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Stefan's on Montana, Thyme Cafe and Bouchon

c
cvc Feb 13, 2010 01:46 PM

Perhaps the most telling test for any top chef is a simply prepared egg and the version tried this morning at Stefan Richter's new Montana Avenue location was simply perfect with an equally satisfying Hollandaise. The $10 eggs Benedict plate also included deliciously roasted Fingerlings and a small salad with a nice vinaigrette. Fresh orange juice for $3.50 completed the check and the attractive space and attentive staff make this a welcome breakfast and lunch addition for the neighborhood and the room was full by the time I left at noon. The server echoed Eater L.A.'s report that dinner would start soon with an emphasis on fondue. Why not?

The first time we dined at Thyme on Ocean Park, after having learned about it on Daily Candy only hours before, our enthusiasm was such that it invited an accusation of shilling from these quarters. It's worth the risk. Thyme just keeps getting better with, well, time. For $8 each two sandwiches come with decidedly different breads and preparation, one grilled and the other toasted: sliced turkey with Brie, arugula and onion comes on Ciabatta while a chicken tarragon salad is served on wonderful wlanut raisin bread. But we've stopped there in the late afternoon just for coffee and one of their wonderful desserts that are pretty reasonable for $3.50 to $5 and include a luscious key lime pie and an amazing pumpkin tart.

It was at one such recent visit that a friend and I who had a lovely lunch before Xmas at the new Bouchon in Beverly Hills was lamenting her return lunch the day before at the house of Keller, commenting on the over solicitousness of the server and the $31 price tag on what appeared to be a 4 oz. portion of salmon perfectly cooked but apparently lacking the advertised Bordelaise sauce. Bouchon has certainly lost the charm of those early Napa Valley days where you parked a few feet from the entrance and straggled in as late as midnight to break bread with the likes of Michael Chiarello or Johnathan Waxman. I even got confused making my way from the garage below to the second story dining room but did hook up briefly with a party of six English folk equally dazed. Perhaps the most unsettling and anticlimactic moment was to arrive at a front desk completely devoid of anyone with empty terrace tables behind. You quickly learn that the long stretch from the entrance to the dining area makes that a common occurence. Still, I don't think I've ever had a better bechamel sauce on the $19 Croque Madame and definitely never a better creme brulee for $12.50. Even the food runner who was insistent on serving us a creme caramel instead was rather charming about it until our server showed up with the correct dessert. Ah, what price fame... and famous neighborhoods.

Stefan's on Montana
1518 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica 90403

Thyme Cafe & Market
1630 Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica 90405

Bouchon Beverly Hills
235 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills 90210