Would You Eat This 3-Pound Chicken Nugget?
Chef Josiah Citrin’s venerated palace of modern French cuisine and fine dining remains one of the best destinations for (very) special occasions, those with fat wallets, or, you know, when you’re in the mood to drop a month's worth of rent for dinner. Expect Michelin star-caliber service and four courses or more of food that utilizes traditional techniques with imaginative flair and local ingredients. Prepare for a night of foie gras, caviar-topped eggs, and Dover sole prepared tableside along with plenty of other optional flourishes and a deep wine list.
This stunning new addition to Downtown’s dining scene comes from the duo behind Church & State, the French bistro in the Arts District. Inside, you’ll find an expansive light-filled atrium with a fountain and pepper trees at the center with plenty of marble, gold, and green accents throughout. The menu skews towards lighter, vegetable-driven and Mediterranean-inflected French fare that relies more on olive oil than heavy sauces. You’ll find wild Burgundy snails with tomato and fennel, seared duck breast with adorably tiny vegetables, and the saffron, fennel, and garlic-driven bourride, a traditional fish stew of Provence. Oysters and cocktails in the stylish lounge is also a perfectly acceptable option.
Tucked within an unassuming strip mall near the entrance to the 101 hides a charming and vastly underrated bistro that has remained mostly under the radar for the past several years (shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone). The cozy and casual space offers a weekly (and sometimes daily) rotating prix fixe, three-course menu that’s a steal starting around $38 per person. Chef/owner Tim Carey turns out expertly prepared plates of flat iron steak or scallops with chanterelles, with some options available for a slight price upgrade. You can order wine by the glass or peruse the wall of bottles that feature plenty of great Old World and natural French wines.
Here you can feast on Thomas Keller’s celebrated French bistro fare without having to make the trek to Napa Valley. You’ll find plenty of old-school bistro vibes here, with plenty of polished brass, mirrors, and vested waitstaff. You’ll also find all the hits, from country pâté and croque madame to steak frites and an excellent roast chicken. Brunch is also an excellent time to visit, and should you find yourself here on a Monday night, definitely order the famous buttermilk fried chicken, which is totally a French thing as long as you have a glass of wine with it.
While the coveted tickets and tasting menu of Trois Mec may receive plenty of deserved accolades, Petit Trois -- the more casual younger brother next door -- is just as fun and far more accessible. The cozy 21-seat operation from chefs Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo serves up an elevated rendition of the French neighborhood bar experience with classics like steak tartare, confit-fried chicken leg, and the best damn omelette you’ll ever eat.
Straight outta Aix-en-Provence, chef Christian Royere catered to the stars and worked in LA kitchens for decades before opening A Food Affair with his wife Babette a few years back. You’re in good hands here, with modern renditions of classics like beef bourguignon, bouillabaisse, and duck rillettes. And while the BYOB policy is currently on hold as they apply for their beer and wine license, you can still enjoy the excellent house mocktails made with fresh fruit. With stone walls, antique French furniture, and a small garden patio, this date-night favorite is a great (and well-priced) romantic option without too much fuss.
One of the few remaining standard bearers of formal fine dining in the city, Patina offers all the elegant flourishes of tradition while still feeling modern. Founder Joachim Splichal recently brought on chef Paul Lee -- who like most before him worked in legendary European restaurants -- and has shifted the focus to several tasting menu options, which vary depending on the size of your bank account. And while you’ll find classic French favorites made with old-school techniques, stocks, and sauces, they’re often presented in unexpected ways, like quail with black mole and sesame corn risotto, or veal cheek with coconut red curry. And as you’re probably here for a special occasion, you’ll definitely want to look into tickets for a show at Disney Concert Hall next door.
Hidden behind a wall at the heart of Sunset Junction, Cafe Stella offers a bustling Parisian-style bistro complete with eclectic wall hangings, wicker furniture, and excellent French eats. Kick the night off with a bit of steak tartare or silky chestnut soup and consider moving on to the moule frites or the red wine-braised short ribs. The burger at lunch is also excellent, and brunch here is always a winner.
Nestled inside the Beverly Hills' L'Ermitage Hotel, this elegant, new-ish spot focuses on bistro classics with a contemporary spin and offers a glitzy, Saint-Tropez-inspired vibe. The service is sharply attentive, and the roaming Champagne and boozy candy carts are an added bonus. Some of the highlights include the foie gras l’orange, the tableside cote de boeuf for two, and a whole-roasted, curried cauliflower if you’re not digging on meat. You’ll also want to save room for desserts like the classic amaretto floating island, or the chocolate & caramélia mille-feuille. And if you’re feeling particularly baller, you can opt for a secluded private table with a cool, glass-walled wine cellar.
Beverly Grove/West Hollywood
Hidden behind an actual little wooden door, the sparkling garden patio of The Little Door has played host to countless romantic dates and an untold number of wedding proposals. On the French-Moroccan-leaning menu, you’ll find winners like spicy mussels with a ras el hanout broth, lamb stew with merguez sausage and couscous, and some great desserts like a near-perfect crème brûlée. And if you’re looking for some more traditional brassiere options, you can always head over to The Little Next Door, where you’ll find roasted bone marrow, duck confit, steak frites, and roasted chicken.
This laid-back neighborhood favorite is a refreshing option to some of the pricier French outposts around town, and has the added charm of an all-French waitstaff. There’s plenty of hearty comfort fare to be had thanks to plenty of great options like the oven-baked chicken with Cognac and morels, or the rack of lamb with a mustard sauce. And starting with the buttery-garlicky escargot is kind of a no-brainer. There’s an excellent selection of wines, as well as several not-often-seen French beers.
One of the early pioneers of the recent Arts District transformation, Church & State continues to be a reliable go-to for the full French bistro experience (even if you are dining inside the old Nabisco factory). You’ll find top-notch renditions of your favorites here, including escargot hidden beneath puff pastry, chicken liver mousse, bouillabaisse, and roasted duck breast, and they also always have excellent sweet and savory tarts.
While we can’t say for certain if Charlie Chaplin was a fan of French fare, we have a good feeling he’d be stoked to dine in his former office space. The space -- which also previously housed the long-standing favorite Campanile -- is now a stunning cathedral-like hotspot (unsurprisingly, a perennial pick on our Eat Seeker list) where chef Walter Manzke turns out exceptional renditions of French hits using farm-fresh ingredients. You’ll probably want to start with the house-baked bread with pan drippings, before moving on to the house charcuterie, escargot, or seared foie gras, followed by the steak frites or the roasted lamb rack. And if you’re feeling even more decadent, there’s the classic tournedos rossini with foie gras and truffles. You also don’t want to miss any of Margarita Manske’s amazing baked goodies.
This fun, casual bistro is perfect for grabbing a glass of wine and steak tartare at the bar for happy hour, just as it is for a dinner date with steak frites, Dover sole, and other great choices on the French-leaning menu. Solid picks also include mussels and chicken liver pâté. Earlier in the day, you’ll find some excellent brunch options, including the jamon tomato toast and the asparagus with fried egg.
Formerly the Westside outpost of The Little Door, L’Ami offers a more casual option for French-Mediterranean cuisine in a breezy and romantic Saint-Tropez-inspired setting with white walls and blue ceilings. You’ll find some excellent seafood options, including oysters, mussels in white wine, and sesame-crusted scallops, as well as land-faring options like couscous royale with lamb chops, all of which you can enjoy on the killer patio.
With a gorgeous tree-adorned patio, excellent house charcuterie, and great cocktails, Terrine could probably stop there with enough to get you to visit. But thankfully, chef Kris Morningstar goes the distance with a great lineup of California-leaning French brasserie eats, like roasted duck with kumquats or the braised lamb shank with artichoke.
Once located Downtown in LA's since-vanished French Town, and having relocated to Echo Park in the 1960s, this institution still serves up hearty French Basque country fare. While chances are you may have seen live music in the lounge, it’s definitely worth grabbing a booth in one of the banquet rooms for dinner: order a bottle of French wine and prepare for a feast of ratatouille, escargot cooked in shell, and bigger dishes like duck à l'orange, braised rabbit, or frog legs, before finishing off the night with a bit of chocolate mousse or crème brûlée.
While this neighborhood favorite is an excellent option for brunch and fried chicken sandwiches, it also happens to have an incredible rundown of rustic, farmers market-sourced French standouts, including chicken liver pâté or salt cod brandade, followed by duck confit or boeuf bourguignon with buttered egg noodles.
Since 1988, this classy French bistro has been winning loyal fans with its classic dishes, lengthy wine list, and sharp service. Thankfully not much has changed over the years, including the sparkling chandeliers, dark wood panelling, and vintage mirrored bar. Be sure to check out the reliable takes on essentials like steak au poivre, roasted chicken, and an excellent chocolate soufflé.
If you like steak and you like frites, get in here. There are refreshingly few choices to be made at this sleekly modern specialist where your steak frites are served in two rounds -- so everything stays hot. OK, maybe you’ll have to decide if you want truffles or foie gras on your steak (or both!), or if you want to start with the salmon tartare or smoked trout pâté, but there are worse decisions to have to make in life. And for non-steak eaters, there’s also a fish, chicken, and veggie version.
The spectacular interior of the former El Dorado Hotel lobby here at this relatively recent Downtown newcomer is worth a visit alone. And while you’re checking out those circular crystal chandeliers and grand staircase, you might as well order up a cocktail and some oysters. And why not stick around for the crispy duck breast, or go big with the Cognac-flambeed lobster or truffled burger? You may even catch a bit of live French jazz if you’re there on a Wednesday, or during the Downtown Art Walk.
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