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Turning Lemons into Lemon Basket

June 26, 2011

When life hands VH1 a lemon –in the form of a failing Hollywood restaurant –they turn it into a reality show in which “celebrities” (trust me, the cast warrants the use of quotes) re-model and re-open it. The result of this show is Lemon Basket, an American nouveau-style restaurant taking the place of Dolce Group’s Ketchup.

While I question how much Heidi Montag, Danielle Staub, Jake Pavelka and Ashley Dupre (yes, that Ashley Dupre) had to do with the end result, Lemon Basket is a welcome addition to the restaurants and bars on the Sunset Strip. Tables and plush chairs face a wall lined with windows looking out onto the famed Hollywood street, giving the space an open and airy feel. While Ketchup was ultra-modern and trendy, Lemon Basket is more classic and homey than its predecessor.

The only hint of its ties to a VH1 reality show is the eatery’s cocktail menu (all $12), which boasts a “Heidi,” a Daniellenie, Jake’s Lemon Drop and Ashley’s Watermelon Mojito. I opted for the champagne and lemon vodka drink named for the ex-Housewife of New Jersey, which was (uncharacteristically) light and refreshing.

The meal began with a complimentary amuse-bouche, a bite-sized serving of watermelon topped with pesto, feta cheese and pomegranate reduction. The unlikely combination of flavors actually worked well together, and served as a perfect palate-cleanser.

For starters, we went with the spicy Hawaiian ahi tuna ($9), which was served up in wanton cones topped with avocado, ginger and spicy soy mustard. The mini-ice cream cone-looking appetizer was delicious, although on the smaller side portion-wise.

We chose the Southwestern picnic salad ($14) for our main course, a combination of chicken, roasted peppers, tortilla strips, black beans, red onion, blue cheese and jalapeno-ranch dressing.

If you still have room for dessert (all $6), try the flourless chocolate cake, served with vanilla ice cream. It’s incredibly rich, and definitely large enough to share.

The Lemon Basket is certainly worth checking out, but I would get there fast. It was pretty much empty at 8 o’clock on a Saturday when I went, so like many Hollywood locales, there’s a good chance it won’t be around for much longer.

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