RESTAURANT REVISITED SECRET'S OUT IN MOORPARK.Byline: Larry Lipson Restaurant Critic
The Secret Garden restaurant became Moorpark's best-known secret when an argument between the co-owner and a customer, who happened to be the wife of singer Frankie Valli This article
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* It may require general cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. , escalated into a fracas that ended up in a highly publicized court case. has multiple issues:
The restored 83-year-old building on the pepper tree- and gas lamp-lined High Street in this quaint little town opened a couple of years ago, the inspiration of Sandra and Bob Sofsky, who spent a fortune to achieve a Victorian look on the inside and a fully planted garden and patio in the back.
The Sofskys evidently decided that there were better things to do in life than be working owners of an upscale restaurant.
Enter Michel Bardavid, chef at the Sherwood Country Club, who left the Sherwood kitchen and reopened the Secret Garden on April 27.
--Name: The Secret Garden.
--Address: 255 E. High St., Moorpark.
--Phone: (805) 552-9523.
--When we last reviewed: March 20, 1998.
--How long in business: Opened in October 1997, closed in October 1999; reopened in April 2000.
--Menu/cuisine changes: The original cuisine format was a blackboard menu of items changing weekly and listing mostly safe, familiar entrees: perhaps two chicken recipes, a lamb plate, a steak, possibly ahi tuna and an additional fresh fish offering. The cost of the entree included a soup du jour du jour
1. Prepared for a given day: The soup du jour is cream of potato.
2. Most recent; current: the trend du jour. and choice of three salads (Caesar, Greek or mixed green). Today's menu is a la carte and offers at least two soups, but there's the option of a choice of either a $1 soup or $1 salad with any entree purchased.
Dinner patrons can also opt for one of three salad mixtures and three other appetizer plates.
--Decor/physical changes: No changes in decor or furnishing. ``It was a turn-key restaurant,'' says the new chef-owner. ``Not a thing was changed. There wasn't even dust on the tables.'' Those tables, by the way, are unmatched, more than 100 years old and brought over from England. Other antiques include the chandeliers and lighting fixtures.
--Personnel changes: Ths Sofskys closed their Secret Garden on Oct. 31, 1999. Ownership of the restaurant shifted to Laurea and Michel Bardavid on April 23 of this year. Captain of waiters Miguel Velasquez has been retained, along with sous chef Daniel Rodriguez and pastry chef A pastry chef or pâtissier is a station chef in a professional kitchen, skilled in the making of pastries, desserts, and other baked goods. They are employed in large hotels, bistros, restaurants, and bakeries. Fernando Lopez Fernando López (April 13, 1904—May 26, 1993) was a Filipino statesman. A member of the influential López Family of Iloilo, Fernando López served as Vice President for three terms, under President Elpidio Quirino (1949—1953) for the Liberals and Ferdinand Marcos in Bardavid's kitchen.
--Recommendable dishes: Currently, entrees include a couple of beef plates, one a highly recommended filet stuffed with Roquefort cheese Roque`fort´ cheese
n. 1. A highly flavored blue-molded cheese, made at
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of steak ($21). Other good choices are sesame-crusted ahi tuna with shiitake mushrooms ($21) and pan-seared Chilean sea The Chilean Sea was defined on 1974-05-30 when the Diario oficial de la Republica de Chile published Supreme Decree #346, which declared that "the waters surrounding or touching the shores of the national territory shall be known as Mar Chileno. bass with a black bean black bean
see castanospermum australe, erythrophleumchlorostachys. compote ($21). Passable pass·a·ble
1. That can be passed, traversed, or crossed; navigable: a passable road.
2. Acceptable for general circulation: passable currency.
3. is the free-range chicken with goat cheese and asparagus, paired with sun-dried tomato ravioli ($18.50). One evening, a thick, handsome-looking veal chop, one of the specials du jour, ordered rare, came up medium rare and was replaced by one equally handsome and cooked - or hardly cooked - as specified.
Carrot and ginger soup ($5.50) is slightly better than the thin lobster bisque bisque 1
a. A rich, creamy soup made from meat, fish, or shellfish.
b. A thick cream soup made of puréed vegetables.
2. Ice cream mixed with crushed macaroons or nuts. ($7.50). But the $1 tomato bisque is even more impressive than both of the high-priced potages.
--Service quality: Service appears best when the captain, Miguel, is present. Recently one night, a young Italian waiter was attentive and good- natured na·tured
Having a nature or temperament of a specified kind. Often used in combination: mean-natured; sweet-natured. , but may have had a communication problem. One entree dish was cooked incorrectly and one appetizer didn't show up at all. Otherwise, the service was fine.
--Pricing: Starters from $1 to $14.50, entrees from $15.50 to $23. Desserts $6 each.
--Wine list/service: There's some well-thought out choices on the multi-page list of 81 labels, all vintage dated except for a few sparklers, and priced from $21 for a Chilean chardonnay and a Napa merlot to $240 for Roederer Cristal 1993 champagne or Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1994 Bordeaux. Lacks sauvignon blancs, other whites, Rhones or Rhone-style bottlings that are good food wines. Wine glasses could be improved. Corkage cork·age
A charge exacted at a restaurant for every bottle of liquor served that was not bought on the premises.
a charge made at a restaurant for serving wine bought elsewhere
: $1 per bottle per person.
--Policies worth mentioning: Now open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for Sunday brunch (sit-down, $21.95) from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Live jazz Saturday nights in the garden. Garden dining to public only Saturday for dinner and Sunday for brunch. Patio open for lunch and dinner regularly. Privately catered garden parties.
--Miscellaneous comments: French chef-owner Bardavid cooked with several well-known chefs locally prior to his executive chef post at the Sherwood Country Club. Among them were Ken Frank at the Hotel Argyle's Fenix in West Hollywood, Thomas Keller at Checkers, downtown Los Angeles Downtown Los Angeles is the central business district of Los Angeles, California, located close to the geographic center of the metropolitan area. The sprawling, multi-centered megacity is such that its downtown core is often considered just another district like Hollywood or and Gary Clauson at the Hotel Bel-Air.
--Our latest ratings: Three stars for food; Two and one half stars for wine; Two stars for service.
(1 -- 2) The Secret Garden's chef-owner Michel Bardavid says he left the decor and furnishings of the 83-year-old building untouched: ``It was a turn-key restaurant. Not a thing was changed.'' At right, A goat cheese gateau, served with a vinegar reduction and beets, is one of the Secret Garden's nicely presented dishes.
Lilly Barrett/Special to the Daily News