Anisette Brasserie has been on my list of restaurants to try ever since they opened. Their location next to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica has kept me away during sunny days and week-ends when everyone headed to the area, creating jams in both traffic and parking structures. Finally, today was a gray day during the work week, so I took advantage to finally see and taste the latest Santa Monica French Brasserie's offerings.
I was impressed by the very authentic feel of the place when I walked in, from the grand ceiling and glass mirrors, to the red leather covered chairs and booths, everything said, "old comfortable French" when of course the restaurant is neither old nor in France. Another nice touch is the water service is from glass bottles if you want regular water, and if you want sparkling, they actually offer Badoit, my favorite French bottled water.
This week they are offering a special menu to celebrate their "birthday" with dishes based on Provencal cuisine including a fish soup and a tomato appetizer. It was too bad that I dined alone since their seafood platters are too big for one person, but I will come back for what looks like a great dish to share. I chose the Fruits de Mer Salad with a citrus vinagrette ($16), which was supposed to have shrimp and calamari, but which the waiter explained would lack the calamari since they were out, substituting more shrimp instead. I was looking forward to the bread brought to the table since I had missed breakfast and was craving a good piece of baguette; I was surprised to get three slices of soft buttery parmesan egg bread instead of the traditional French bread. It was delicious, but not at all in keeping with the decor and menu.
After over half and hour of waiting for my salad, the host came by to check on me, saying he would check with the kitchen. Five minutes later the waiter came by to say that my food was on its way. Ten minutes later it finally arrived (they must have had to fish for the shrimp off the Santa Monica Pier). It was delicious, with fresh citrus dressing, nice frisee and butter lettuce leaves, but it was definitely NOT French with cilantro, avocado, and jalapeno (?!?) in the salad. Perhaps the menu should have said it was fusion instead of French.
They offer an extensive wine list with nice glasses of Cote de Rhone and Bordeaux, as well as Veuve Cliquot for those who want something sparkling for their seafood; I was impressed by the Bas Armangnac ($35 a glass) offered on the dessert menu, but I had other plans for dessert, so I opted for an espresso as my finishing course. I will be back to try something else next time, like the steak frites or the seafood plateau, both French classics where fusion is not possible.
My dessert plan was to head to Angelato which boasts 100 flavors of gelato from rocky road and blood orange, to tiramisu. You may sample up to 3 flavors before deciding, but after my first taste of the mocha almond fudge, I made my decision. The immediate service of what I wanted a minute after my order was the perfect ending to a day on Third Street Promenade.