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Jul 20, 2004 03:16 PM

Le Chef in South Gate Review - L.A. Bistro Cafe in Downey NO MORE!

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My friends and I tried yet again to have dinner at L.A. Bistro Cafe in Downey. The last time we tried to come here on a Friday night, around 7:30 pm, the restaurant was closed eventhough the hours posted on the window clearly said that 9:00 pm was their closing time. This time, I even called in for a reservation 8 hours before. No one answered the phone, but there was an answering machine which said to leave a message with the number of people in my party, what time they should be expecting us, and a phone number for them to contact us. I did this. Twice. I got no call back, and no confirmation. We should have given up then, but we decided to chance it. So we drove up through traffic from Irvine to Downey...and what did we discover when we arrived at 7:15 pm on Friday? CLOSED again! This time there was a note on the door, hand written by the chef, whose name is Fausto, that said "Sorry, will be back at 5:30 pm". The restaurant was dark. Not a soul was there. That was their last chance with us and we won't be trying again.

It was about a year ago that we had a very memorable meal there. When we arrived, the chef who greeted us informed us that the original owner Zaya Mirzaie had sold him the restaurant. The name had changed from "La Chef" to "L.A. Bistro Cafe". Chef Zaya Mirzaie, this new chef informed us, had moved to bigger quarters in South Gate. We stayed at "L.A. Bistro Cafe" and feasted on this new chef's French dishes and desserts for a reasonable price.

But now, here we were, starving in Downey, on a Friday night. Now what? What were we to do? Then it struck me. Why, in heaven's name, didn't we consider just going to South Gate and try Chef Mirzaie's new digs? So we bolted and found "Le Chef" at "El Paseo" complex in South Gate, about 10 minutes away. First of all, this El Paseo Entertainment and Dining complex looked very foreign to me. I felt like a stranger, in a strange, but wonderful land. It was like the Latino version of Irvine Spectrum. Aztec architecture, Mexican food and Latino people were everywhere. The atmosphere there was rowdy, raucous, the crowd was the same as you'd find on a Saturday morning at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet. As far as eateries, there was a Fatburger and your usual mall-type eateries, but the most prominent and largest building, second only to the Edwards Theater was El Gallo Giro. I've heard about El Gallo Giro in Santa Ana, which is the proverbial hole-in-the-wall, but this monolithic building we were gazing and craning our necks at was something else. "Focus," we said, "focus on what we're here for."

French cuisine was the order of the night, but we did find it odd that of all places, we would find fine French dining here, amidst all this. We finally found "Le Chef" tucked away in an assuming alleyway away from the hustle and bustle. Upon entering the restaurant, we found ourselves entering another world. White linen tables. Exquisite overhead lighting. Plush designer chairs. A well-stocked wine rack. A beautiful mural of French landmarks on one wall. A full bar where most of the customers were. I remarked that this is certainly a different space than his previous post in Downey, which literally could hold no more than 8 customers. It was 8:00 pm, but the restaurant area was deserted, except for two other parties. We immediately recognize Chef Mirzaie, a small man, running about in the kitchen along with his sous chefs, who were twice his size.

We ordered the "Manila Steamed Clams" ($9.95) as a starter. It came out on a plate swimming in a thin white sauce consisting of garlic, shallots and white wine. Delicious! We sipped each drop of that sauce with our spoons and sopped any remaining with bread.

The clam chowder soup they had that night was good, but nothing particularly spectacular.

For a main course we ordered the "Chef's Taste" ($17.95) which had a small cut of Filet Mignon, Chicken Marsala, Crispy Salmon with a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables (steamed broccoli, haricots verts and a sliver of red bell pepper). Each meat was served on a pool of its own delectable sauces.

We also ordered the "Seafood Lover's" ($17.95) which had Sauteed Jumbo Tiger Shrimp with Mushrooms flecked with caramelized garlic, Seared Halibut and Crispy Salmon. The sauce on this dish was a light and creamy, made with chardonnay, garlic and butter. The dish was also served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The veggies were crisp and not overcooked.

For dessert, we ordered the Chocolate Souffle ($5.95) (ordered at the start of our meal), which was light and decadently chocolaty, served with a ramekin of creme fraiche.

After we left, we thanked our lucky stars L.A. Bistro Cafe was closed, or else we wouldn't have rediscovered Chef Mirzaie's cooking and his new elegant restaurant.


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  1. Wow, fantastic find. You are a true Chowhound Elmomonster, will make a point to try it out when in the Southgate area (after I try El Gallo Giro though!)

    5 Replies
    1. re: Ernie

      Thanks Ernie! Be sure to report back if you try El Gallo Giro or Le Chef.

      BTW I forgot to include Le Chef's info previously:

      Le Chef - French Cuisine & Cocktails
      8724 Garfield Ave #101
      South Gate, CA 90280
      Phone: (562)776-6067

      Sunday-Thursday, Open 11:30 am - 9:00 pm.
      Friday, Open 11:30 am -10:00 pm.
      Saturday, Open 4:00 pm - 10:00 pm.

      1. re: elmomonster

        I wouldn't recommend El Gallo Giro. It is not bad but not anything chow worthy. I'll definetly try Le bistro.

        1. re: YOYO

          La Chef is excelent best food within 15 miles.

        2. re: elmomonster

          I wouldn't recommend El Gallo Giro. It is not bad but not anything chow worthy. I'll definetly try Le Chef.

          1. re: elmomonster

            Agree with YOYO. This branch of El Gallo doesn't compare to the Huntington Park location (7148 Pacific Blvd at Florence Ave), which is a livelier scene plus has a butcher and bakery. In a pinch, though, the milaneza (chicken fried steak) torta will make a very nice lunch, especially with a pineapple agua fresca and a slice of tres leches cake to follow.

            There is a branch of El Pollero here, though I haven't tried it.

            I'm now inspired to try Le Chef, which I'd viewed with just a little skepticism. Think I'll try it tonight and report back.

        3. Great write up. I've been wondering what the French place in Downey was. Glad to hear that the chef moved to somewhere on my commute home from work. Isn't El Pollo Compero in the same mall?

          1 Reply
          1. re: MPKen

            I'm not sure about El Pollo Compero. It may be. Maybe other Chowhounds know?

          2. I just went with my husband and my daughter to Le Chef in Southgate, it was excellent! We started off with the crab cakes which were nicely done. They brought out some hot and I mean Hot fresh dinner rolls that were laced with rosemary (our server told us the rosemary was from his Grandmothers garden.) My husband and I both had the blue cheese salads, they were very fresh. My husband also had the shrimp bisque he couldn't stop saying how good it was. My daughter even liked it.Then I ordered the New York steak that came with a wine mushroom sauce and I choose roasted red potatoes. My husband had the seafood combo he loved it! It was served exactly as described above. My daughter had the salmon, she was very pleased with it she didn't even want to share. We will most definitely be going back.

            4 Replies
            1. re: taco

              FYI - I am in Downey every Saturday night to help a friend with grocery shopping and we eventually get out for dinner. Thanks for this recommendation. Stox just blows, and I really need an alternative, and in that area, which chain do you want tends to be the answer.
              Here is the abc licensing info for Le Chef in South Gate, so at least you can talk to the owners and know their names.
              May try this place vrey soon.

              ps - here is their website, fwiw!!!

              1. re: carter

                anyone know if Le Chef is South Gate is still around, and is there still a locale in Downey too?

                1. re: kevin


                  Both are gone now. The one in Downey is now a taqueria.


                  1. re: elmomonster

                    Thanks for the update. Good thing I didn't make a special drive out there.

                    Does anyone happen to know of any unique French cuisine done by non-French chefs (along the lines of the now defunct Le Chef and L.A. Bistro Cafe along with the continuing Vietnamese-chefed La Vie in Rosemead).

                    Also, does anyone know if the great Franco-Japanese joint Grill Lyon aka Lyon has opened up anywhere? Its last location was sandwiched between Sushi Gen and Kagaya in Honda Plaza.


            2. Chef Zaya recently opened "Zaya's bistro in Norwalk, next to the Norwalk city hall. 12200 civic center dr. #A in Norwalk. Amazing Price (under$10) with same quality.
              Phone: 562) 868-0640
              open 11:00AM~ 8:00PM (M-F)
              4:00 PM~8:00PM (SAT)

              3 Replies
              1. re: ew7777

                Does he have a wide variety of fish dishes with butter sauce?

                I'll have to get down there soon as I'm sometimes in the Norwalk courthouse area.

                Anyone else tried it?


                1. re: kevin

                  Atlantic Salmon ( $8.95) with Chardonnay garlic herbs butter sauce or Cajun Hotel butter sauce,Shrimp Alfredo ($8.95), Salmon Caesar Salad ($7.95)
                  He consistantly update his menu...

                2. re: ew7777

                  Thanks for the notice! I've been looking for new places to eat at since we moved. I hope he's successful. That strip/corner of the world has meant nothing but bad things for the businesses that have opened there.