KASS Wine Bar + Restaurant  Sophisticated French Fare

The newest restaurant on La Brea already has quite a following of oenophiles, foodies and Francophiles. Many remember esteemed Michelin starred French chef Christophe Émé when he was at his previous restaurant Ortolan on West Third Street. 

I’ve already been twice to KASS since it opened this month in the former Wilde Wine Bar. The first time was right before it opened to sip a glass of bubbly Reveries Rose’ while sampling a few French appetizers.

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The second time I visited was before Valentine’s Day. We were led to a table next to the big open kitchen with shiny black subway tiles to observe him and his skilled culinary team in action. This affable chef wears stylish black rim glasses, and artfully prepares seasonal appetizers and entrées depending on the availability of fresh, seasonal ingredients from the local Farmers Market. 

Taking in the newly renovated space designed by Annie May of Kuskin/ May Designs, I noticed all of the six spaces at the stylish Wine Bar were taken. This is an ideal spot to share a cheese or charcuterie board, along with oysters and a glass or bottle of wine. Wine consultant Taylor Parsons (Whole Cluster Consulting, République, Spago, Mozza, Campanile) curates a list comprised of seventy percent French wines, with an emphasis on the Loire Valley in honor of chef’s home region. The remaining thirty percent make up varietals ranging from other regions in France, Europe, and California. Wines by the bottle begin with sparkling wines in two significant categories: Champagne and Not Champagne. There is an organic Vinca Minor, Carignan Rose’ from Sonoma County and white wines categorized as Energetic, Fruity, and Muscular. Red Wines are organized on the list as Bright, Juicy, Earthy and Plush.

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Sitting in the sophisticated, yet comfortable 40 seat dining room, I brushed my hand along the plush velvet charcoal colored banquette and adjusted a comfy pillow. The natural wood tables are close together, almost like New York seating, with low back sable colored leather chairs. Another nice touch includes the stylish black slate cutlery.

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Throughout the evening, I enjoyed watching Chef Christophe strategically apply micro greens and flowers on his imaginative beet salad. It’s a work of art on a transparent glass serving plate filled with decomposed granite inside. The dish arrives with spread of tiny black pearl lentils that look like caviar, and two colored beets cut in quarters. For sweetness there is a handful of sliced green grapes and whole blackberries. A pleasant surprise was thinly sliced Comte’ cheese medallions. This unpasteurized cow’s milk French cheese balances the earthiness with a touch of saltiness. It’s a stunning salad in appearance and flavors. 

Periodically Chef Christophe came out of his kitchen to welcome guests and see if they were enjoying their experience. While stopping at the table next to us, I overheard the couple tell the chef how they were so happy to see him back in a restaurant. They used to frequent Ortolan often. 

After cooking in a variety of kitchens in France, Chef Christophe arrived in the United States as the Executive Chef at L’Orangerie. In 2005, he was honored by Food & Wine as one of the “10 Best New Chefs” and earned a Michelin star in 2007. He became known for lightening up classic heavy French cuisine by focusing on the true flavors, using fewer ingredients, emulsions and natural jus.

The complexity of his cooking was appreciated when a warm bowl of his creme de champignons was delivered in a striking ceramic Portamsa textured porcelain bowl. I learned this plateware is made in Portugal, and the pattern look similar to the surface of the moon with little porous craters. A thin line of bright green parsley and chive oil offers a pop of color to the earthy and silky warm mushroom puree.

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Another surprising dish was the grilled octopus that arrived cut into bite sized pieces on a Shichirin Hida Konro. This miniature Japanese table charcoal grill arrived with a plate of grilled baby fennel, sliced Yukon potatoes and a pour of red bell pepper coulis. Our server Alex told us to pierce with a fork a piece of grilled octopus, potato and leek before swirling it in the bright orange coulis. The grilled leeks and coulis enhance the flavors.

Be sure to order the chicken supreme en croute d’argile and ask if you can crack it open once it’s ready to be served. It’s Old School cooking where chicken is wrapped in parchment paper and then covered in soft gray clay. It’s put on a rack in the oven and baked for 40 minutes until the clay starts cracking. Chef Christophe had me come up to the kitchen’s counter to hit the baked clay with a wood mallet. Then he peeled back the paper to reveal succulent chicken cooked in its own jus. It’s served with green asparagus spheres and beautifully flavored goosebump-like textured morel mushrooms, one of the most desired wild mushrooms in the world. Back at our table, the woman next to me said – “Honey I want to use the mallet, I’m getting the chicken dish.”

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We finished with a plate of three different cheeses that included Flour du Marquis and Secret de Compostelle from France, and Rogue River Blue from Oregon. Slices were served with thinly sliced bread and a few raspberries. Next we split a tarte au pommes that is big enough for two. It was accompanied with the same clear glass serving plate that had tiny stones inside, yet this time it was filled with ice cold water to keep the scoops of vanilla ice cream from melting.

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While leaving, we noticed people sitting in cozy woven nest chairs next to low tables out front on a small patio. On warm evenings this will be a popular spot for guests to settle in with a glass of wine, before a splendid dinner.

Welcome Chef Christophe to the neighborhood as he creates savory and artistic French food that takes years to master. $$-$$$.

Be sure to make a reservation. Dinner service is every Tuesday through Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m., and every Sunday from 6 to 9:30 p.m. The KASS Wine Bar stays open until 10 p.m. on Sundays, and midnight every other evening except Monday. 320 S. La Brea Ave. (323)413-2299.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press

 

 

 

Le Petit Marche’ in Larchmont

At Le Petit Marché, Spoon Singh and Mathew Cape bring authentic French cuisine to the Larchmont Village with a stellar seasonal menu, full bar and market, as well as a gourmet bakery and coffee bar.

Warm up to Le Petit Marché with a bowl of seasonal soup. (photo by Jill Weinlein)

Singh, founder of Kona Brewing Company, and Cape, Paris native and founder of Hollywood’s Vinolio, previously managed The Larchmont across the street until they saw a need for a French dining destination in the area. I was excited to welcome them back to the neighborhood.

Find a table for two or take a seat at Le Petit Marché’s large and inviting bar that seats around 40 people. There, alchemist Chris Kramer creates drinks free of refined sugar and syrups, instead enhancing each drink with a touch of honey, agave and almond.

The dining room also features a wall of wine curated by Lou Amdur, of Lou Wine Shop. Amdur’s wine offerings includes bottles of sparkling, rosé, whites and reds from Madeira, the Jura Mountains, Sicily, the Loire Valley, Beaujolais, Italy’s Friuli region and the Canary Islands. Wine prices are less expensive than many other restaurants, and guests can purchase bottles to take home to add to their own collection.

The night my husband and I dined at Le Petit Marché, we watched chef Stephane Liot in action. This talented chef trained in Paris at La Cuisine du Lycée Marie Durand, but has also lived and traveled around the world, including in England, Japan and Cuba. Each destination has provided inspiration for his cuisine.

To kick off 2019, Liot has designed an all-day menu featuring breakfast items that include four different types of croissants – plain, chocolate, Nutella and almond – plus over 20 entrées including a croque-monsieur and California quinoa bowl with roasted banana squash, carrots and peppers. During lunch, diners can enjoy a number of sandwiches, salads, moules-frites, kale mac and cheese, a house lamb burger and several vegan options.

Whether you stop in to enjoy a nice lunch, the lively bar, or a café au lait and fruit tart, Le Petit Marché is a wonderful French café near Larchmont Village. (photo courtesy of Le Petit Marché)

From the dinner menu, we started with a steaming bowl of the soup of the day, a comforting carrot, ginger and yuzu soup. Others at the surrounding tables were spooning onion soup made with dark beer and a web of melted cheese on top.

The eggplant salad arrived next, featuring a mound of kale with goat cheese fritters on top. The salad’s sliced beets and pears paired well with the grilled eggplant, offering a nice balance of flavors. Our server shared that the chef might change this kale and goat cheese salad to include zucchini as well.

For entrées, we shared the special of the day – large sautéed scallops on a bed of black al dente rice with bok choy in a crab bisque sauce. The caramelization on the scallops added the right touch of sweetness.

I also tried the pan-seared black cod, but I found it a little too salty to my liking. However, I did enjoy the Israeli couscous, charred avocado and beurre blanc with a squeeze of Meyer lemon below the fish.

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My husband and I both eyed the sizzling steaks with frites arriving at other tables. Singh, Cape and Liot work with celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s Gwen Butcher Shop for menu items like the 16-ounce New York steak, 16-ounce rib-eye and filet mignon.

For something really outstanding, ask the server if the chef is making either his beef bourguignon on tagliatelle pasta or the chicken Basquaise with tomatoes, herbs, onions and peppers. These two dishes are specials on the winter menu and are pure comfort food.

After dinner, they serve Verve coffee, and the night we dined, rich desserts including a slice of cheesecake, chocolate-covered poached pear, crème brûlée or a muesli tart covered in chocolate.

During happy hour, the restaurant is filled with locals enjoying specials from 5 to 8 p.m. nightly. The owners also have a special delivery menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Just order off the menu, and groceries from the marketplace, including wine, will be delivered to your front door. Call to see if your home or office is within delivery range.

Launch 2019 with a French meal that will warm your senses at Le Petit Marché. $$ 5665 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323)380-6557.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press.

10 Reasons To Get The Cuisine of the French Riviera Cookbook

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Last Tuesday, I finally met restauranteur Laurent Halasz – the founder and owner of FIG & OLIVE. He hosted a dinner for the launch of his first-ever cookbook, FIG & OLIVE – The Cuisine of the French Riviera in collaboration with renowned publishing house, Assouline. I found this impeccably dressed Frenchman to be extremely charming and personable.

(Laurent Halasz with writer)
(Laurent Halasz with writer)

Raised in the idyllic coastal town of Mougins in the South of France, about five miles from Cannes, Halasz developed an epicurean palate from his mother Francine. She would take him with her on her daily shopping adventures to local markets in nearby towns Valbonne and Cannes. Halasz gained an “outside of the classroom” learning experience about fresh and seasonal olive oils, produce and meats. Francine would walk home and prepare exceptional meals that created many “Mmmm, moments,” said Halasz, who wrote the book with his mother. “She cooks simple, fresh, flavorful, and colorful dishes,” said Halasz. “These recipes are easy to prepare for your family and friends.”

Celebrating a 10th anniversary of success, Halasz opened his first FIG & OLIVE in New York in 2005. Now he has four restaurants in New York, and one in Chicago, Los Angeles, Newport Beach and Washington D.C.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The restaurants culinary ethos is signature olive oils, in lieu of butter or cream. Trays of paper-thin zucchini carpaccio were served at the cocktail reception with a squeeze of lemon and dots of fruity picholine olive oil from the South of France. The dish was adorned with sweet toasted pine nuts and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese (The recipe is in the cookbook). We nibbled on this and other bite-size appetizers while sipping Yellow Label Veuve Clicquot champagne.

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(Sommelier Fabrizio Nocilla)

FIG & OLIVE offers an elegant, yet casual dining experience featuring the regional coastal cuisine of France, Italy and Spain. What I like about dining in the West Hollywood restaurant is the service. Sommelier Fabrizio Nocilla is handsome and extremely knowledgeable about wines, especially from Spain, Italy, France and California. Other servers worthy of applause is the lovely Kate who looks just like Scarlett Johansson, and the delightful Jackie.

Here are 10 Culinary Tips I discovered inside this beautiful cookbook:

  1. Learn to pair the right olive oils with each dish. Did you know that from Château Léoube in Provence makes a fruity and delicate varietal? While  from Marqués de Griñon in Spain, the olive oil offers a more green fruit and herbal flavor profile. The Tuscan olive oil from the Mugelli family is slightly peppery. The restaurant offers a retail collection of over 30 different types of extra virgin olive oil ideal to enhance these recipes.
  2. Halasz paid homage to his mother, Francine and the Father of this type of farm-to-table cuisine – Michelin-starred chef Roger Verge, who recently passed away in June 2015. “His first cookbook, Cuisine of the Sun, offers a healthy and natural way of cooking, combining the products of the earth like a bouquet of wild flowers,” said Halasz. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet leads to optimal health. These dishes will inspire you to eat healthier.
  3. For a party, serve many aperitif dishes to guests with a nice bottle of champagne. Start with an eggplant caviar, and some individual size tomato tarts and Fig and Gorgonzola tarts found in the book. Halasz told me these tarts are the French equivalent to pizzas, yet more elegant and lighter with their puff pastry crust.

    Chef Pascal Lorange with Sous Chef and Laurent Halasz
    (Executive Chef Wilfrid Hoquet, Chef de Cuisine, Oscar Ledesma, and Laurent Halasz)
  4.  Our first course was Francine’s Butternut Squash soup with chestnuts. It’s an ideal Fall/Winter dish to serve during the holidays (found on page 80 in the cookbook).
  5. Since the Mediterranean diet traditionally includes antioxidant-rich vegetables, The cookbook offers several vegetable dishes, plus a decadent cold Gazpacho made with minced tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion, garlic. bread, basil, Sherry vinegar and a splash of olive oil. At FIG & OLIVE they make this exact soup and add a small scoop of Ayala goat cheese to enhance the dish.

    Roasted Veal Filet Mignon with Rosemary and Braised Endive
    (Roasted Veal Filet Mignon with Rosemary and Braised Endive)
  6. On a Mediterranean diet, red meat should be consumed no more than a few times a month. The Filet Mignon recipe is an excellent choice. Marinate the red meat with olive oil, garlic and rosemary overnight. Grill it and serve it with vegetables. At FIG & OLIVE, Chef Pascal sautés onions in a Porto sauce with a balsamic reduction and shallots to make the most desirable onions I have ever tasted.
  7. There are 8 Fish recipes that will impress your guests from a whole Branzino to the Salmon and Scallops en Papillote that was served at the dinner. Step by step tips help novice to expert chefs to make these dishes that “wow” the table with its presentation.

    (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
    (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
  8. There are 10 Desserts in the book that range from apple tarts, chocolate pot de creme and lovely lavender Madeleine.
  9. FIG & OLIVE partnered with Air France to celebrate the launch of the book at all restaurant locations. The Los Angeles Launching was the first, since Halasz calls LA his home away from his “true home.” Attend a launch event at one of his other restaurants for chance to win a pair of round trip ticket in Business class to the Nice in the South of France (terms and conditions apply). Air France is investing over a half billion dollars in upgrading the customer experience including a more spacious Business class seat bed that reclines 180° with direct access to the aisle. Passengers in Business class can also savor the French touch while dining on gourmet meals designed by top Michelin-starred chefs and enjoying fine wines especially selected by Air France’s world-renowned sommelier. Air France offers the best of French culture on board each flight. http://www.airfrance.us.
  10. With the holidays approaching, this 160 pages, spiral-bound hardcover cookbook is an ideal gift for yourself or a culinary family member or friend. Inside are 100 award winning photos by Harald Gottschalk of interesting items and picturesque venues from the South of France. The photo of Francine next to a set table in her backyard, near the pool at her home in Mougins is stunning. You will be inspired to plan your next vacation to the French Riviera and enjoy healthier Mediterranean dishes. FIG & OLIVE – Cuisine of The French Riviera is available for purchase at ASSOULINE boutiques worldwide and through http://www.assouline.com. and at each restaurant.

Hours at the FiG & Olive Melrose Place – Open for lunch starting at 12 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch at 11 a.m. Dinner service begins Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m. on Friday through Sunday, dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m. $$$ 8490 Melrose Place (310)360-9100.

Tantalizing Terrine

FullSizeRender-17For my 26th wedding anniversary, I took my husband with me to review the new lunch menu at Stephane Bombet, Executive Chef Kris Morningstar and Francois Renaud’s elegant California brasserie – Terrine.

Chef Morningstar has been tantalizing Los Angelenos with some of his French favorites that include beef tartare, onion soup, steak frites, escargot, tartines, and Croque Madame’s in the evening and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Starting this week, the restaurant is now open for lunch Monday through Friday featuring some signature dishes and some of Morningstar’s new creations.

Since it was daytime and we had the responsibilities of work, school pick-up, and soccer practice later tonight, we started with carafes of refreshers – a lemongrass iced tea and a lavender lemonade that made my mouth pucker in delight. Renaud came to our table to talk about his new specialty housemade teas from the London-based Rare Tea Company, known to source and supply the world’s best tea directly from farmers and their tea gardens. Renaud makes an ice tea with Earl Grey tea infused with mint, and a teaspoon of honey to enhance the beverage naturally. All were quite good.

FullSizeRender-14Those dining around us were sipping a Terrine Gin & Tonic made with Bombay East, Renaud’s lemongrass and a house made yuzu tonic. It was pretty with a long peeled rind of ruby red grapefruit.

While looking over the menu outside on the appealing patio, I wanted to order what I enjoyed last time – The avocado toast with tarragon salsa verde, and Meyer lemon. Instead I ordered the Socca to share with a new broccoli and chicory salad. Both were excellent together. Socca is a street food found in Nice, France. It’s made from chickpeas into a thin pancake, almost like a crepe. It’s dusted with fennel powder, coarse salt and pepper. Served on a wood plank it was cut into triangles.

The salad was divine with rabe broccoli, little Pecorino cubes, toasted farro grains, and sunflower seeds. It was a wonderful mix of textures and flavors enhanced with an anchovy and lemon vinaigrette.

The Quiche Du Jour was made the French way, light and wobbly with an amazing crust. It’s served with a mixed green salad with fine herbs and a champagne vinaigrette.

FullSizeRender-15I wanted to order the exquisite Croque Madame again. It’s sliced smoked ham is grilled with melted Gruyere cheese, Bechamel and topped with a sunny side egg. Instead, I ordered the juicy Terrine burger with truffle butter and cheese, a delightful aioli, flash fried onions and cured tomato jam. WOW! That jam just makes this burger so gourmet tasting, especially with the soft brioche bun.

Morningstar is putting foie gras on a lot of dishes. I could have had it on my burger for an extra $9. He also puts it in a Terrine with sweet and sour prunes, served with a baguette. Morningstar assembles a salad with foie gras, confit duck gizzards, apples and walnut vinaigrette, and his Jambon Buerre is made with ham, foie gras and truffle butter.

FullSizeRender-16We finished with a generous slice of a quintessential French lemon tart. The meringue on top looked like floral grommets torched lightly to give the dish a visually stunning presentation.

BRAVO Morningstar, Renaud and Bombet for making my anniversary meal one that I will always remember.

Hours are from – 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Terrine – 8265 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles – (323)746-5130

Little Next Door Has Soul

DSC_0449A tall gentleman walked into Little Next Door on a Tuesday night with sunglasses and a chic scarf tied around his neck. At first I thought he was the talented actor Liam Neeson with long hair. When he took off his sunglasses, I realized this very handsome French man with an air about him was Nicolas Meschin, one of the owners of The Little Door and Little Next Door.
He sat next to me throughout my dinner with a group of foodies and shared some interesting facts about the rise of The Little Door and what new at Little Next Door.

Growing up in France near Cognac, Meschin fondly remembers his mother cooking in the house Little-Next-door-lemon-tarts-224x300every day. He enjoyed hanging out in the kitchen, talking with his family and tasting from the pots while his mother added ingredients. “The Kitchen was the center and soul of my house,” Meschin said. “Today there isn’t as much communion in many kitchens with both parents working and busy schedules.”

In his 20’s Meschin followed his brother Frederic to Los Angeles and worked along 3rd Street in a Paris/Mexico Cafe. “We made French dishes and rolled them into a tortilla for a burrito,” Meschin said.

He started as a dishwasher and did a little bit of everything in the restaurant. “We used to share a cooler with Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa at the Japanese restaurant Oshou in the late 1970s,” Meschin said. Nobu worked next door to Meschin until Nobu opened his own restaurant Matsuhisa on La Cienega Boulevard in the late 80s.

The Meschin brothers opened their nightclub/restaurant, Flaming Colossus in the late 80s in downtown LA. “It was the Studio 54 of Los Angeles and a very artistic community back them,” Meschin said. He told me how the rock group U2 and Bono used hung out often, as did the new and innovative cast from Cirque de Soleil after they performed in their first So Cal show in Little Tokyo.

The brothers made a strong connection with Cirque de Soleil and soon started catering all of their Opening Night and VIP dinners. Today, they continue to work with the company whenever they are in town.

When the brothers discovered a space became available for The Little Door, they envisioned a new dining experience for Los Angeleos by opening the city’s first wine bar serving authentic French-Mediterranean cuisine.

The restaurant featured a variety of over 70 bottles of wine by the glass. “At the time there were 300 vineyards in California, now there are over 3000,” Meschin said. They took the wine wave at the right time and acquired bottles of wine at more reasonable prices.

Currently they have a spectacular wine collection with one-third from California, one-third from France and the remaining is a diverse collection from all over the world.

IMG_5273In 2006, with their success, they opened Little Next Door (literally next door) offering a true homemade croissant and lighter fare that included salads, sandwiches, salads, freshly baked organic breads, pastries, egg dishes and a variety of our famous house-made jams and preserves.
While chatting with Meschin, I learned he recently opened another The Little Door in Santa Monica.

While biting into a thick crusty crouton lathered with brie and mascarpone cheese layered with slightly sweet glazed apples and sprinkled with microgreens and candied walnuts, he shared he also is working on a The Little Door up in Santa Barbara.

The new chef Kevin Luzande at Little Next Door recently took over the kitchen after leaving Acabar in Los Angeles. He has worked in the kitchens of the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey, and at Rivera and Playa. His specialties on this menu include a tuna tartare with a Japanese/Latin flair that included red pepper paste, avocado, scallions, shoyu and blue corn strips to scoop the soft ingredients and offer a crunchy texture.

The beet salad offered a variety of colored chopped beets with a pistachio granola next to creamy goat cheese and arugula.

Luzande creates spicy large prawns bathed in heat with Harissa and Aleppo peppers then cooled with labneh and pistachios.

IMG_5270The wine stewards of the evening – Francois and Didier poured glasses of French Rose’ and a slightly sweet white Francios Lurton “Les Fumees Blanches. Both paired nicely with the spiciness of the tuna tartare and prawns, offering the smell of citrus fruits with tropical notes and a hint of smoke.

For our next course, we all raved about the creaminess of the cauliflower dish. The roasted and caramelized cauliflower sat on a bed of luscious cauliflower puree. It was a satisfying vegetarian dish, as was the corn pudding summer ravioli served with chanterelle mushrooms and chive blossoms. Luzande takes fresh sweet corn and reduces it to a thick liquid slowly for one hour before it caramelizes the sugars. His pillowy ravioli pasta is stuffed with the corn and lightly drizzled with butter nage. It just melted in my mouth.
Another dish that sent a pleasing shiver throughout my senses was the salmon risotto made with a Little-Next-Door.Salmon-300x300-2 zucchini and basil puree. This healthy dish had a generous piece of salmon cooked perfectly with baby squash, oven dried tomatoes and fresh parmesan. Francois recommended a white Chateau Goudichaud, Graves De Vayres from Bordeaux to accompany this dish.

Even though I had enjoyed more food than I normally would eat in one sitting, I had to pierce my fork into two strips of Sterling Silver top sirloin served with a green peppercorn reduction. It was paired with a glass of Ramon Bilbao Tempranillo from Crianza. The cherry-red color wine offered an intense aroma of ripe red berries, bay leaf and mineral touches and some cocoa.

Known for their abundance of French pastries, macarons, cakes, tarts and pies, I was very pleased DSC_0448when a beautiful whole cherry chafoutis arrived to our table. Next, a plate of lovely lemon tarts was sent to our table topped with pristine white meringue and brown highlights.

Cake plates were delivered with warm chocolate, coconut and pistachio macarons. Most restaurants and pastry shops serve macarons cold that are hard to the bite, these macarons were warm and heavenly.
The pièce de résistance was small chocolate and caramel pot de creme with a sprinkling of sea salt and fig slices on top. The desserts covered all bases to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.
Come find the soul of French cuisine at Little Next Door.
Lunch is served at 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner is nightly from 6 to 11 p.m. They also have Happy Nights Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. On weekends brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $$ 8142 W. 3rd St. (323)951-1010.

A portion of this article was featured in the July 2, 2015 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers. This article is also in GPSmyCity –  https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

PERCH – French Cuisine with Rooftop Views of LA

IMG_0328My friends dining with us asked, “Is the restaurant Perch named after a fish or branch for a bird?” As the door opened and we walked up to the reception table, it became obvious Perch is a lovely elevated spot with spectacular views of Los Angeles.

Sitting at a table on the outside patio with glass walls or near a blazing fireplace puts one in a romantic or festive mood. String lights enhance the ambiance, while outdoor heaters keep the patios warm, even on the cold LA winter nights.

Even though the temperature was in the 40s, we sat outside near the back corner on whicker couches with a wood coffee table for dining. Nearby, the Ben Ross three-piece jazz band entertained guests. Below was Pershing Square with palm trees aglow in red, green and blue lights and an outdoor ice-skating rink framed by skyscrapers. Beyond were sparkling lights all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The menu by Chef Gerardo Benitez features hors-d’oeuvres, small plates and entrees with a French flair. The bar makes specialty cocktails named Penicillin, My Fair Lady and Hemingway on the Beach. There is quite a bar scene here, especially after 9 p.m. All guests must be 21 years old when the restaurant transforms into a social night time destination.

We started with a French tradition, a bubbly Kir Royal. After a toast, we ordered two appetizers, the Ahi Tuna Tartar and grilled IMG_0330octopus. The tartar was served with crispy wonton triangles and seasoned with a ginger soy vinaigrette. The octopus was heightened with Vaudovan, a blend of spices that is a French derivative of an Indian curry masala with shallots and garlic. It arrives with a small fennel citrus salad, juicy Campari tomatoes and dollop of crème fraiche.

For entrees, my husband ordered the tender flat iron steak with a mellow bordelaise sauce. It was served with gooey truffle cheese fries. My order of pan roasted salmon was a generous piece of moist and pink fish resting on a bed on flavorful smoked eggplant puree and vegetables Provencal with tomatoes and onions. Artichoke chips gave this dish texture and crunch.

Others at our table ordered the sliced pan roasted chicken supreme with a savory chicken gravy. It’s served with Chef Gerardo’s signature mushroom risotto that is enriched with parmesan and mascarpone cheese.

Also delivered to our table was a bowl of gnocchi with thick, soft dough dumplings covered in a basil pesto, crème fraiche and finished with tender market squash.

IMG_0336Perch offers Les Petits Plus side dishes, and we ordered a few. The Brussels Sprouts with bacon, parmesan, and sherry vinaigrette paired nicely with our entrees, as did the cauliflower dish with a sprinkling of almonds, Vaudovan spices, citrus aioli, and brown butter. Both were large portions that could be shared with others.

True to a fine French restaurant, Perch does serve a delicious chocolate pot de creme made with Valrhona chocolate custard, strawberries and blueberries and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

I asked our server for their brunch menu. What a great spot for a birthday brunch or bridal shower. The menu listed an assortment of scones, muffins and croissants served with honey butter and jam.

Entrees include French toast, smoked salmon Benedict, crab Benedict, shrimp Scampi, and the Perch burger served on a brioche bun.

Champagnes start at $34 up to $200 a bottle. You may build your own mimosa or Bellini with an additional $5 carafe of orange juice or peach puree.

For night owls, Perch offers a late-night limited menu on Sunday through Wednesday from 11p.m. to 12 a.m. and Thursday throughIMG_0337 Saturday from 11p.m. to 1a.m. Perch offers a variety of live entertainment nightly and during the Champagne brunch.
The restaurant appeals to all types for people from couples out for a romantic dinner, to friends gathered together for drinks and a meal. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. It’s a destination spot that won’t leave you disappointed.

Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. $$ 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

This article was published in the January 15, 2015 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Crepes + Kitchen French Sweet Delights

DSC_0791The first thing I noticed when I entered Crepes + Kitchen on Wilshire Blvd. near La Brea Ave. was the friendly greeting from the owners Yafit Barades and Jacqueline Soletzky. These ladies are genuinely nice to every person who walks in their door. They are also passionate about dogs and have a jar of treats for their furry friends who walk up to the glass door. These ladies work with No Kill LA and are always happy to help a customer looking to adopt a dog.

Another passion for the two women is coffee. “Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee,” reads a sign on the wall. They sell great coffee by Longshot, an Australian roast based in Los Angeles. It’s a lighter roast than most American coffee chains and offers a subtle mocha flavor with a natural sweetness. Coffee comes in 8 oz. and 12 oz. sizes with a hot drip, espresso, Americano, traditional Macchiato and lattes. I started with a Chai Latte as I looked over the menu.

These charming ladies have been friends for years and share a common passion for food. They took over a crepe stand at the Brentwood Farmer’s Market five years ago. Soon they opened stands in three other farmer’s markets, including the Gene Autry’s parking lot and South Pasadena.

They made crepes to order, sold coffee and French bakery items. They also did an “old-school” trade with the farmers. If the farmers gave them fresh produce, they would prepare delicious crepes for them to eat.

Barades is an expert crepe maker, and I tasted her Italiano with turkey, melted mozzarella and cheddar, fresh spinach and basil, tomatoes, roasted peppers and pesto. The
DSC_0794thin crepe is served folded at the bottom and open face at the top revealing a colorful array of ingredients.

Barades grew up in Israel and has fond memories of going to a crepe shop located next to the town’s movie theatre. They sold sweet crepes made with Nutella and a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with whipped cream. “It was an ideal treat after seeing a movie,” she said.

Soletzky is a master in salads and dressings. Her tuna salad is made without mayonnaise and instead mixes three different mustards with olive oil, lemon juice, artichoke, salt and pepper and lets it marinate overnight. I tried the tuna on a crispy French baguette and grilled in Panini machine brining all of the delightful flavors together.

All of the bread and pastries are from France Bakery on Fletcher near Silverlake. They deliver fresh almond and regular croissants, muffins, whole wheat and French baguettes along with a savory rosemary bread at 4 a.m. every weekday morning. “Whatever we have left at the end of the day, we give to our neighbors. We don’t like to waste food,” Barades said.

I sampled four of Soletzky and Barades salads and enjoyed each immensely. The organic Asian salad with chicken offers a dressing with a touch of peanut butter for sweetness. It also has paprika and cayenne to give it a hint of heat. The sesame oil soothes the flavors.
The couscous salad with housemade balsamic vinegar dressing offers a nice crunch of the cucumbers, orange bell peppers and ripe tomatoes. Kalamata olives give this salad a zing.

The Mediterranean salad is filled with chopped farmer’s market vegetables with Feta cheese. The Tahini dressing is made with soy sauce, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.

DSC_0800While eating, I admired the artwork hanging on the walls. I learned that the pieces were made by friends they met while working at the Gene Autry Farmers Market. One large piece in red and white has the words “Make Life Delish” with little white forks and knives in the background. Another says, “Cest La Vie.”

The cold display case offers patrons a peek of the salads made for the day. There are wraps available in sundried tomato, spinach or regular tortillas depending on the day.

While Barades was preparing two different sweet crepes to try, an attractive woman and her black French bulldog, Brasky, walked up to the glass door. Brasky looked in to see if his favorite human friends were inside. “There is our mascot,” Soletzky said. “Every French café needs a French bulldog.”

Barades made a simple cinnamon sugar and butter crepe with powder sugar that was a light and sweet treat. Barades also made a Nutella crepe with sliced strawberries and bananas topped with whipped cream. It was presented beautifully and tasted even better than it looked.

As I left, this darling duo gave me the same warm goodbye that they give their customers and a well wish to have a great day. Not only is the food worth coming for, but these gals make everyone who visits feel special and at home.

Open right now Monday through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Soon they may extend their hours and open for the weekends. Come in and meet some of the friendliest IMG_7278neighbors along the Miracle Mile, while enjoying their delicious French fare. $ 5223 Wilshire Blvd. (323)933-3403.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on April 3, 204

Le Petit Bistro – Authentic French

DSC_1028Welcoming us into his restaurant, the charming Albert Emkies of Le Petit Bistro, made a great impression as he seated us in a comfortable red booth for a delightful traditional French dinner. Delivering the menus to our tables, he pointed out the specials on the back page of the menu. At least four appetizers and four entrees change daily.

The original menu offers guests the opportunity to eat what they desire at a reasonable price. “We have guests who come in at 5 p.m. and sit down to our roasted chicken with frites dinner for $13.50. Our frites are cooked in peanut oil to make them so delicious,” shared Albert.

Le Petit Bistro underwent a “facelift” prior to Valentine’s Day and looks better than ever, both inside and out. Large mirrors and wonderful French posters adorn the walls. One wall is a lovely sage green, while the other is a bold red.  Booths line the walls with white tablecloths and a layer of white butcher paper.

Guests receive a basket of crunchy crust French bread served with a dish of roasted eggplant tapenade and hummus to be spread on top.

Our knowledgeable server, Regis, recommended some of the restaurant’s specialties that include lamb chops, grilled entrecote steak and the Moroccan Merguez a la Harissa. Raised in the South of France near St. Tropez, Regis has been in the U.S for 11 years. He is an expert on French food and wine.

Looking over the two page wine list, we recognized some good California and International wines that were reasonably priced. A number of French wines are from 1990 to 2009. Guests may also enjoy a nice bottle from Italy or Chile. There are five options for champagne and sparkling.

We started with a generous glass of 2011 Reserva Chardonnay Valle de Casablanca from Chile. It was fruity with notes of apricot, yet not too sweet. My husband ordered a full body Chateau D’arthus red Bordeaux. On the palate it bursts with notes of juicy black berry fruit, minerals and chocolate. Both were excellent wines to accompany our appetizers of spicy shrimp and eggplant tart. The Shrimp is known around town for its secret spices with a touch of rosemary. The eggplant was tender on a bed of spinach, onion, basil and tomatoes.

At one time, Albert Emkies, Georges and Ronaire Lachkar had three Le Petit Bistro restaurants. First the original on La Cienega, then the partners opened a bistro in Sherman Oaks and one on the Westside. They sold the latter two and give all of their attention to this one in West Hollywood. Some of their servers have worked here for twenty years.IMG_1172

I liked the Sole a la Provencale with tomato, kalamata olive, and a white wine sauce very much. My husband’s duck confit was cooked perfectly. Two generous legs were well browned and crisp. The accompanying vegetables were cooked al dente style and not too soft.

Be sure to allow 15 minutes for the chocolate soufflé with crème anglase, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. It tastes just like the one I enjoyed in Cannes.

Other desserts include the traditional crepe Suzette with orange Grand Marnier, a hazelnut gelato with hot chocolate and almonds, an apple tart “a la mode” with caramel sauce and a pot de chocolate with creamy chocolate mousse.

On certain holidays such as Bastille Day, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, the partners and chef pare down the menu to a selected number of appetizers and entrees. All are served a la carte. Albert shared with us, “I don’t like prix fixe menus. Someone always doesn’t want one of the items on the menu. I want to make sure my guests order exactly what they want.”

Le Petit Bistro is located at 631 North La Cienega Blvd. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Mon. through Sat., and until 10 p.m. on Sun. The restaurant does have a parking lot with valet service. Reservations are recommended, by calling (310)289-9797.

This article was published in the Beverly Press on March 14, 2013.