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Anisette Lunch

Had a disappointing lunch at Anisette today. After hearing some good things about it, I finally made it there for my first visit.

They did a nice job with the room; think Balthazar or Pastis, but not quite. I had the frisee lardons oeufs salad which was bad; it was extremely small, with an overcooked, almost hard boiled egg, and literally 6 tiny crumbles of overcooked bacon - what can only be described as a ripoff for $12 (total food cost < $1). I followed this with the steak tartare appetizer, which I did not enjoy, and I did not eat (I believe they did not charge for it, but I was not paying, ,so I am not sure). The tartare was very course, vinegary, and loaded with capers, and the meat was not tasty; YMMV, but I really did not like it at all. This was a meal of inauthentic copies of classic French brasserie food; frankly, the food is better at the pseudo-French place at The Grove. My dining partner had the chicken, which he said was fine, but not great. The waiter, and service in general, was excellent. It seems significantly overpriced, especially for lunch, considering what they are delivering.

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  1. the whole anisette debacle is making me sad. i was so excited to have a Balthazar-esque bistro here on the west coast.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lotta_cox

      What debacle is that? I consistently have a great meal each time I go, which is weekly. And the place is always packed, totally packed. The only thing that doesn't thrill me is that they've changed the menu a bit - for all meals.

      1. re: yogachik

        I agree - I've never had a bad meal at Anisette, and I eat there a lot.

    2. While I agree that not everything at Anisette is perfect, there's no way that anyone can assert that Monsieur Marcel is better.

      If you order correctly, it is possible and even likely that you can have a very good meal at Anisette. The last several times I've been to Monsieur Marcel they've served me completely ammoniated and horrible condition cheese. I could go to Trader Joes and make a better cheese plate in two seconds.

      1. Sorry, but I'm going to question your authenticity as I've had the tartare multiple times and the capers are always to the side. There's something suspect about your review or your dining experience.

        From my dining experiences (and I've almost been in once a week ever since they've opened), the food has been admirable and completely "French Brasserie" -- nothing faux about it. I'm pleased that Santa Monica has more french places and at a cheaper price point (and open the full day, seeing as my work hours don't fit traditional schedules.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: brunello

          You mean there was something fishki about the review? Considering Alain Giraud's "Provenance," the OP's calling his food an inauthentic copy is odd to say the least. The food at Anisette (mostly) favorably reminds me of brasseries I have eaten in while in France.

          1. re: New Trial

            The tartar was one of the worst versions I have ever had - it was swimming in sauce and the capers are not on the side. Pictures here:

            http://lizziee.wordpress.com/category...

        2. I couldn't agree with you more. This place opened to great expectations, and unless they make big changes fast they will surely close. I don't even like the room which I feel is so large and cold that it in no way evokes a Parisian bistro. The seating is uncomfortable with the smallest tables I've ever seen. The service we had on our last visit was poor. All of the food we had was just barely ok. Nothing was exceptional and overall the experience was such that we would never return to this place.

          Although Mimosa is clearly pretty mediocre, we would go there any day over returning to Anisette. For a wonderful French bistro experience (admittedly more expensive, but on a totally different level), head south to Marche Moderne at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. You will not be disappointed...and their $20 prix-fixe lunch is a bargain!

          1. I'm with those who are pleased with Annisette - have dined there numerous times now, for lunch, dinner AND breakfast (which is a treat - empty and quiet on weekdays) and with the exception of one indifferent server have nothing but good feelings for the place. I'm a Francophile and this is, I think, as good as LA has got.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Mark Sarvas

              I too am an unrepentant Francophile (have been to France at least a dozen times, and will return to Provence in the spring) and truly crave good bistro food in L.A. I just don't think Anisette is it. I've been a few times and as stated above am totally underwhelmed.

              Aside from Anisette, and Mimosa which is quite tired, is there any such thing in L.A.? The best I have found is Marche Moderne in Costa Mesa.

            2. On my visit to Anisette the food was great, but service was absolutely horrible. We were one of the first ones there when they opened for dinner, and it took well over an hour for the mains to come out while we were watching the same dishes we ordered being carried to customers who came in way after us. And after we did get the food, one of the dishes was almost completely cold. The waiter didn't seem to care much. 0 tip, won't come back. Pity, because i really do like their menu.

              1. We are going this weekend, can anyone who said it was great, please tell me what you ordered? I would love some advice on good dishes to get.

                9 Replies
                1. re: CarlieInLA

                  I would really reconsider. With all of the truly great places to eat in L.A., why go to a place that has had such mixed reviews? I know that some like Anisette, but many don't including myself. Regardless of whether or not you like the food (I don't), this is objectively one of the most uncomfortable dining experiences in L.A. due to the smallest tables I've ever seen in any restaurant worldwide?

                  1. re: josephnl

                    I don't know if I can reconsider at such a late hour. Its my husband's birthday and we wanted to get french food at a semi-casual location. What would you recommend? I was also thinking of Comme Ca but decided on Anissette. I heard the daubes, venison stew and fish/chorizo/clam dishes were good too. Is it so awful? I was thinking if we stuck to the dishes that people really liked we would have a good time...

                    1. re: CarlieInLA

                      If it isn't too much of a drive for you, I would strongly recommend Marche Moderne at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. It is really an excellent French restaurant, in the classic upscale bistro style. I myself am taking a friend out for a birthday dinner tommorow at Tradition by Pascal in Newport Beach, also an excellent French restaurant. These are both reasonably casual restaurants.

                      Unfortunately the better French restaurants in L.A. are pretty formal. My two favorites are Melisse and Ortolan. Both are many notches better than either Comme Ca or Anisette. If you want excellent French food, in comfortable surroundings, you will not be disappointed with these.

                      I know that some folks do like Anisette, but my experience there has been very poor. Our food and service were just ok, but the real unpleasantness in the restaurant is the lack of creature comforts. It is noisy and has the tiniest tables I have ever seen other than in a cocktail lounge. Comme Ca is somewhat more comfortable, but not in the same league as the four other restaurants listed above.

                      1. re: josephnl

                        Believe me I would love to go to Ortolan or Melisse but we weren't really looking for something in that price range. And we live in Encino, so CM is out. Thanks for the suggestions, I think we will stick to Anissette. I will report back. Hopefully its a good report!

                        1. re: CarlieInLA

                          Have a terrific time at Anisette. If you are with the man you love, how can you help but have a wonderful time. Enjoy Anisette...and do report back.

                          If you are ever in OC, do try Marche Moderne or Traditions by Pascal...or Melisse or Ortolan in L.A.

                  2. re: CarlieInLA

                    I love lunch there! The burger is amazing, and the chicken is a true brasserie experience.

                    1. re: CarlieInLA

                      I like the French onion soup, fish soup, mussels, and the lavender ice cream dessert.

                      1. re: CarlieInLA

                        I thought their foie gras was outstanding and my beef daube was great. Go and decide for yourself. Our service was very good. Hope you will report back if you go, no matter what your final decision on Anisette is.

                        1. re: CarlieInLA

                          I have been to Anisette three times now, and have always enjoyed it, even though the service is usually slow. Neither I nor any of my dining companions have ordered anything there we didn't like.

                          Standout dishes are the beef daube, steak frites, and french onion soup. For dessert, get their lavender ice cream dish and their black forest cake (I forget what they call these two dishes).

                        2. I've been to Anisette to brunch at least four times now. The food has always been excellent--never disappointed. The slow service however is consistent with ALL my visits. I guess I don't mind too much since I've been back again and again. It's a great brunch spot for OOT guests.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: TeamCHB

                            I don't really mind slow service, I am comforted to hear that some people think the food is excellent!

                          2. I work a few blocks from Anisette and it's become my favorite for lunch. Love to sit at the bar, eat the perfect oysters and people watch. Nice wine list. I spent a week in Paris last September--the food at Anisette compares favorably to the real thing. That includes the steak tartare, the pate, the cornichons, the bread, chicken, frisee salad and even the burger. It ain't cheap, but it's worth it. Try comparing to Church and State Downtown: similar prices, tiny portions, ordinary bistro fare.

                            1. I'm French, and I love Anisette, and I'm glad I don't leave nearby or I would always be there and spend the money I don't have. The food is way better than Mimosa, or that place at the Grove (Morrels?), or Monsieur Marcel, all of which are alas closer to me than Anisette. I'm sorry if the OP had a tiny salad, but in my experience the portions are bigger at Anisette than back home. I concede they are not as big as at the Cheesecake Factory, and I praise the Lord for that, I'm not a big eater.
                              I'm also sorry if the OP had a bad experience. I don't like raw meat myself, so I wouldn't be able to say whether the tartare at Anisette is bad or good. Maybe the OP went on a day when it was off, as it can happen, but if he thinks the food is better at Morrels, I respectfully suggest he rethinks his expectations of what a French brasserie is.
                              All the food I ever had at Morrels was lukewarm and totally un-French. It's a pasta place, basically. Did the French invent pasta? Non, certainement pas. Morrels does look totally fake as well (and so does that Figaro cafe in Los Feliz), and the waiters rush you to gobble your food and clear the table for the next Grove shopper, and it's not cheap whatsoever. They do a horrible rendition of Robuchon chartreuse souffle. Their mussels taste horrible (previously frozen, that is), and their espresso is atrocious.

                              Now, back to Anisette, the way it looks: yes, it s a movie-style version of what a French brasserie would look like. But come on, people, we're in Los Angeles! When I'm in Paris, I wouldn't expect to walk in an "authentic" diner if someone decided to open an American restaurant (yes, we have McDonalds and even one TGIF, and a couple KFC, boo hoo), it would look fake no matter what. All ethnic restaurants that attempt to recreate a decor reminiscent of "back home" end up looking fake or cheesy. It's just part of the fun. I like the zinc (that's French for "Le bar") and the floor tiles and the aged mirrors, but it's all very Disneyfied for me.

                              The food: it's fairly standard French brasserie fare, which in my culture means comfort food, not 5 stars interstellar gourmet cuisine. It says "Brasserie", not "Here Enter The Kingdom Of Robuchon". It's simple, very good food, but not innovative. I would hate it if they would put some foamy touches to my moules frites, for example. As a French person I usually don't go to most French restaurants in LA because for the price I can afford, I usually can cook as well at home as, say, La Dijonaise or Mimosa (never been to Melisse or Ortolan). Or worse, Cafe Marly.

                              Not so with Anisette. The food is what I'd expect from a brasserie, but very well executed. In passing, I've seen lots of people complaining on this board about the fact that their duck confit was dry: it's pretty normal for duck confit to have some dryness in it. It's basically desiccated meat swimming in fat, the one at Anisette is pretty standard.
                              My favorite dish at Anisette are the sweetbreads. I'd go there for that alone. And for both the lavender ice cream and the Foret Noire. I've never tried the charcuterie or the cheese "towers" (un plateau, en francais dans le texte), it will be for another time.

                              I love their daily "market specials" (the lobster Thermidor they had was very retro, and cheap), but what I truly, truly enjoy are the breakfasts. The pastries are very good, and the espresso is one of the best I've had in LA. The only thing missing is Liberation or Le Monde to read while sipping my espresso.

                              I concede the service is either slow or sometimes clueless, which once turned into my advantage (I didn't get charged for 2 espressos and one OJ, and they undercharged my "basket of pastries". I don't get better service there because I'm French by the way, but I'm asked a bit more anxiously than elsewhere if I like the food. But I got much worse service at LA Mill than Anisette, though the people-watching is more fun at LA Mill (I could spend hours there counting the silly hipster mustaches).

                              Is Anisette a fabulously great restaurant whose food you will remember for years to come? No. Because it is not what Anisette is all about, basically a brasserie is a place where you can walk-in at off hours and ask for a steak-frites if you're having a 3 PM lunch, or a place where you can go sip your espresso at the bar while reading the newspaper in the morning. For my French self it fits the needs when I feel homesick, but I don't expect to walk in and get a transcendental experience. But the espresso is, I must reiterate, very, very good.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: bad nono

                                I think bad nono's review sums up the things I like about Anisette. I live and work very close by, but I don' t find myself going very often. I don'tfeel really comfortable there, as I would even as a tourist in a french Brasserie. Many of the tables and seating are awkward and uncomfortable, mostly from being to small and tightly grouped. The service is often slow and awkward. this only adds to the uncomfortable feeling. the food is generally good but some dishes are poor. The kitchen also seems heavy handed with the salt on occasion. I would recommend going for brunch during the week and relax with a newspaper over breakfast when it is uncrowded.

                                1. re: Mateo R

                                  Mateo R...you hit the nail on the head! Although the food is generally ok, the restaurant is terribly uncomfortable and the service is variable. It's an fine place to stop into for a coffee, breakfast or a quick snack or lunch, but certainly not the place I would want to go to for a relaxing dinner when I want to linger over good food, wine and conversation.