I have been wanting to check this place out for quite some time. The chef, Jean Francois Meteigner, was an Iron Chef for a brief time. Plus, his restaurant is known for taking classic French recipes and making them a bit healthier by using less fat and dairy. Four of us decided to check them out. We brought two bottles of wine, a nice Colin Puligny Montrachet and a 2000 Bordeaux. ($25 Corkage, max 1 bottler per 2 persons) We ordered some champagne to supplement it. The table agreed to try the 6 course tasting menu. At $95/pp, it was potentially a better value than grazing all around the menu, plus, it really gave the chef the opportunity to showcase his talents. We gave him carte blanche to go nuts.
An amuse bouche was brought to the table; kind of a puff pastry square adorned with sun dried tomato, herbs, a bit of cheese. Paired well with the Champagne.
Course 1: Foie Gras two ways: Sautéed lobe and ravioli stuffed with pate. Garnishes were a celery root puree and some grated/pureed apple. Considering how heavy and rich Foie Gras usually is, this was an excellent example of how he lightened something up. It is, however, still Goose Liver in the end. This was one of my favorite dishes.
Course 2: Rock Shrimp Risotto. Another hit: tender, al dente shrimp with a perfectly cooked risotto adorned with seasonal English Peas in a flavorful sauce with a hint of tomato.
Course 3: A wild mushroom ravioli accompanied the escargot already removed from the shell. There was butter here, but also the realization that it was used much more sparingly than I would have expected. The ravioli actually came out cold and a bit undercooked, but a few words to the server and it was remade perfectly without complaint.
Course 4: Dorade accompanied by broccoli/cauliflower florets. This was probably everyone’s least favorite; it was perfectly prepared, with a nice carmelization on the outside and brilliant fluffy white flesh in the middle, but it was just a bit too fishy in flavor. I blame the fish more than the chef to be honest.
Course 5: Another similar approach to earlier dishes: Sweetbreads with an accompanying ravioli. THe preparation was most disappointing on this dish. My expectation is that sweetbreads need good carmelization and a crispiness on the outside to offset a custardy filling. These were kinda all mushy throughout. Just didn’t work for us. One of our guests was especially disappointed in this dish as she had made a special request for lamb to our server, and he gave us the impression it would be a definite.
Course 6: A lovely tart with incredible fresh fruit (berries) and just the right amount of sweet. And in November! The sorbet on the side was seated on a small chocolate chip cookie. This was a great and refreshing dessert. The only problem was a saw some souffles on some adjoining tables and really wanted one of those. Oh well, maybe next time.
The room was elegantly decorated with a Provencal flair and was definitely reminiscent of restaurants we have visited in France. Service was attentive without being overbearing. The servers/Maitre’De spoke with convincing French accents; it is more than likely many of them actually were French.
While we appreciated the talent and technique used to produce each item, overall we felt it very costly for what we received. Total bill including two corkage and one bottle of champagne was close to $400 per couple all-in.
Their concept poses a unique challenge. “Healthier” French sauces by their nature implies less richness, perhaps less intensity of flavor. While the irony is that the creation of such a sauce arguably requires more talent, time, and better quality ingredients, the result is such that it just doesn’t taste as good as what one might get with more traditional French sauces. I definitely do not feel like we were eating healthy or diet food, but I recognize that had we gone full-blown French there would have been a lot more cream and fat than what we were served. Considering the cost and relatively high caloric content of what we did consume, I think that if one commits to eating a French dinner then it may make more sense to just go the Full Monty.
That said, this is a great restaurant with a peaceful, quiet atmosphere and lovingly prepared food. There are not a lot of places on that side of town that can claim this kind of romantic environment. And if you just order off the menu, there are a lot of healthy, low fat options. I recommend you try it and see for yourself.
Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90025
(On Little Santa Monica Blvd., 3 blocks
west of Beverly Glen)