An eclectic Del Ray restaurant and coffee bar with everything from pizza to cedar-plank salmon.

From September 2005

Here's a restaurant that sets its sights on pleasing, and FireFlies gives patrons what they want, from pizza and hamburgers to marinated sirloin and cedar-planked salmon. The menu, which lists six starters and six main courses, may seem thin, but there's no problem finding something satisfying.

The high-ceilinged restaurant is undergoing renovation. Its last makeover moved it away from deli decor to more of a restaurant format, and the new one should make it even more attractive.

Lovers of bread have to order it from the menu–a sliced house-made boule costs $3. Starters, soups, and salads play an important role. Try the hummus with crudités and house-made pita chips, fried calamari with a grapefruit-watercress salad, coconut-coated crab cakes, a mushroom soup with cream, or a house salad with walnuts, apples, pepata cheese, and cherry-balsamic vinaigrette–you can't go wrong.

A category called side dishes, priced similarly to the appetizers at an average of $6, is somewhat confusing: Should they start a meal or accompany the main courses? Either way, they include tasty room-temperature button mushrooms braised in red wine, grilled summer vegetables, and deep-fried olives.

Individual pizzas, around $11, are baked in a wood-burning oven with generally very good results. In addition to the standard crust, the restaurant offers whole-wheat crust. Both crusts are nicely blistered and chewy. Two winners were the margherita prepared with sliced tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, basil leaves, and olive oil, and the unexpectedly pleasing clams-casino pizza. Made with roasted red-pepper sauce, minced baby clams, apple-smoked bacon, sliced tomatoes, scallions, and mozzarella, it sounded over the top but tasted great. Least successful was the Red, White & Green pizza–a white pizza with a sauce of roasted garlic and goat cheese, topped with roasted red peppers, white onions, green olives, and artichokes. It was too heavy, and the flavors never coalesced.

Main courses range from $14.50 to $21 and from satisfactory to excellent. Best were the marinated New York strip steak with a bacon, cheddar, and scallion mashed-potato cake, asparagus, and roasted-garlic cream sauce; cedar-planked salmon served on a bed of lemon orzo with artichoke hearts, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic butter; and herb-roasted chicken with orange-saffron basmati rice, chorizo, diced zucchini, pepperoncini, and grape tomatoes. Less successful but still enjoyable were the roasted pork loin and the toasted tomato ravioli filled with prosciutto and a variety of cheeses with a carbonara sauce.

There's a wide choice of sandwiches. The Angus cheeseburger was well prepared, but not everyone would welcome mayonnaise. Pulled pork was tender but timidly flavored. Other choices are roast beef, roast turkey, and grilled chicken breast, all cooked on the premises.

Desserts are house-made and very good, including old-fashioned strawberry shortcake, brownie (ask for it with vanilla ice cream), brioche bread pudding with ice cream and candied pecans, chocolate truffle cake with cherry-orange capote, and a daily flavor of ice cream. The wine list is good, with sufficient information to permit an intelligent selection. The only problem is that the red wines are stored near the kitchen and arrive too warm.