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A recent business lunch found Buzz at the new Fashion Valley location of Bing Crosby’s Restaurant & Piano Lounge (one of three in California).  The decor takes you back to the 30’s and 40’s swing era with an eye toward the glam of Hollywood–piano bars by night, golf courses by day–and, of course, the music of Bing and his cronies.

The website calls the menu innovative “California Country Club Cuisine”–whatever that means. The actual country club food (or yacht club) type cuisine that I’ve experienced over many years, centers on classic salads and sandwiches, Caesar, Cobb, tuna, roast beef, Reuben, BLT’s, club and more.  So when I see innovative I figure it means small twists of taste and presentation on classic dishes. There is nothing wrong with sticking to well-executed classic food especially in this theme restaurant.  To that end, I’m not sure that Bing’s namesake accomplishes that, at least for now.

We were very unimpressed with the half roast beef sandwich–roast beef with nary a lettuce leaf, mayo or anything on the thick French roll–part of the menu’s “The Lunch Trio”, that included a rich cup of chowder and a green salad.  “The Sandwich Combo” as does the trio, allows choices of sandwiches and salads.  The half Reuben fared better with the usual corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island–it was moist and gooey from grilling.  The whole leaf Caesar could be a favorite of mine because of the presentation but the dressing tasted more like a base of Thousand Island thinned out rather than the primary flavors of olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese with hints of anchovy and garlic generally associated with such a salad.  Prices are in the teens and up.

Our service was attentive, though a friend recently walked out on a Friday lunch about 1pm after sitting for more than ten minutes with no acknowledgment from a server, bus boy, anyone, while tables to either side of her were served.  She rightly told the hostess on the way out why they left.   Her feeling about the experience says it all: You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”  Words to be heeded by all in the industry.

Would I return?  Sure, for drinks and dancing to live bands nightly in the piano lounge. Happy hour runs from 3pm to 6pm Monday through Friday and for the industry from 10pm to midnight.  The restaurant closes at midnight on weekdays, 1am on the weekends so it would make a nice finish to an evening at the movies or shopping at Fashion Valley.  7007 Friars Road, 619-295-2464.

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