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Not Your Average Joe's

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In a town where most restaurants last about half as long as Nick Lachey’s and Jessica Simpson’s marriage, the Venice staple -- Joe’s Restaurant -- proves that its California-French menu has staying power to last at least thru the rest of Jess’ singing career -- and then some.

Joe’s opened in 1991, making '06 its 15th year in the business. Along the hip Abbot Kinney Blvd., Joe's exudes the same aura: the stylishly cool, yet casual-ish, neighborhood joint. While the prices may preclude most of us from dining too often, the times we do eat at Joe's are well worth the trip and the cost to the far far Westside.

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On a recent visit, we had 8:30 reservations on a Saturday night. The place was crowded, and we were told they were running about 20 minutes behind schedule. While waiting, we sidled up to the small bar and asked the barkeep if weekends were always this busy. His response was very Swingers-esqe ("The place is dead anyway.") It wasn't that busy, he said, sometime folks had to wait an hour for their reservations. Ouch. We passed the time with a great bottle of Monte Lomas Malbec (a red from Argentina, $28) and were seated by 9 PM in the covered back patio.

While our waiter highly recommended the tuna tartare and smoked salmon with sliced cucumbers ($13) for starters, we opted for two hot appetizers on this chilly December night. First up: diced tomatoes and lemon oil porcini mushroom ravioli with wild mushrooms parsley and parmesan broth ($14), and then a seared scallops with butternut squash puree french beans, truffle broth ($16). Ravioli and scallops are usually filling after a few bites, so sharing these decadent, yet sublime, appetizers is the right way to go with these two choices.