What is this thing I've been having for all things French as of late? Perhaps I've been influenced by the latest episode of Top Chef Las Vegas where the competitors had to cook French-inspired dishes for what seemed like the French version of the Jedi Council. Maybe it was the inventive cuisine, charming accent and dashing good looks of Chef Ludo Lefevbre observed at LudoBites a couple of months ago. Though I haven't been yet, French Chef Laurent Quenoiux's newest venture, Bistro LQ, is all the rage in restaurants right now. Chef Eric Ripert is a regular on my "Freebie List-Chefs Edition." (Sorry babe, you know I still love you) Although not authentically French, I've watched the Flight of The Conchords "Foux Da Fa Fa" video dozens of times because it pretty much sums up what my dream pre-baby life would have been like. It all just makes me want to visit France again--to wake up in a cozy room every morning and walk to the nearest cafe for coffee and bread.
Normally, I'd be a little suspect of any Parisienne brasserie replication on or near the ever-so- tourist-trappy Third Street Promenade which is why I was a little skittish at first about meeting up with friends at Anisette Brasserie for brunch. Would red leather banquettes, soaring dark wood pillars, antiqued mirrors simulate la belle époque so well that they'd actually be a sign of a mediocre faux-French dining experience akin to eating in French-land at the Epcot Center? Fortunately, I was proven wrong.
Filtered rays of light filled the restaurant's interior, bouncing off its intricately tiled floor and the gorgeous zinc bar and virtual wall of spirits behind it. It was 11am (which I suppose is still considered early for brunch in certain parts of town) and the restaurant posessed a silent yet energetic hum--the sound of clinking plates and glasses and the low buzz of conversations echoed about the lofty space. And while the vibe didn't feel like that of a theme park replica at all, the restaurant is indeed kid-friendly, at least during off-peak hours. Anisette's staff was more than accomodating to my toddler: they gave my little tyke a Babar the Elephant coloring placemat and crayons to keep himself entertained, and although he wanted to eat the crayons more than he wanted to color with them, I still praise the staff's good intentions.
Steak au Poivre seemed like a heavy choice, but the small piece of prime hangar steak was proportioned well for this time of day, seared to a perfect medium rare and given lots of punch from its peppercorn crust and accompanying sauce. Pomme frites, piled in a beaded brushed metal cup, were just fine.
But the real stars of our brunch show were the house-made bread and pastries, and anything made with them. Our croissants au beurre were a light and flaky tribute to our friend butter, and pain au chocolat were their sinful cousins.
I could have easily finished our table's entire basket of brioche fine, a cheese brioche, all by myself. But because I don't want my family and friends to hate me, decided to share the cheesy, pillowy-soft bread with my dining companions. Fortunately, my croque madame was made with this same brioche--layers of French ham, gruyere cheese and fried egg would have made something closer to an everyday ham & cheese breakfast sandwich had it not been for that delicious bread.
On the way upstairs to the ladies' room, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a towering white-haired wall of a man--Chef and Co-Owner Alain Giraud himself. "Are you a spy?" he asked in a thick French accent, "Because if you are, I might have to kill you." I got all nervously starstruck as I tripped all over my own words, the former Bastide chef glaring down at me. "You know, we have a special room just for food bloggers." He then walked me back to the kitchen entrance where he pointed to the door of what seemed like a small broom closet. *Gulp* Luckily for me, I was assured that he was only kidding as he continued to joke about zee speciale closet for zee blog-airs with myself and his Chef de Cuisine Josh Smith. *Phew*
Shortly after, Chef Giraud came by our table to meet my family and friends and thank us for our patronage. My boy smiled at him, perhaps because he thought Chef Giraud was Santa Claus after he placed a pain de chocolat on his booster seat tray. OK perhaps it's not a place I'd come to regularly considering its touristy location and the fact that it's a little pricey for everyday dining, but given its laid back yet elegant vibe, friendly service and straightforward but solid food, I'd definitely return to Anisette for my needed doses of Francophilia.
225 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401