Half-Baked

Unexpectedly underwhelmed at Roxanne's

I actually began feeling depressed with our main courses: the much-photographed, carefully layered lasagna terrine; a Mediterranean platter of falafel, hummus, dolmas, and Greek salad; a tamale with mole sauce; and a Thai yellow curry. I wasn't tasting bright flavors; I was searching for textural contrasts that weren't there. The curry, I thought, was a disaster, with all its vegetables cut in identical-sized dice, mixed with gluey puréed parsnips into unpleasant baby food. Beyond the discovery of clever substitutes (more parsnip "rice" in the dolmas, cashew "cheese" in the tamale), I was trying to decide if I thought the dishes tasted good all on their own, if I wanted to come back and order anything again. And over and over, my feeling was no.

I was shocked. I'd worried about a lot of things, my first week in a new place, and with reason: It had taken Pac Bell two visits to achieve a phone line that worked, and more than one person, on being introduced to me, had kindly informed me that Los Angeles was not a real city, but a suburb. But I had never anticipated not liking the food at Roxanne's. I had read too many reviews that used the word "delicious."

Perhaps the dishes suffered from expectations created by their nomenclature. Would I be less judgmental if the tamale plate had been called "Mexifiesta," if the pad thai, which Cathy thought was the worst misfire on the table, were called "Thai one on"? (Yes, the slippery coconut noodles were witty, but the entree didn't taste like pad thai -- nor did it taste especially good on its own merits.) And why call the largely tasteless ground-nut concoctions cheese? If you use less sugar than the U.S. government says you must, your jam is no longer jam but fruit spread. These were nut spreads.

It's No Greens: If you didn't know it was exceptionally 
eco-friendly, Roxanne's would simply strike you as a 
slightly underdecorated restaurant with especially nice 
china.
Anthony Pidgeon
It's No Greens: If you didn't know it was exceptionally eco-friendly, Roxanne's would simply strike you as a slightly underdecorated restaurant with especially nice china.

Details

Entree and one starter $29

Entree and two starters $38

Entree and three starters $47

Taste of Thailand menu (whole table only) $69/person

Ten-course tasting menu (whole table only) $100/person

924-5004

Open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday

Reservations accepted (and recommended)

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: valet

Noise level: quiet

320 Magnolia (at King), Larkspur

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The desserts (a fine apple crisp, a more-than-fine vanilla and chocolate ice cream sandwich) were much more successful than the entrees. Roxanne's permits itself the use of honey, which some vegans do not, and Valrhona chocolate, even though it roasts its cacao. Still, I liked the sections of satsuma Mandarin orange, straight from the tree, better than the slightly chalky pumpkin crème brûlée they adorned.

I was thinking, darkly, about the Emperor's new clothes, but I must admit that my brother and sister -- good cooks and gourmands both -- enjoyed their meal much more than I did. On the ride home, I blamed myself: What worse month to visit a raw-foods restaurant than December? But when leafing through some old magazines I discovered a review of Roxanne's written in August, which meant its meals had been consumed in spring and early summer, and there they were again: the tomato pizza, the lasagna, the Thai yellow curry. If it wasn't the new clothes, I thought, there was more than a whiff of the dog that talked.

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