Joel and I decided to have lunch at an old standby one day last week, Paradise in Gardena. Paradise has been around for about 20 years or so, and is located right where the cities of Gardena and Torrance meet up next to the intersections of the 110 and 405 freeways. For decades this area has been mostly commercial and industrial, and back when Paradise first opened it was just about the only place nearby for a good business lunch.
So let's go back to the early 1990's. This part of town was basically devoid of good eats other than very casual joints, and Paradise made quite a splash. It was cutting edge with a building that looks like a warehouse from a sci-fi flick, an eclectic interior that mixes Asian, tropical and modern styles and a California Cuisine mix of menu items inspired by various European, Asian and Pacific Island cultures. Their Margherita Pizza has always been one of my favorites, and their Thai Chicken Pasta was another popular and daring dish when it was introduced. One day as I was leaving the place with friends after finishing lunch, Ice Cube and his crew were walking in to have theirs. I even proposed to my wife in a back corner of the restaurant years ago.
Ok, so there's some history to the place, and Joel and I returned for another meal in Paradise.
I had one of their daily specials, Blackened Halibut served with a Caprese Salad. Very nice... I enjoyed the dish a lot. The mozzarella and tomato salad went very well with the fish, which was flavorful but not overbearing and cooked just right.
Joel went with his old favorite Thai Chicken Pasta, and his reaction to the dish highlighted Paradise's main weakness. The restaurant is still living in the 90's and could really use an update. That Thai Chicken Pasta, which was pushing the envelope 20 years ago is pretty boring today. They still make the dish the same way, it's just that good Thai food, which wasn't all that accessible two decades ago, can be found all over town today. Thai Chicken Pasta rocked in 1992, but today we want a more authentic Pad Thai or Pad See Ew noodle dish. Quite a few of the dishes on Paradise's menu could use a similar review and update. Same goes for the interior design. It was too cool for school 15 years ago and looks a bit dated today. Our tastes and expectations have changed over the years, but Paradise has remained pretty darned consistent. It's like a time warp back into a Michael J. Fox film.
Paradise is still a pretty good stop for a business lunch, a pleasant dinner close to the office or for Happy Hour. I'm not knocking it. But with updates to both menu and interior, I think it could regain some of its former glory.
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