The best meal we had during our March trip to southern California was at The Little Door in Santa Monica. The restaurant was on a list of recommendations from the daughter of some friends of ours. We hadn't tried it on any of our previous trips to LA. This time, we decided to make a reservation. Wow! We'll definitely be back.
Really. We liked everything about it, starting with the ambiance and decor. Inside, the restaurant is warm, inviting, cozy but without being crowded. It seems to be authentically French. Many of the other patrons were speaking French, and the host (perhaps owner?) and servers seemed to be answering fluently.
The dinner made us excited to plan a trip to Paris.
I started the evening with a cocktail, a Vieux Carre, which has recently become my new obsession. (Here's the recipe I've been using to make the cocktail at home: Click Here.)
To start, my wife and I split a salad. It consisted of shaved Brussels sprouts with farro, bacon, and Parmesan cheese. The dressing was a vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon, and balsamic vinegar. The lemon in the dressing gave the salad a refreshing, tangy citrus flavor.
For our entrees, we both had fish. Linda had grilled sea bass which was topped with a sauce made from sun-dried tomatoes and Pernod (an anise-flavored liqueur). It was served with sauteed spinach, braised fennel, and a potato puree topped with black olive tapenade.
My fish was roasted monk fish with a sauce of blood orange and capers. The fish was wrapped in bacon, so it came out almost like a bacon-wrapped scallop. The fish was served on a mash made from cauliflower flavored with mustard and a roasted red pepper sauce - Romanesco. It was excellent.
We both had a glass of wine with the fish. Hers was a sauvignon blanc from Chateau Reynier in Bordeaux. I had a sancerre from the Loire Valley. Both were excellent.
Our server was very good. I mentioned how he seemed to be ably bilingual with the French-speaking patrons. For us, he was attentive and friendly. By the end of the meal, we were tempted by dessert but finally decided not to. (We did plan to go out to find some live music after dinner.)
Overall, the value of our dinner was good. It was the most expensive dinner we had on this trip. But the amount of food was ample, and the flavors and presentation were impressive. So the overall experience was well worth the cost.
I do have one regret about the dinner, however. When I looked at the menu, I was tempted by an entree called Couscous Royale. The description called it a lamb stew with lamb chops, chicken, and merguez lamb sausage. I was a little dubious about ordering 'stew' and the monk fish sounded so good, so I went with the fish.
But during the evening, I kept seeing our server bring a tagine to tables around us. It looked fabulous. So at the end of the evening, I asked about the tagine. Oh, he replied. That's the lamb stew. It's a specialty of the house.
Oh, well. Something to look forward to the next time we're in LA and a return visit to The Little Door.