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Anisette, gentille Anisette

I had lunch at Anisette today and it was a rare pleasure to find a newly opened place that clearly already has its act together (perhaps the long gestation was worth it after all). The place is a picture perfect brasserie, with high (two-story), pressed-tin ceilings; a long, poured zinc bar (with row after row of bottles behind it, reaching up almost to the ceiling--I worry about the Methuselahs on the top shelves), at one end of which is an array of seafood on ice for the raw bar or for anyone who orders plateau de fruits de mer; tiled floors and big mirrors. Service was spot on--knowledgeable and present. Oddly, the kitchen (and the restrooms) are upstairs. There are a few tables upstairs in front of the kitchen. Seating is at small tables either on comfortable banquettes or chairs, though some of the banquettes angle in odd ways to make getting out more difficult if there is a table next to you.

There are separate menus for breakfast, lunch and (once it starts) dinner. My understanding is that Anisette intends to serve late--a much needed additional option in that area. The wine list, while not extensive, offers a number of good choices and prices by the glass (other than for champagne) were decent. While I was looking over the lunch menu, a very nice cheese roll (not as good as the one at Hatfield's, though) was brought out to keep me company but did not linger very long. Once I ordered, it was replaced by a basket of good olive and country bread with good butter--better had the bread been warmed. Unlike the pastries, which are made in-house, the breads are purchase, though I did not pick up on from where.

Deciding what to eat was not an easy decision--for one thing, the remnants of the breakfasts at the tables on either side of me looked and smelled wonderful; for another, among its many enticements, the lunch menu offered a beef daube (one of my all-time favorite Giraud dishes, and he makes one of the best daube I have ever had) but that ultimately seemed a tad too rich for lunch if I wanted to get any work done this afternoon (just discovery but still....)--I wound up ordering the onion soup and the Bistro burger. The onion soup [$11.50] did not have the crown of browned gruyere but did not lack for cheese in the soup itself, which was dark, rich and soulful not just from the beef stock and slow-cooked onions but the hit of red wine he added to the stock. This was followed by the Bistro burger [$15.75], a massive creation, cooked a point, served on a mini-loaf of what tasted like brioche, and topped with brie, pancetta and avocado--personally, I am not a fan of brie on my burger and would probably ask for its replacement or absence next time I ordered it [This is not your Father's Office, you can even add ketchup if you want!]. The burger is served with good frites, though I would have liked them a bit crisper. Desserts were tempting but, to my chagrin, I found that I had no room left so I kept those for another day. Unlike Robert Frost, I have no doubt that I will come back.

There appeared to be a few tables with restauranteurs and Farmer's Market folk and all seemed quite enthused.

Anisette is now shooting for the start of dinner service on Monday, though (to my regret) it will not be taking reservations for that night.

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  1. I was in for breakfast this morning on my way to the farmers market (another story, but scored some wild strawberries. I like spring :)

    Had some good fresh squeezed OJ and good drip coffee, though I thing I'll go for the press pot next time.

    Food wise I had the eggs benidict. Excellent presentation sitting on top of a cake of the best hash browns I ever had. Taste like the potatoes were roasted with herbs before being shredded and cooked... yummy the hollandaise was the best I've had in a while as well, nice and lemony. The english muffin (house made?) boarded on being too flavorful and threatened to overpower the rest of the dish. The ham product (unk?) was sliced thin and had a lot of flavor.

    Love the service, attentive but not too personal. One note, they need to dust a bit more a lot of the black ledges had nice layer.

    6 Replies
    1. re: AAQjr

      You're lucky! Unfortunately my hash browns tasted like they had been sitting around since the day before. The ham was good, though.

      1. re: AAQjr

        Just a quick tangent, so about those wild strawberries, who at the farmer's mkt?

        1. re: slacker

          I can't speak for AAQjr, but I got mine at Jaime Farms. That's the only place I've ever seen with them. I think he charges $15/lb, if you can even get your hands on them.

          1. re: glutton

            Thanks! they forgot to bring me some at the Alhambra fm last time I tried to get them. Maybe I'll have to hit them up at the sm fm.

          2. re: slacker

            blanking on the name. They were on the north side on Arizona in between 2nd and 3rd, also got some freshly dug yukon from them. 4$ for a little basket. Turned them into sugared berries ala scott peacock.. yum

        2. I'm seriously impressed you still managed the energy for discovery after that meal. Thanks for the excellent review, counselor! I can't wait to try it...

          1. could you please let me know what other things are on the lunch menu? :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: NYCnowLA

              Just a few of the items to give you a taste (there were a number of others, too that escape me for the moment): Appetizers include a provencal fish soup, pate (served in a glass jar), assorted salads, plateau de fruits de mer (if you are feeling extravagent), and the raw bar. For mains, they have a croque (monsieur ou madame comme vous préférez), an omelette, moules or steak frites, a half chicken, the aforementioned daube, and a market vegetable plate (hmmm, I wonder which market!) among several other items. There is also a daily two course lunch for under $20, to which you can add a dessert of the day for another $7.50.

            2. Actually, I think I'm inspired enough by your review to work from home so I can try Anisette for lunch tomorrow. I'll report back.

              7 Replies
              1. re: mollyomormon

                Great! I always try to be an inspiration to my colleagues. Though, now I am tempted to go there for another lunch, or to try one of those breakfasts, rather than waiting for it to open for dinner next week.

                  1. re: mollyomormon

                    Sadly did not see you but I had a terrific croque monsieur with frites ($13.75) on Friday as recompense--better than the one at Comme Ca. Did you make it in? If so, what did you think?

                    1. re: New Trial

                      Great minds think alike! I was there as well and had the croque madame! Although it was delicious, mine was a tad bit undercooked, making it fairly soggy on the bottom, while the fried egg on top suffered the exact opposite problem, being slightly overcooked. I had the steak tartar to star. Best. tartare. ever. And I order it pretty much every time I see it on a menu so I've sampled a few. I tried to take a picture because the huge golden yolk sprinkled with a few crystals of fleur de sel on top of a mound of beautifully chopped beef was beautiful, but my camera couldn't really capture it. Oh, and the space is gorgeous. I can't wait to go there for late dinners once it's open next week. Dining companion got that duck rillette special and it was also excellent.

                      1. re: mollyomormon

                        Sorry to hear about the soggy bottom and overcooked egg but am glad it still tasted good. The beef tartare had appealed to me as well but, since I was already set to have an early dinner that night, I denied the appeal and affirmed the earlier decision to just have the croque.

                        Did your dining companion have the full market lunch or just the duck? The market special dessert of Pavlova with FM peaches sounded like fun but, again, early dinner plans made me defer. I left Anisette about 12:40 to try to get some pressing work done before the dinner. What time did you get there?

                        Oh, although Anisette will eventually be serving dinner until late, I am not sure that will be the case opening week so--depending on what you consider late--you might want to call first before stopping by (though, if it has already closed when you get there, you always have Musha nearby). I might try for Monday or Tuesday night as I am already booked the remainder of the weeknights and am reluctant to defer the daube.

                        1. re: New Trial

                          I was definitely there at the same time! I was the late 20-something with long blond hair in the green dress if you happened to see me along the west wall of the restaurant. Even if I have to wait for them to begin serving late, I'm just excited for another late night food option in addition to Musha in the neighborhood.

                          1. re: mollyomormon

                            Clearly it's time for me to get my eyes checked since, surprisingly, I did not notice! I was along the West wall as well, albeit back toward the stairs; the tall, solo diner with short brown hair, wearing a beigish checked shirt and brown slacks, reading the Downtown News (with glasses, if I was eating, without if reading).

              2. can't wait to try it. thanks for the review. prices seem really high though.

                1. At lunch, I tried the roast chicken. I know many here wouldn't order chicken at an upscale restaurant, but I crave a real, french, brasserie, roast chicken. My first bite and I was immediately transported to Paris, or Nice (where I go to eat for two weeks every fall). It was truly the greatest roast chicken I've eaten, outside of France, ever. It's a half chicken, extremely tender, skin on and browned, with an au jus that tastes like a chicken broth of celery, onions, leeks, garlic...a rich chicken soup, that's to die for. Served with homemade potato chips and farmer fresh french green beans. $17

                  Next on my list is the steak frites with bearnaise, something else I miss that I can't find, outside of LA. Not in true French brasserie style, anyway.

                  Prices are comparable to other LA high end restaurants (entrees from about $24- $35 for dinner, $12-$20 for lunch). I looked at the dinner menu, the breakfast menu and the brunch/lunch menu. Dinner has much of what is offered at lunch (about 40% higher in price), plus things like veal, rabbit, duck - again, true brasserie. They have fruits de mer (3 selections, some include lobster, one does not), oysters, and here's my favorite, and served all day:

                  An extensive bloody mary menu!! They have about 8 different styles of bloody mary drinks ($12), one with sake, one with tequila, one with fennel.... I will try them all.

                  At some point, I will try the waffles with nutella that the guy next to me was eating - it looked divine. Paired with a cup of chocolate. If it compares to a chocolate in Paris, I will die right there.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: yogachik

                    I also had the delicious chicken for lunch! So good! But not potato chips---instead, a yellow potato carved in the shape of a cushion or drum. I would have loved potato chips. Beautiful place. My only regret is that second-floor restroom.

                    1. re: yogachik

                      And they have those little crocks of mustard on the table that go so well with roast chicken.

                      1. re: yogachik

                        Do you know when they are opening for dinner exactly? Do they have a website? I'd love to try it before I leave town fora few weeks!

                        1. re: dotrat

                          They are open for dinner on 6/16.

                      2. this place just sounds better and better!

                        1. Having now had the pleasure of enjoying the first dinner at Anisette, I can now assure any who might have been concerned: The daube abides.

                          Beef daube, Provence's cheeky twist on stew. Wonderful depths of flavor, yet soft enough to cut with your tongue (making this a tongue-in-cheek comment?). Complemented with a cloud of pomme puree and the pick of the Farmer's Market vegetables (unlike the beef, which tasted of long-simmering in red wine, the vegetables tasted like they were cooked and added to order). Well worth the wait...and the price [about $26]. I hasten to add that there are a number of other items on the dinner menu that sound terrific, including a roster of plats du jour, but it was only when I thought to ask to see the dinner menu again during dessert that I even noticed--I had come for the daube and did not look beyond when the menu was originally presented.

                          I did look at the wine list, though, and was pleased to see a number of good, fairly priced choices by the glass, as well as a number of reasonably priced bottles.

                          I started off with the fish soup provencal [$14], a brothier version than some but with its own depths of the sea. This is not a bouillabaisse and only the essence of the fish/shellfish haunts the bowl. The bowl is presented with four toast points, though, dabbed (not daubed) with rouille and the soup is then poured over the toasts. A lovely presentation of a very good soup--though I prefer to add rouille to taste and, between the two, the onion soup with cave-aged gruyere is likelier to cause me to melt.

                          For dessert, I vacillated between the vacherin glace (the Chef's signature dessert, fondly remembered from Lavande) and the apple tart [$8 each]. I erred on the side of the possible illusion that apple tarts were healthier than meringue encrusted lavender ice cream. The tart was good, served with lovely creme chantilly (which may well have shattered the illusion), but, unlike revenge, I believe that an apple tart is a dish best served warm.

                          Service was mostly good, with multiple servers and managers checking periodically to make sure everything was up to expectation. There was a small glitch when one of the food runners brought out one of my courses, stopped, looked around, took it to another table (which foolishly rejected it!) , came back, went to the service area to doublecheck, then brought it to me. The same thing happened at one of my lunches and I presume it is simply a question of some folk still getting the lay of the land.

                          If I were not already otherwise engaged for dinner the rest of the week, I might well become a squatter at Anisette.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: New Trial

                            "There was a small glitch when one of the food runners brought out one of my courses, stopped, looked around, took it to another table (which foolishly rejected it!) , came back, went to the service area to doublecheck, then brought it to me." ........this perhaps explains why my fish soup and beef daub were luke warm when they were brought to my table but they were still very tasty.

                          2. Should I hint that I want to be taken there for my Birthday next month?

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Diana

                              don't hint. i made a reservation and informed my husband that we are dining there tonight. really looking forward to it.

                              1. re: paigeharrison

                                He's been charged with "surprising" me by taking me to a "new, chowhound place" for dinner this year.
                                hah! I called him this morning at the convention he's attendint in Long Beach and said.

                                "Wow! The Chowhounds are really raving about this new Anisette in Santa Monica! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner! That and Palate in Glendale are the top two new places on the Chowhound board. We haven't had French in a while."

                                Hopefully, that one is so obvious it won't fly over his head. I mean, calling him at 6:30 to tell him about a chow place is pretty obvious.
                                Still, he's been very busy lately.

                                1. re: Diana

                                  Well, Palate is very very good, if by chance he prefers not to drive to SM, and has a very nice wine selection. Did not check out the beer selection, btw!

                                  1. re: carter

                                    thanks for letting me know! I think those are two solid options to hint about! I hope for my BD, he will feel like driving as far as he has to go!

                                    1. re: Diana

                                      It *is* your birthday, perhaps you can stay somewhere local - Shutters is quite nice! ;) Or you can remind him that one of the messages on the board a couple of weeks ago was about a husband taking his wife to Melisse for her birthday. Although, if you are in the SGV, another cool French option would be Cafe Beaugalouis (I know I totally screwed up the spelling) in Eagle Rock.

                                      1. re: paigeharrison

                                        Eagle Rock really isn't very much in the SGV, is it? I always found it more northwards.

                                        I wish we could stay overnight somewhere, but I can find no place to take my geriatric bulldog, no hotel really wants him, and few peole want to dog sit him, as he is incontinent. He wears a diaper, but, well, peole not us think its a hassle.

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            Cool! But since I live in Sherman Oaks, Glendale isn't too much of a trip. Also, a lot of dog friendly hotels won't let you go out and leave the dog in the room :( Trust em, we've looked at a lot of places. :(

                                            The W, however, has an amazing pet policy, even bringing them beds and treats and more. I just can't afford the W right now.

                            2. Had dinner with my husband last night. I will spare a repeat of the same details as several other posters, only to say that my experience was very similiar. Wonderful, wonderful place with excellent service and great food.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: paigeharrison

                                Went for lunch the other day, had been dying to go since it opened and i have to say i was a tad underwhelmed. Beautiful spot, decent but not amazing service (our waitress may have been very busy, but we felt neglected most of the meal - i.e. 20 min. wait to bring me a beer)

                                Just focusing on the food alone, it was just ok. Wanted to just start with brasserie basics, so I got steak frites, def. looked medium rare but rather tough and chewy in spots and the au poivre sauce was not very peppery or flavorful in general - delicious frites though. Fiance got roast chicken, much more flavorful than mine, with a great au jus.

                                Willing to give it another try and select other things recommended by others here on their menu, but honestly for the money I spent I just wasn't as blown away as I wanted to be...