My comfort food is French Bistro, so when I want to treat my palate and my sensibilities, I always head to my neighborhood favorite. But today I "cheated" with Madame Chou Chou because I was in Santa Monica and the thought of lunch on a patio tempted me to stray. The ambiance in the back of the restaurant with rustic and modern whimsical decor was delightful. Madame Chou Chou was also a perfect hostess, making every diner in this small bistro feel appreciated and welcome.
The arrival of my substitute papparadelle carbonara, with English peas, bacon and egg yolk made me smile with anticipation. After mixing my egg yolk with the pasta, I took a bite and was relieved to find it was better than the flank steak. But even though the pasta was made in house, it was heavy, and pieces of it were clumped together (it was not stirred enough during cooking). The presentation was pretty, but the dish was not well executed; the bacon was not crisp, the pasta was not cooked in salted water, and the peas were underdone. Even though they are an Asian fusion restaurant, Sawtelle Kitchen does a much better version of this classic Italian dish.
For dessert, it seemed every table ordered the "deenie booh", a gluten free almond cake with pistachio mousseline and raspberries. It was beautiful and since the place sells pastries, I hoped it would taste as good as it looked. I am happy to report that yes, this was the highlight of my lunch. The almond cake was richly flavored and dense, the mousseline was light and creamy, and the raspberries added a nice fresh tartness.
Sometimes you must learn through experience, and I have learned that no matter how tempting and gracious a new French Bistro might be, I have found the one I love and I will not stray again!