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Restaurant Quick Pick: 15

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Despite the older generation's lingering fear that even stepping outside of your car in Echo Park will somehow get you assaulted or shot or worse (suburban Boomers, I'm looking in your direction!), this increasingly gentrified neighborhood has become a new mecca for intelligent, classy dining. Joining Lot 1 and Masa is Restaurant 15, a hip spot with a cool interior, but also a menu that still seems to be a work in progress. 15's previous claim to fame was its $15 prix fixe menu, featuring house specialties like mac n' cheese and a Kobe burger, but what self-respecting upscale establishment doesn't have both of those items these days?

As of yesterday, however, the restaurant has increased the fixed price to $19 -- still a good deal for three courses in this city, although their burger pales in comparison to the Father's Office and Hungry Cat standard. The lavender-infused french fries, however, are surprisingly deliciousand original. An appetizer of foie gras gets the palate going, but another app of heavy bacon-wrapped figs slows it right back down -- the goat cheese mousse served with the dish is far too light for the density and overpowering sweetness of the figs. Scallops are tasty, and go nicely with a sauce of prosciutto and truffle oil, although the accompanying spring vegetables are perhaps undercooked. There are ample choices for a vegetarian, including the house mac n' cheese and a pappardelle with heirloom tomatoes (the website's menu is different from the house menu). The bread pudding is luscious, although an extra drizzle of caramel would put it over the top.

The space itself is small, but cool and comfortable, with a relaxed Saturday-night vibe. The wine list offers some reasonable choices for a glass or bottle, although the mixed drinks have some wacky names. Although the new $19-at-15 doesn't quite have the same punch to it as $15-at-15, the prix fixe is still a great deal and the menu, while aiming a bit too high, has some definite high points -- take your parents out one night and show them that the neighborhood really has changed.

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Photo by RobJTak via Flickr.