Thursday, June 13, 2013

At Cafe Cordiale With The Babylon Social Club

I caught the Babylon Social Club’s set at Café Cordiale in Sherman Oaks on Sunday night.  The six-piece band featured Leslie Smith and the remarkable Sara Niemietz sharing lead vocal duties, and veteran film composer and studio musician W.G. Snuffy Walden on guitar.  The music had a pop jazz feel with bluesy overtones.  Niemietz was a revelation, trading lines with Smith’s voice and Walden’s guitar.  She is a classy veteran performer who electrifies an audience.  This particular evening was her 21st birthday.  To be so young and so talented is truly a blessing.  Walden’s soaring guitar work demonstrated his virtuosity and reminded us that before he wrote music for Thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, The West Wing and Friday Night Lights, he was an accomplished session guitarist backing artists like Stevie Wonder, the late Donna Summer, and Chaka Khan.  According to owner Peter May, the band will return to in August for more dates.

The restaurant offers an eclectic mix of performers Tuesday through Sunday, and it is not uncommon to see some of the best Los Angeles musicians stretching their musical chops on the café’s stage.  This makes Café Cordiale a great place for live music in the San Fernando Valley.  The restaurant feels like an intimate living room with good sight lines from every table, an excellent bar, and delicious food.  There is no cover charge, however reservations are recommended for music or dinner.

I usually start with one of their fresh soups like the clam chowder which is lighter than most overly salted restaurant soups.  The chopped salad is excellent, but I like to substitute the creamy vinaigrette dressing for the herb vinaigrette, a personal preference.  The spicy chicken satay, flat iron steak, and grilled salmon are all delicious as well.  For dessert, order up the fresh berries or the French apple tarte tatin with ice cream.  The menu also features lighter entrees, and don’t be afraid to request special dietary requirements like low salt or no oil preparations.

The restaurant has a long history at its current location in the Scotty Building.  The Mays opened Café Cordiale in 1985.  The Northridge earthquake in 1994 destroyed the place and required two years of remodeling before the grand re-opening in 1996.  It is the kind of cozy, comfortable neighborhood place where you can have Sunday brunch or a relaxing family dinner, and hear some great music.

Café Cordiale is located at 14015 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks in the Scotty Building.  Free parking is available in the rear.  The restaurant opens Monday through Friday at 11:30 AM; Saturday and Sunday at 11 AM for brunch.

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