C’est Magnifique: Two Tres French Classics

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Are you looking for a little Gaelic love? Then you can’t go wrong with a stop at either Dominique’s Kitchen, above, a favorite near the sea in Redondo Beach; or a visit to either Normandie Bakery and Cafe Josette, or Chef Josette on Melrose, two delightful mid-city locations.

Starting at the beach, Dominique’s Kitchen offers a homey blend of traditional French dishes and a cozy, candlelit dinner setting.

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Paris-trained chef Dominique Theval serves generous and affordable portions of dishes he creates daily from scratch. We began with a popular starter at the restaurant, a white bean salad with kale, lemon juice and olive oil topped with parmesan cheese slivers,  and accompanied by several crisp, house-made crostini for dipping. Both lemon and garlic made the white beans zing. It was a vibrantly tasty accompaniment to our European bottled beers, along with the delightful, airy house-made French baguette, served cut up and warm, fresh from the oven.

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A small but elegant wine and beer list adds to the dining pleasure.

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We also sampled what is perhaps the restaurant’s prize appetizer, a classic escargot imported from Bourgogne, France. The snails are baked in a succulent garlic butter. Chewy, hearty, and rich –  the dish is served in-shell.

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For our entrees, we chose a pasta and a fish dish.  One of the most popular pasta dishes is the thick and creamy lobster ravioli in a rich lobster and champagne reduction. The dish was crowned with an unlikely combination of broccoli florets and pecans, which worked exceptionally well.

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We also went with an impressively ample organic Scottish salmon, served atop an Italian white bean stew with tomatoes, black olives, and basil. The filet was elegantly prepared with a juicy garlic and olive oil infusion. Also on the menu are roasted chicken, a Prime cut of steak, a delicate sole, and an array of pasta dishes including a very French version of macaroni and cheese. Cheese fondue is also offered.

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There are a number of lovingly prepared desserts on the menu as well; for us the standout was the white and dark Belgian chocolate mousse, a lovely mix of chocolate flavors; although the light and fluffy lime panna cotta with pineapple mint compote was also a sound choice.

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One good Gallic experience deserves another, and we also dined at one of the dynamic Josette LeBlonde’s eponymous cafes. We visited her original Cafe Josette location, which abuts the Normandie Bakery, where beautiful desserts, breads, and authentic French foods are made and served. The dining location here is resolutely casual, with sidewalk tables brightening an otherwise semi-industrial neighborhood. Her Melrose location is dressier and sleeker, but still a friendly, warm, and welcoming cafe.

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She creates perfectly made delicate chocolate and pain au raisin croissants, macaroons, such as her savory tomato basil or pea flavors, and more traditional flavors such as raspberry, strawberry, pistachio, and delectable caramel. Her signature crème brulé, meringues, and velvety Passion cake are astonishingly lovely.

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Moving beyond pastry, she’s renowned for her pâtés. Versions she creates include everything from pork and duck to vegetarian pâté.

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Her menu features favorites such as escargot, merguez, coq au vine and bourguignon.

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Her mergez may be the most unusual dish on the menu, one which may not be familiar to many in Los Angeles. It’s a spicy red beef or mutton-based sausage that originated in North African cuisine. But there are also  seafood pasta, chicken crepes, French onion soup, quiche, and a carefully-curated selection of cheeses and pâtés on the menu, along with those incredible desserts.

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We had a  zucchini quiche,  crisp and perfect, cheesy but not heavy, with a light, lemony couscous and rosemary onion potatoes on the side.  We also had a smooth, satisfying eggs Benedict made with perfect, tender salmon.

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And yes, here, too, there was escargot, fragrant with butter, parsley, garlic, and Pernod.

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Perhaps best of all was a vegetarian pate, light and redolent of tarragon, and served along with a more traditional duck liver pate.

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The chocolate mousse was rich, dark, and topped with chocolate shavings. We took home a brioche and a croissant: both ooh la la worthy indeed.

So – there’s no need to go to Paris for terrific French food. We have several authentically magnifique destinations right here in SoCal.

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Dominique’s Kitchen – 522 S Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Chef Josette Bistro  – 3022 S Cochran Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90016 and 707 N Stanley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Genie Davis; photos: Jack Burke and Genie Davis

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