Violet Bistro in Westwood Village is an elegant Cali-French inspired restaurant with a cooking school upstairs in a picturesque 1930s brick building.
An appealing smoky aroma woke my senses as I approached the reception desk in the welcoming foyer. The scent came from an Old Fashioned cocktail with burning rosemary, giving an appealing start to our experience at the bistro.
We were led outside to the beautifully old-world courtyard lit in a violet hue, and our table was under a clear awning among plants, candles and warming heaters. Since the tables are a little tight in this dining area, you might strike up a conversation with other diners, as we did with a lovely couple dining before seeing a show at the nearby Geffen Playhouse. To my delight, I learned they were Beverly Press readers, too.
Our server suggested the purple cocktail called the Violet Spritz, made with a splash of French liqueur St. Germain made with fresh elderflowers, a pour of Lillet Rosé and butterfly pea flowers to give this drink its exquisite violet color. The sparking rosé gives it effervescence, and a sprig of mint as a garnish is a nice touch.
We started with a warm baguette, French onion soup and the Mizou salad. The French bread loaf is sourced from the artisanal bakery Bread Lounge and is served with organic salted butter and a small bowl of olive oil and a generous dollop of creme fraiche. Add marinated olives or a potted smoked salmon with chopped dill for an additional cost to the $11 bread plate.
One of the most emblematic dishes in Parisian cuisine, French onion soup, is made with a vegetarian mushroom broth instead of beef stock. This healthier version looked, smelled and tasted just like a traditional onion soup. Small, toasted rye bread croutons and melted rahmtaler cheese laced the top of the soup. “Rahm,” in Swiss German, means “cream,” and “tal” means “valley.” It is a creamy cheese that melts easily and is sometimes used in fondue.
The generous Mizou salad arrived towering with mixed greens and chopped herbs, shaved petite tommette cheese and chopped pistachios on top. This French cheese emits hazelnut and toasted bread aromas, and the salad is dressed in a pleasing red wine vinaigrette that doesn’t overpower in acidic flavor.
Other salads on the menu include an endive Caesar, and roasted beet salad with citrus, purple radish, goat cheese and walnuts.
When the owner of Violet Bistro, Dana Slatkin, approached our table, I enthusiastically raved about the soup and salad. She shared a story about while she was training and working in Michelin three-star restaurants in France, she would go to her adoptive French family’s home around midnight and make this exact salad before retiring to bed.
Slatkin is a local who graduated from Marlborough School, attended U.C. Berkeley, and then the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After her experience cooking in France, she came home to Los Angeles where she was the General Manager at L’Orangerie, and launched the Beverly Hills Farmers Market in the early 1990s. She opened Violet in March 2020.
Slatkin suggested a few Plats Principaux (main entrées) like the Moules Meuniere with griddled potato bread or the salt spring mussels bathed in a white sauce made with creme fraiche, tarragon and green garlic sauce.
A pasture-raised petite Bistro steak is served sliced with a choice of Provençal sauce, truffle butter or sauce au poivre.
We enjoyed the grilled salmon on a base of meaty green du puy lentils, sautéed in a lovely mirepoix until soft. A handful of flavorful arugula leaves balanced this earth and sea entree.
The tempura artichoke and the pomme frites are very popular sides. We opted for the artichoke; however, a table nearby ordered the pomme frites with harissa ketchup and lemon chickpea aioli. They devoured them so fast and begged for another order. Ahhh, next time!
A vegetarian roasted cauliflower with a vadouvan curry crust, pipitas pistou and pickled shallots, an organic half-chicken rubbed with sumac and aleppo, and a Le Double Smashburger are other enticing menu items. I am eager to return to try a few more of Slatkin’s dishes.
We saved room for the rustic and flavorful Basque cheesecake topped with strawberries, raspberries and beautiful edible pansy flowers from Slatkin’s garden. The pretty violet flowers offer a velvety texture and mild floral flavor.
A creamy citrus flan style dessert was topped with chewy candied kumquats and a mild citrus sauce.
After such a delightful dinner we walked upstairs to the cooking school to view one of the most beautiful Viking demonstration kitchens I have ever seen. The Violet Cooking School is a creative culinary destination for all ages and abilities. Each class includes chef demonstrations, hands-on activities and a full-service meal with a glass of wine paired with the evening’s menu. The space can also be rented out for private events and celebrations, plus it’s a great team building experience taught and guided by professional chefs.
Currently, chef Brittany Cassidy is busy with her culinary team and is debuting a new spring menu featuring a Violet Plantburger on a brioche or potato bun, as well as some other spring forward menu items. During the month of March, the kitchen is making a celebratory chocolate cake to honor the restaurant’s three-year anniversary.
When I asked why the restaurant was named Violet Bistro, I learned “The violet flower is strong, and symbolizes affection, care and love,” our server said. I thought those were just the qualities Dana Slatkin demonstrates to her guests and staff at Violet Bistro.
Open nightly starting at 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. violetla.com. $$-$$$ 1121 Glendon Ave., (310)208-1121.
This article is featured in the Beverly Press on March 30, 2023.