L'Epicerie Market Culver City: First Impression
After much delay, Thierry Perez's (Fraiche) French inspired cafe/restaurant/market was opened on Dec 1, and went in for lunch yesterday. Disclaimer:not a huge fan of Fraiche, but want to give it a try.
It's an interesting space, where you can either get food/drink/pastry to go, dine in at tables or bar, or simply picking up wine and cheese. .
Lunch options are: soup, salad, sandwich, crepe. Love the fact you can order half portion for salad & sandwich. Dinner seems more intriguing, tapas menu with items such as bellota ham. Most dishes are priced at $7.
So a run down of the dishes:
Beets Salad w/ poached egg: LOVE the steamy egg with runny yolk that brought great flavors to the salad. Beets were well cooked, just wished they were not such huge chunk. A winner.
Baguette Sandwich with ham, cheese, lettuce: Very disappointed with the bread: soft with no bite. Highlight was the butter that brought all the elements together. A bit of a disappointment.
Coffee: Blue Bottle!! Ya, it's good. I'll go back for this as Dripbar doesn't come by Westside often.
Macaroon: Got Almond, Orange, Hazelnut. Orange was way too sweet, but went well with coffee. My last macaroon was Laduree in Paris so probably not fair comparison, I just hope these had more of a crunch when you bite into.
Took a long time to catch someone's attention to order, but food came out fast. Still want to go back to try out the tapas dinner/happy hour. If you like Fraiche you will probably like this place - that's my impression.
9900 Culver Blvd,
9411 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
Like Barrysentials, we dropped in to see what the new chef was doing. It was cold and rainy, and the cassoulet was perfect for the evening. We went early on the Tues or Wed of the first week the new chef was in, and the chef wasn't there, or at least not visible in the kitchen. The kitchen is in full view of the small dining area, so it's easy to tell who is (and isn't) working to get your food going.
The cassoulet was great - not a huge portion but definitely big enough given the rich, fatty meats inside. Nice duck leg, piece of pork belly, and sausage chunks. Very satisfying and yummy. We also had a beet salad (fine) and a mushroom saute (very good). No bread, which was a shame, but we probably might have asked. Though more appropriately we probably should have BEEN asked.
I think the food is very good (at least to the extent we ventured), clean, deliberate flavors and combinations and well priced. Service is casual, and I think that's the way this spot is intended. If so, I think it works well and we'll definitely be back.
Part of me was curious to see the owner and how he handled his own, new place. My understanding from friends and their experiences was that he was not so nice and humble at Fraiche, and while I never had a terrible experience there, I did have one rough spot once on a wine selection with him. If he is nice and humble in his new place, fantastic, it'll go far in winning folks over.
We tried L'Epicerie a week or two prior to Mr. Archambault's arrival and we still enjoyed our meal - it was takeout but still very nice. I wish they offered cassoulet the night we arrived as it was cold and rainy as well. We ordered soup, which was still rich, flavorful and fantastic. The sandwiches were simple but vibrantly fresh and flavorful as well. They have a tapas/small plate menu that we will eventually try - their happy hour would be the time to try it. We like their wine offerings - quite a range of wines and prices that should fit most budgets. I think with most of the walls lined with either wine bottles or other items really cuts down on the noise in the space. I was most surprised with Mr. Perez's warmth and cordiality as well - we had heard the same about his curt and brash behavior at Fraiche on these boards, but he couldn't be more of a gentleman on our visit.
Just went back last night and had a great experience.
Chef was there, the 3 folks manning the kitchen were busy and hopping, and food was really solid.
We had mushroms (yum), duck foie terrine (also excellent) as small plates, a really satisfying, simple garlic soup made with chicken stock, that reminded me of a hearty, flavorful big bowl of egg drop soup with a roasted garlic slant. We had an excellent duck confit with some sauteed potato/mushroom hash, and a shrimp/chorizo dish with a nice roasted tomato salsa (not spicy-hot, but well spiced, flavorful and a good complement to the shrimp.
Seasoning is on, bread is really good and rustic for a baguette, wine list is very well priced with some interesting selections and covers the map well. There will probably be a lot most folks have not heard of, but you aren't taking a huge chance at the $30-$40 mark for many bottles. I agree with Bulavinaka on the range and prices. Very heartening to see this (and I wish more places would "get it" and start pricing wine so that it feels OK to just get a bottle and find out what's inside rather than feel like it's a 401(k) election you're making at $80-$120 btl to end up with something good).
Looks like we have a great casual modern bistro with a completely flexible and well priced menu (small plates, apps, charcuterie, mains - whatever you want) that is being executed perfectly for a casual setting, with a fine chef in the kitchen. Service was friendly and we felt very welcome. Is it Providence? - no. I'm sure some yelpers will be put off when they don't get foot rubs, plates removed instantly or stools for their purses. Is it a great local spot which should be high on your list? I think so. I'm happy.
Heard a couple mentions of the restaurant so my wife and I went there on a weekday night and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The owner, Thierry Perez, a very nice and humble restaurateur who has a lot of experience (Fraiche and Providence in L.A.) and he was really excited about his new chef/partner, Sebastien Archambault. The menu is not huge, but this chef really knows how to cook. My wife had the halibut, served over buttery mashed potatoes and spinach -- she thought it was the best fish she'd had in many years. Perfectly cooked and seasoned. A great dish for only $22. I had the risotto with beef cheeks (which I'd never had before) and it was superb. The risotto was well made, the beef cheeks were delicious (very similar to braised short ribs) and the accompanying wine sauce was excellent. And the amazing thing is that this dish is only $16. Tell me where else you can find a dish of that caliber for that price in the L.A. area?
Other menu items that looked interesting were duck confit, cassoulet and crepes. The menu has about 3-4 items for entrees in seafood, beef, poultry, pork, plus salads, crepes, tapas -- something to satisfy anyone in your group. Even though it's not too extensive, there were lots of things that sound interesting and we'll definitely be back. Plus the prices are very reasonable.
Word is that the menu will undergo some revisions with the new chef with a greater emphasis on food from Southwest France. Looking forward to see what he will do.
Service was really terrific all around, especially our waitress Caitlin. The ambiance was very nice, kinda modern and spare but still welcoming. Not noisy at all which was surprising given all the hard surfaces. We enjoyed our glasses of wine, especially my Morgon which was very sexy and elegant. They were holding a wine tasting in the back corner and that seems worth checking out. The wine list was quite varied and interesting, with a good number of bottles reasonably priced for $30-$50. There's also a cool looking wine bar which we'll need to check out.
They had lots of great cheeses, charcuterie and other special foods for sale as well. Can't comment on the coffee or breakfast or lunch experience, but I will say that dinner was really terrific and you should definitely give this place a try.
9900 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
Went in for coffee & a chocolate croissant. Friendly counter people take my order then ask my name & write it on the cup. (What's with that? There's two people behind the counter and one other customer. If I wanted them to ask my name and shuffle me down a conveyor belt, I'd have gone to St*rbuks.) I saw a pathetic looking croissant at the counter, I asked if they were today's. Was told they're just for display, the one I got would be fresh. Was told to proceed to the back of the space, behind the tasting bar to receive my order from the cooks' line. I walk past a lot of fancy expensive exotic food in jars and vacuum sealed plastic, and racks of wine. I just wanted a chocolate croissant, for chrissakes. I wait there for them to heat it in the oven, even though I ordered it to go and it would be cold by the time I got home. I finally get it and drive home, only to find I've been given an old leather shoe with chocolate in it. I drive back. Friendly counter person is happy to refund me. The owner tries to reassure me by telling me they'll have fresh ones tomorrow, and walks away. I say, "You shouldn't serve them if they're like that." He doesn't even turn around. Cannot be bozzerd. Ça ne fait rien. I won't be back.
I had dinner there the night it opened and it was quite good. Mostly tapas, crepes, salads and sandwiches. I had the cassoulet from the tapas menu ($7), which I enjoyed, and a very tasty crepe afterwards ($9). I look forward to going back. It is a much simpler menu than Fraiche and a more casual sort of place with both bar and table seating (unlike Fraiche, the full menu seems to be available at the bar). There is also a market area with magazines, pastries, cheeses and wine, which I imagine will be fun to browse.
9411 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
I dropped by last night to pick up some bread, and ended up buying a decent sourdough baguette. The woman behind the counter said they're not making some of their own products... yet. Their macarons and breakfast pastries weren't made in house now, she said. But they're going to ramp up for that.
The bread was fine... and after parking across the street, I was glad to hear they do have some of their own parking spots accessible from Duquesne.
Overall, it looks a little fancier than Fraîche to me, but I didn't see their tapas menu.
9411 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232