaya Gran Reserva Rum and Galliano Ristretto Liqueur topped with a light and fluffy hand-whipped vanilla cream this is a play on the Brandy Alexander and is rich and just so good. If you’re not into boozy treats, then the Salted Caramel Pot de Crème with almond-chocolate toffee and vanilla crème is fantastic. As is the Tempura Fried Banana Split with crispy banana, vanilla bean ice cream, butterscotch sauce, hot fudge and berry coulis. Damn, that was good.
Continental is located at 4301 W. Riverside Drive. Hours: 11am to 10pm Monday through Thursday; 11 to 11pm on Fridays; 9am to 11pm on Saturdays, and 9am to 10pm on Sundays. Call 818-845-3009.
Photography courtesy of: Continental
Story by Jose Martinez