The Magic of Tableside Caesar Salad at the Dal Rae

Caesar Salad prep cart at the Dal Rae

The beauty of witnessing the preparation of a Caesar Salad tableside by a master with all of the ingredients presented on a specially designed cart is without equal.  Lorin Smith, co-owner of the fabulous Dal Rae restaurant in Pico Rivera, California is a true master.

Established in 1958, the Dal Rae is hands-down my favorite fine dining restaurant in Southern California.  It is located in the obscure city of Pico Rivera, which is actually just 20 minutes east of downtown Los Angeles.  We’ve been enjoying their cocktails, Lobster Thermidor (my choice without fail), tableside Steak Diane, and tableside Cherries Jubilee (or Bananas Foster) since 1994.  But it’s their Caesar Salad that is the glory of the Dal Rae.

The Caesar Salad was invented by Caesar Cardini at his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico in 1924.  Cardini had originally operated a restaurant in San Diego, California, but relocated to Tijuana with the advent of Prohibition.  Like many restaurateurs, Cardini believed a fine meal on-the-town required cocktails before dinner and wine with dinner.  In Tijuana, he could offer both.

According to Caesar’s daughter Rosa, her father invented the dish when a Fourth of July 1924 rush depleted the kitchen’s supplies. Cardini made do with what he had, adding the dramatic flair of the tableside tossing “by the chef.”  Whether or not this is actually the salad’s origin, the result is the most spectacular salad in the world.

Watch this 3-minute video of Lorin Smith preparing Caesar Salad tableside.  Genius. Pure genius.

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About Peter Moruzzi

Historian Peter Moruzzi is passionate about the middle decades of the 20th century: its nightlife, classic dining, and architecture. Born in Concord, Massachusetts and raised in Hawaii, Moruzzi graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and later attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In 1999, he founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom) an architectural preservation group. In 2006, Moruzzi produced "Desert Holiday," a jaunty documentary chronicling the history of the Coachella Valley as seen through vintage postcards. He is also the author of "Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground" and "Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour From Palm Springs to the Salton Sea." Moruzzi's latest book is titled "Classic Dining: Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants" with photography by Sven A. Kirsten. Peter Moruzzi resides with his partner in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles and in Palm Springs.
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8 Responses to The Magic of Tableside Caesar Salad at the Dal Rae

  1. Pingback: The Cornbread of My Dreams « On Food And Film

  2. DeSoto says:

    Regardless of the salad, I must say that the Dal Rae sports some attractive outdoor signage, which even more wonderfully is still functioning! The V-configured blinking lights appear to still be guiding patrons into the parking lot entrance.

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    • Not only does the Dal Rae have incredible Continental style cuisine, but its neon signage is spectacular. Completely original from 1958. And, yes, the arrow with the scintillating bulbs points to the generous parking lot.

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  3. Dean Curtis says:

    Love a tableside Caesar salad! One of my favorites is at The Sage Room at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe, which opened in 1947 in a rustic-yet-elegant Western theme and was reconstructed exactly the same inside the newer hotel tower (the bar and wood beams came from the original cabin that house Harvey’s in 1944). Their vintage salad cart has labels on the front describing the ingredients. I have a picture somewhere that I’ll have to locate and scan. They also prepare many other dishes tableside.

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  4. Russ says:

    Great! I love the tableside salads at Hugo’s Cellar in the Four Queens as well. My favorite Vegas restuarant by far.

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