Sunday, September 13, 2009

AM Francophilia: Brunch at Anisette, Santa Monica

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.

Anisette Brasserie
225 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-3200

Anisette Brasserie in Los Angeles

Anisette Brasserie on Urbanspoon


Ravenous Couple said...

Great write up!! Can almost see you him holding your SLR as ransom... :)

weezermonkey said...

That last photo is a classic. I read "zee blog-airs" part to Mr. Monkey, and he laughed, too.

One Food Guy said...

Hey DG, I just baked up some pain au chocolate yesterday...from a box! YES! Trader Joe's sells chocolate croissants in their freezer case that you defrost over night on the counter, allowing them to proof, then 20ish minute in the oven and poof! Delicious, fresh pain au chocolate! I'm reviewing them tomorrow on my site :)

Diana said...

Haha, I would have turned into a bumbling idiot if Chef Giraud had confronted me like that! I'm terrible in confrontation - even friendly confrontation! I'm totally bumping Anisette to the top of my try list. I haven't felt all that eager to check it out, but I do like my pastries. And I'm never one to throw a croque madame out of bed...

Jean Z. said...

I'd give anything to be in your shoes. What a great experience for you.

Food, she thought. said...

I felt like I was there with you! That Croque Madame looks so good...I am plotting how to get my husband there for brunch this Sunday!!! Maybe Anisette followed by a long beach bike ride?

Daily Gluttony said...

Ravenous Couple,

Thanks! I could totally see him holding my camera AND all of us for ransom-haha. BTW, never got a chance to say that it was so nice to finally meet you at Indian. Hope to see you again soon!


Ima start referring to all of us as "blog-airs"...sounds more sophisticated, n'est-ce pas?


Oooh, I've always seen those pain du chocolat at TJ's--I'm going to have to pick some up now. Thanks for the tip!


I hate confrontation too, although I'm much better at being confronted than being the one doing the confrontation. Wait, did that even make any sense?


Thanks! I love it when chefs & restauranteurs take the time to talk to their customers. It's really a win-win situation. :)


Oooh, hopefully you get to go! Brunch & a bike ride sound like the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.

Anonymous said...

2 weeks behind, as usual. You look lovely in that pix. I love Alain Giraud for staying classical French, in a town that has basically shunned classic cooking. And I love Anisette for being an photographically inspirational bistro ala Church and State.

Viagra Online Without Prescription said...

this is a very good pastry showed in one of the images above and it looks so sweet and very delicious, just to bite it right away.

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