A few weeks ago I attended a comped media dinner at Le Saint Amour, a charming French bistro in the heart of Culver City. I’d never actually heard of the restaurant before, but that’s also because I tend to focus mainly on the spots that open in Hollywood and east. Culver City is like one giant blind spot to me. I should really change that since there’s been a vibrant dining scene going on there for the past few years. Turns out Le Saint Amour has been around for a little while, and not only was the French cuisine on display totally delicious, it in some ways BLEW MY MIND.Now we all know these sort of posts can lend themselves toward hyperbole, but I really am not lying when I say the mussels I enjoyed at the dinner may have been the best I’ve had in Los Angeles. I love those little black crustaceans, and I’ve had them in many, many places. From high end kitchens such as Jar to more rustic places such as Jitlada. Heck, I’ve even ordered the mussels at Pomodoro. Truth is that it’s hard to mess mussels up; so I’m almost always satisfied with what I get. However, when a batch comes my way that is exemplary, I certainly make note. The aforementioned Jar and Jitlada have delicious offerings. So does Bowery in Hollywood. They both paled next to what we were served at Le Saint Amour. I almost feel weird heaping such high praise on the dish. I can already feel the wrath of a hundred discerning food bloggers rolling their eyes at my enthusiasm. I stand by my praise though. And here’s why.
Those damn mussels were practically perfect. The actual shellfish were the perfect size: plump, meaty, juicy. Not too small, and not too big (although, I personally don’t mind oversized mussels). More importantly, they were cooked to perfection (insert European chef kissing the tips of his fingers and flaring them out). Seriously, these mussels melted in my mouth in a way that I’d never experienced before. I never knew mussels could be so soft and tender and creamy. It’s not that I’ve been raised on chewy mussels (although, I’ve definitely had some). It’s just that these were in another league. IN. ANOTHER. LEAGUE.
Memo to self: never embark on a post about mussels while you’re starving. I’m half tempted to drive back down to Le Saint Amour right now. I’ve actually tried to get my friends to join me on a return trip, but they often balk at the idea of going to Culver City (and who can blame them?).
There was more to the dinner than just the mussels, but if it had been just the mussels, that would have been enough (dayenu).
Amusingly, I thought we were only receiving a sampling of charcuterie, not a full-on tour of French delicacies. Needless to say, I was full by the end of the meal. Check it out:
Things started off with a bubbly cocktail. I had missed the explanation, but my trusty dining companion Diana from Diana Takes a Bite informed me that it was a sparkling rosÃ© of some sort. I happily took a swig one nanosecond before Diana added that it was infused with RASPBERRY. For those who have not read my barista post, I hate raspberry. All berries, really. This was not a stellar moment for me.
Oh, and apologies for the generally crappy photography. Just got a new camera; so the pictures will look much better in the near future…
Thanks to horrific traffic, I just missed the oyster platter, but the restaurant was kind enough to provide me with this adorable little plate. And thank goodness. The oyster was delicious, and so was the mignonette, which perfectly complemented the flavors, not overpowered (as so many mignonettes do). Oh snap! Mignonette BURN!
A sampling of charcuterie. On display from right to left are country patÃ©, duck rillette, galantine avec pistachio, and lastly a venison thang. The duck and the venison were my favorites, but it was all tasty, especially with some of that mustard hanging out in the corner of the plate.
No, this is not Papa Smurf’s abode. It’s escargot en croute. I love me some escargot; so I was understandably very excited about this dish. Flavor-wise, it was spot-on. Functionally though, i had some problems. First, the pastry was very stiff, and when I tried to crack it open, the vessel had a tendency to fall over. Unfortunately, the little cup was blazing hot; so stabilizing it with my hand was not really an option. I eventually extracted my tasty little snail, and trust me, I could have had three more of them, but I think maybe revising the design of the plating would make this dish even better.
Next a delectable basket of fries arrived with a wonderfully lemony garlic aioli on the side. Of course, you can’t have frites without the moules, and soon the crustaceans arrived…
There they are. Moules Marinieres. Heaven in a bowl. My little corner of the table devoured these bad boys, especially since we were under the mistaken notion that they were our last or second to last course. When we polished off our bowl, we had people at the other end of the table send down there mussels too. Just staring at this picture, I want to hop into a time machine and travel back to that mussel interlude. I hope I’m not hyping these mussels up too much. They really were sensational.
Some of the aforementioned aioli.
A glimpse of my plate. This was not a healthy meal, as that buttery sheen on my dish suggests. Also worth noting: the restaurant provided lovely bread too.
Nothing could top the mussels, but this Moroccan Merguez sausage plate sure came close. Recently, I’ve endured some ceaselessly bland merguez sausage. I don’t know why, but that’s just the hand I’ve been dealt. That all ended with this dish, which smacked us all with bright, zesty flavor. I say this knowing fully how dirty it sounds: it was like a sausage party in our mouths. Seriously, sausages are all about big, bold flavors, and this merguez delivered on all fronts. And let’s not overlook the rest of the dish which was perfectly balanced thanks to the sweet, raisin-speckled couscous. Dying right now. DYING.
Another view of the dish.
I believe this was seabass. This wasn’t planned for our dinner, but the chef wanted us to sample a dish off the regular dinner. That golden sauce? Heaven.
BÅ“uf Bouguignon. So this is how it’s done. One spoonful is enough to fill you for days. And yet somehow I was able to go back for more and more.
Blood sausage. I’d never actually had blood sausage before, and I was a shade apprehensive. This stuff was awesome though. Even people sitting with us who aren’t normally blood sausage fans enjoyed it greatly.
Finally, dessert. Here’s a picture of a lovely chocolate souffle with banana ice cream and caramel just seconds before we tore into it like a pack of hungry wolves. Perfect.
The real standout though was this citrus concoction. I believe it was lemon mousse with tangerine sorbet and blood orange granita. It takes a lot for something to upstage a chocolate dessert in my book, but this offering blew us all away hands down. Full of flavor and refreshing, this was a truly special dessert and totally brilliant in its simplicity.
Needless to say, I ate well that night, and I think I’m still shedding the pounds I gained. I could not believe how good the food was. The entire meal was a wonderful surprise. Now, time to eat.
Le Saint Amour
9725 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232