They will tell you however that it is the dedication to the food that matters, and also the fact that staff turnover is low, always a good sign in a restaurant.
I went along to check the Woodland Hills venue exactly one year after the grand opening, and found a restaurant that serves "American comfort food" with a confident ease that comes from the time and attention owner Marilyn Lewis puts in to the operation. The upscale location of the restaurant in Woodland Hills with an abundance of well heeled office workers is not a sure fire guarantee for success, just ask Wolfgang Puck, who had to close one of his places in the area.
In fact, Kate Mantilini's was previously known as Houston's, a very well thought of steak house chain. The owners apparently walked away when the lease payments went up dramatically. The upside for Kate Mantilini's is that they inherited a state of the art restaurant that seats about 248, mostly in comfortable booths, and a spacious kitchen area that most chef's would die for.
The extensive menu is far too comprehensive to cover in a brief review, so as usual I relied on the advice of the waiter. Crispy Shrimp Cones with ginger Jalapeno dipping sauce ($15) is a good place to start, very fresh and crisp and a nice blend of Asian style food. Not all appetizers are priced as high; soups for example are $6, and an appealing selection of salads varies in range from nine to sixteen dollars. You might also want to try the Grilled Asparagus with Dijonnaise sauce ($7.50), a lovely combination that was not overpowering at all. Portions are huge, so beware of the split plate charge of $1.50, written in small print on the menu.
There are eleven signature dishes on the menu, but the waiter insisted we try the BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($24), slow cooked and served with coleslaw and beer batter fries. These ribs just fell off the bone, mainly because of the three cooking steps involved; roasting, finishing off and finally grilling. Other choices sampled included the Fish and Chips (or halibut in a beer batter) at $18 to be precise, and a rather unusual dish called Bombay Madness ($26), which consists of two Grilled Filet Mignon Medallions, with curry butter, pickled ginger, fries, Raita and two chutneys. I am not quite sure that this is a combination that works too well, especially if you are an aficionado of Indian food, so it is probably best to stick to the Ribs. Still as I mentioned before, the menu is extensive so there is plenty to choose from. Other signature dishes on the menu include Chicken Tenders, Meatloaf, Chicken Pot Pie (that always sells out), White Chili and Roast Chicken with grilled sausage.
I know for a fact that restaurants in this particular area of the valley are under extreme pressure to serve huge portions to their patrons, which is a bit of a shame really. It prevents chefs from being truly creative, but in Kate Mantilini's case, the reputation of the flagship restaurant in Beverly Hills should ensure the continued success of this particular location.
Parking: Valet Parking
Mike Hepworth September 2004