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Ever wonder why there are so many “It” restaurants where the crowd is fashionable but the food is the pits? And why craft cocktails, sleek decor and farmers’-market ingredients, while great, can’t replace meals you actually want to eat?

Or how, once in a blue moon, there is a hot spot such as Laurel Hardware where everything from the look to the lamb belly with shishito pepper entrée ($24) is a delight? We kept asking ourselves: How did designer Sam Marshall transform a former hardware store into a sexy boîte noir? Is it his wallpapered ceilings? Floors from the Coney Island boardwalk? And next time, how can we remember to ask for a table in the twinkling back garden?

How did chef Mario Alberto manage not to over-truffle the butter in his corn ($12) with Parmesan and chives? And wasn’t that goat-cheesy butternut squash ($10) perfectly browned? How can we make our own beet salad ($9) with artfully splattered persimmons, spiced yogurt and pistachios? 

And if we add watermelon juice to Rain Organics vodka, can we too make the house-favorite Gangster cocktail ($12)?

Apologies to critic Pete Wells, whose recent viral New York Times screed inspired us--but sometimes leaving a restaurant with lots of questions can be the ultimate compliment.

Laurel Hardware, 7984 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; 323-656-6070 or laurelhardware.com

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