A group of Variety editorettes convened at Pentimento for a pre-wedding lunch, and I was interested to see whether the restaurant had changed much since it opened a few years ago. I think my favorite thing about the L.A. County Museum of Art restaurant, owned by the Patina Group, is watching the assorted museum patrons lunching and walking by. I like the assortment of elegant older ladies-who-lunch, imaginatively-dressed art school students, inner-city uniformed school groups and moms trying to instill a little culture in their kids. A man wearing a full King Tut golden hat with ear flaps while eating completed the picture. The ladies-who-lunch were all eating beautifully composed salads, so we followed suit, trying the tuna and white bean, the salmon and arugula and various chicken salads.
tuna with white beans, a hint of pesto and "balsalmic essence"
Most of them looked much better than they tasted -- perhaps the patrons prefer their salads underdressed. When we tried to get more pesto dressing for the tuna salad, they brought us instead a small crock of "balsalmic essence," which our British colleague dubbed "treacle" -- not really what you'd want to pour over an underdressed salad. The desserts were rather nicer, with a light panna cotta with rhubarb, a trio of creme brulees and several chocolately choices.
Verdict: With hard cement floors and lots of glass, it's not really a place for quiet conversation, as the sound bounces everywhere. Service is painfully slow, which seems antithetical to a place you stop in while en route to see the exhibits. The outdoor patio might be nice on a cooler day, but most of the food looks better than it tastes. Maybe it's better to go directly to their $15 afternoon tea and skip the real food.