Monday, January 25, 2010

Le Saint Amour

Embrace the Butter

[Note - I first wrote this 9 days after they opened, and that was about 6 months ago, so things may have changed]

Where does this French brasserie sit in the panoply of Los Angeles' French restaurants? Not as expensive as Anisette, and not as cheap as La Dijonaise. The same balance can be said for the food: A definite step above La Dijonaise, with a menu featuring truly classic French fare, but not quite at the quality and presentation level of Anisette.

The restaurant is filled with "almost there" moments. The décor, fashioned after a classic French brasserie is almost there. It’s as if they just couldn’t get to the last steps. The tables, chairs, wall fixtures are all there, but then the windows loose all opportunity to have classic French brasserie stenciling and instead nothing fancier than some simple white lettering. The high ceiling is white… White? Why? And the lighting points up at the unfinished white painted ceiling drawing the eye upward. The music is muted and not French at all. It’s a French brasserie for god sakes! Where’s the Aznavour, Yves Montand, Le Grand, Charles Trenet, even Edith Piaf. Instead we get elevator 80s music. Owner's should go to Anisette to get an idea of how to finish the decor off.

And the waiters – Some, if not all in the restaurant speak French, but refuse to speak it to the guests and instead mutter it quietly to themselves. It’s as if they are proud of their English, so insist on speaking English only. We are in a French restaurant; we want the appearance of the French experience please. We like it. It is cool to hear the chef and waiters calling out to each other in French. Good ambiance. One last comment about the personnel – the chef was distant. Even though it’s an open kitchen he will not make eye contact or talk to the patrons. The guests shouldn’t have to work at it, they should feel welcome in his restaurant. A chef that will stop at your table for a couple quick words, and notices when your leaving and gives a friendly good bye is one that will see a lot of repeat business. This chef has much to be proud of, please, step out of your kitchen and say hello to your guests.

Now to the food: First, the menu is a definite cut above. I know of no other restaurant that serves boudin noir, or saucisse de Lyon avec lentile, or salade frisson aux lardon (well Anisette does but it is $15 for a small bowl!). Many wonderful decisions to make at Saint Amour and plenty of excuses to return. I mentioned the quality is good. A big cut above La Dijonaise, and even Mr. Marcel. The prices are higher than Mr. Marcel, but not much. All the sausages and patés and such are made in-house, and it shows. We had the lentils and they came with two different delicious Lyon style sausages. The lentils were perfectly cooked and had the proper slight vinaigrette flavoring. Only suggestion would be a touch more Dijon in the mix. The boudin noir came with mashed potatoes and poached apples ($17). Each was good, but the whole lacked unity, a unity that should have been made up of butter. It was like a diet boudin noir plate. In the past when I’ve had this in France they were always swimming in a butter sauce that included caramelized boudin and apple flavors. Here it was all dry. Good, but dry. I was tempted to pull butter out of the breadbasket and slather it around. Tiaré had a game hen served with foi gras in a wine reduction sauce over green beans, or something like that. At $24 it was the most expensive dinner entrée on the menu and based on how she inhaled it, I can only guess that it was delicious. Well actually she told me it was delicious, and Tiaré is a gourmand enough to know.

With the meal we had a bottle of 2005 Saint Amour, naturally. What else are you going to drink on your first visit to a brand new restaurant called Saint Amour! At $34 for the bottle it was a fair price. I know what the bottle wholesales for, and this price was as low as you would find at a wine retailer. No ripping off the customers here. And it was quite good, thank you.

For desert we split an ille flotant – another classic French dessert you don’t see here very often. It was quite good, but I was put off by the presentation. The “ille” was a big square block instead of the mountainous pile it usually should be. The big square block gave me that mass production feeling.

So, overall, not a bad start at all. When we went the place had been open for all of 9 days, so clearly some we need to alow for some bugs to work out. Still on a Monday night it was 70% full, and for a new place that is not bad. We will be back in hopes that things go from good to better to great.

My advice to the owner/chef: embrace your French-ness, embrace the brasserie traditions, and embrace the butter, it is after all one of the secrets to classic brasserie cooking.

Le Capitaine

Here is the link to their web page:


  1. Bring your camera/ cellphone camera with you :) Would LOVE to see pictures!! Tam

  2. Tam, I will start posting pictures when I can. Just learned how with my latest post!

  3. This is also the name of some very nice wine!!!