It's ironic that at Frame 128, a restaurant dedicated to luxury, the shining star is the humblest of foods: soup. With the Soup King in charge, how could it be otherwise?
Chef Kareem Shaw was dubbed Soup King by none other than the governor of Michigan. His restaurant in Marquette won local soup contests year after year, not just for one soup but for all six, thus the moniker. People came for miles to taste his legendary tomato basil bisque. Barack Obama even stopped in. Shaw recently moved back to Pasadena to be with family and now we're lucky to have him in Glendale.
Frame 128 seems an unusual venue for him. Part of a grander complex including three lounges and 10 cinemas, Frame 128 is a tribute to tall glass, cool LED lighting and mod furniture. It serves food, including pricey entrees, in the main dining area and at the sleek bar. There's also a relaxed restaurant lounge lit by bubbles big enough to transport Glinda the Good Witch.
For a $3 fee, all food and drink, save the entrees, can be served to patrons in their cinema seats. One only need to press a discreet button and a concierge appears to take your order. The seats in the theaters are amazing, fully reclining and fitted with an efficient table for dining. At $19.75, it's a splurge but quite luxurious. I was a little annoyed at the advertisements before the movie (Starbucks, MSNBC, Cadillac, Louis Vuitton and South Africa tourism — I counted) and there were no movie previews. I was also chagrined that our popcorn arrived without butter though we'd specifically requested it when asked. Other than those hiccups, the movie experience was great. If I lived closer, I'd definitely consider the unlimited movie club membership for $50 per month.
Before we enjoyed our movie, we took in the sights, sounds and tastes of Frame 128. There was not another soul there, but it was a Monday evening. Weekend nights are gaining traction, they tell me. Our waiter was cool and professional, remarking on our "excellent choices." We opted for appetizers, filet mignon tacos ($14) and Maryland lump crab cakes ($16), as well as a Mark West pinot noir ($8). While we waited and noshed on the complimentary bread and herb butter, we perused the cocktail menu with its film-related names like the Clara Bow, Red Carpet, and Femme Fatale (all $13). I particularly like the name of the Plymouth gin/Grenadine/grapefruit concoction. Like a cross between the Good Witch and the city, it's called the Glenda.
Four tiny tacos arrived on an elegant plate. They were adorable, sitting on individual clouds of bright green guacamole. The shells were amusingly crisp but the filet mignon had little flavor. When I think of the five-taco plate for $11 at Frida down the street, full-size and full of flavor, I can't reconcile. The crab cakes were much better. Fluffy and full of succulent lump crab, they were nicely complemented by a lemon-marinated shaved fennel and apple salad.
Next came the soup ($7). The house French onion comes in a crock with lots of odorous (in a good way) Gruyere on top. It was respectable but the sweetness of the caramelized onions and abundance of broth-soaked croutons made it hard to finish. Somehow I had a bottomless stomach for the other soup. The cream of wild mushroom was transcendent. The creaminess was tempered by the spice and depth of the broth. Wild mushrooms, celery, carrots and a dark leafy green were cut and cooked just right. The fragrance and presentation were heightened by its vessel, something akin to the Hollywood Bowl itself. Every bite surprised us.
We patted our stomachs and finished our wine, fully relaxed, knowing we only had to stroll across the foyer two minutes before showtime. We still had time to spare so we checked out the two lounges inside the completely remodeled old Mann theaters. The gorgeous, retro-futuristic Red Lounge upstairs is begging for beautiful people in shiny, sexy clothes.
As society climbs its way out of this lingering recession, the luxury of Frame 128 and the MGN Five Star Cinema will become more and more relevant. Until then, a bowl of soup and a matinee ($16.75) is a great way to spend a winter day.
Where: 128 N. Maryland, Glendale
When: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. 11 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Prices: Appetizers, salads, burgers, pizzas, $9 to $26; entrees, $17 to $34 ; wine, beer, cocktails, $7 to $24; soup $7
More info: 1 (888) 501-0101, mgnfivestarcinema.com/dining
LISA DUPUY welcomes dining suggestions at LDupuy@aol.com.