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Watch Out, Dan Tana's: Make Red-Booth-Worthy Caesar Salad at Home

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One of the coolest, most classic things about that most classic of old-school Hollywood restaurants, Dan Tana's, is that the servers will toss your Caesar salad for you right at your table. The white-clad waiters wheel the whole station out on a little wooden cart, and fling those frilly romaine leaves about with a kind of carefree showmanship. Besides the tart, creamy taste of freshly made dressing, what puts their salad over the top is that they add anchovies, bless their little hearts! Dan Tana's is quite literally the George Clooney of Los Angeles restaurants: in fact, the ol' heartthrob and Go Fug Yourself intern holds his post-Oscar parties there, and comes in for dinner often - you know, when he's not vacationing in Lake Como or making another Ocean's Eleven sequel or whatever it is he does most of the time. Besides being really really hot.

Dan Tana's is one of those places where you can pull up a stool at the cocktail bar on a weekday night and have a good chat with the locals - locals who are, of course former record producers, studio suits, and celebrities looking for low lighting and a reliable drink. You can even order menu items like chicken parmegiana a la Ted Demme, or steak and peppers Sinatra-style, or even Vlade Divac's Braciola. If you show up often enough (it helps to be female), the maitre d', Craig, will become a familar and pleasant face. While the appetizers are good (buttery, tender escargots! that garlic bread! oh the anchovy-wrapped pimentos! I've mentioned the anchovies), I've found that the pastas and even the veal parmigiana are a bit run-of-the-mill.

The salad bit is pretty cool, I have to admit. But caesar salad - and I mean impressive, homemade-dressing-and-toasted-croutons-type salad - is actually fairly fun and easy to make at home. Recipe below the jump.

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Photo by Stu Spivak via Flickr

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Here's a recipe that does involve the use of raw eggs, so preggers ladies, watch out. Use fresh eggs from a source you trust, or, as Textism recommends in his fantastically playful version, coddle the egg briefly in boiling water to kill nasties.

Dressing:
2-5 cloves of garlic (depending on size and your liking for garlic. Me? I use as much garlic as humanely possible)
Sea salt/kosher salt (rough salt is good!)
Tin of anchovies
1 tbsp dijon mustard
A few splashes of worcestershire sauce (spell that three times fast!)
1 egg
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 cup olive oil (more or less)
1/4 cup parmesan (plus more for garnish and general cheese-piggery)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar

Salad:

1 head romaine lettuce, washed & chopped
Optional additions: boiled & quartered red potatoes, grilled chicken

Croutons:
Stale bread, diced (sourdough works best)
Crouton seasonings of choice (salt, pepper, cheese, garlic salt/powder)

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Toast diced bread for 15-20 minutes in broiler, seasoned with salt, pepper, etc., and drizzled lightly with olive oil.

Chop garlic as finely as possible. Add salt, using side of your knife or a spoon to crush salt grains into garlic, creating paste.
Smear in 2-5 anchovy filets (again, this totally depends on your taste - I don't think I have to tell you, but I put in at least 5, often more), smash well with garlic.
Add dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, egg, lemon juice. Whisk; add salt & pepper to taste. TASTE. Seriously. Keep taking little nibbles - no more than a pinkyful - of the dressing as you go to make sure the balance of salty, savory, and tart are in check.
Start to whisk in olive oil - do it slowly, and stop every few seconds to TASTE. Add sugar to balance flavors.

Toss romaine with dressing, adding a little at a time to make sure all the leaves are coated. Flamboyant use of salad utensils is totally recommended at this time. If you've made it with chicken and/or potatoes, save some dressing to toss with those at the end. Sprinkle on croutons and parmesan cheese - and a few anchovies laid across the top. Grind some fresh black pepper to finish.

Now drape some red cloth over the lightbulbs, pop in that "ER: Season One" DVD, maybe pour yourself a finger of Macallan, and enjoy your meal with George.

Dan Tana's
9071 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood 90069
(310) 275-9444

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Hours: 5pm - 1:30am daily

Photo by limonada via Flickr