The French open
Like Federer conquering clay, Le Saint Amour has opened in Culver City reviving the similar utilitarian French charm that has been evident at Angelique Café downtown for awhile now. As with any uptown move, there are sweet enhancements starting with the surrounding landscape. Has Culver City Hall ever looked better? The dining room which stretches from Culver Blvd. to Washington Blvd. is neatly lined with gold trim, a series of mirrors, the obligatory French posters and neatly arranged tables along a banquette that face a rather impressive and gilded bar. One man was enjoying wine and a plate of oysters while another couple was chattering over pate.
We arrived at 6:30 p.m. on a chilled Thursday evening last week when the rain earlier in the day had left a clean scent in the air and so opted for the patio where the heater nearest our table would present an ongoing challenge to the staff. We brought jackets and never regretted our decision. Plus from that vantage point you could take in a veritable visual history of the current CC dining scene including Akasha, FFS and Fraiche on the east to the now defunct Meltdown to the west. Add in the coffee house Internet users pouring into Starbuck’s and the Wolfgang Puck Catering truck stationed in the Sony lot nearby and we started wondering what’s opening, or closing, next?
The menu reads classic bistro and we enjoyed our entrees of braised lamb shank with flageolet beans, a ribeye with a good pepper sauce and even better fries, both for $19; and duck confit with a mushroom ragout for $17. We started with a very good head cheese salad for $9, a lardon salad that we all swore was missing the vinaigrette also for $9 and a rich onion soup with lots of gruyere and sweet onion that warmed me up plenty for $7. Bread is a nice basket of pillow shaped dinner rolls and the bright green olives that came at the start were sensational. Never did find out what kind they were but we downed three dishes of them. “Too small to be Picholines,” someone said.
The only real disappointment was a tragic tarte tatin and I’m convinced that I may never have one as good as I remember from Joe Miller at Brentwood Bar & Grill and the first days of Joe’s in Venice. Served cold with a half cooked crust, even the waiter who had recommended it looked puzzled saying it’s usually more caramelized. The whipped cream was lovely.
Service was genuinely courteous and the evening’s mishaps were goofy and always handled with a smile and genuine concern. After we arrived, we discovered good friends already seated and learned that both our reservations were not in the book though each had been confirmed. When I asked about fresh lemonade the waiter enthusiastically recommended their pomegranate flavored version and brought me an attractive bottle of the Republic of Tea’s pomegranate iced tea. “At least (one friend remarked) it looks like wine.”
Le Saint Amour
9725 Culver Blvd Culver City, CA 90232 - (310) 842-8155