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Providence: How to make 'ugly seafood' a huge hit

Providence: How to make 'ugly seafood' a huge hit

It's often said that nine out of 10 restaurants in the United States close shop within the first year of business.

It's also now said that these terrifying numbers have been more or less pulled out of the mythical ocean, sort of like Jaws.

A more accurate attrition rate, according to a recent Ohio State University Hospitality Management Program-based study, is that three out of five restaurants either go under or change management within the first three years.

Which is blood-curdling enough.

So what would possess any restaurateur to want to front-crawl through such toothy waters?

Especially one -- in this dining era in which the word "casual" seems to be attacking from all sides -- that sets up a pricy, prix fixe, perfection-striving, real silverware, white tablecloth room on the edge of Hollywood in Los Angeles, aka the restaurant turnover capital of the galaxy?

That restaurateur turns out to be Michael Cimarusti, a man who has also assembled a flawless wait staff who can concisely explain the interplay between cured scallop tartar and its wild nasturtium leaf "taco" shell -- and a tasting menu with the cojones to name one of its signature shellfish dishes The Ugly Bunch.

"I'd originally thought about calling that dish 'The Good the Bad and the Ugly' and then briefly went with 'Highway One,'" explains Cimarusti, executive chef and co-owner of Providence, which enters its tenth year as one of the most consistently acclaimed dining destinations in L.A.

"It's a great dish. I love it. And it's been The Ugly Bunch now for about five years," says Cimarusti. "So I guess we'll be sticking with that name."

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