When I heard La Cachette moved to a much larger new location just off Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, I wondered how the new home would compare. The Century City spot was intimate and quiet, that seemed like difficult traits to carry over to the beach boulevard. The Santa Monica site has a calm and relaxing indoor dining room that was a little too low key for our weekday visit. We opted for the patio, which was comfortable and buffered from the busy sidewalk by hanging plants.
Now I’ve always been an indecisive menu reader, something that was exasperated upon looking at the new La Cachette menu. Somehow I found it easier to order an appetizer…by ordering three of them. What can I say, I’m a friend of “and”, weary of “or”.
The first appetizer to arrive was a traditional French treat, duck confit rillettes with cornichons, Dijon mustard and thick homemade bread. The duck was so soft that it easily spread across the bread over a slight bit of the spicy mustard and blended together to make a remarkable taste. Tiny cornichons were a nice accent to this dish.
Can it be too much to follow up Duck Confit with Foie Gras? If you said yes, you need to sample the foie gras at La Cachette. According to Chef Jean-Francois Meteigner, the foie gras is never cooked in direct heat, but molded by hand in a towel as 130 degree fat was poured over the top. The dense terrine was served with a pot of rhubarb jelly with cooked rhubarb on top. A sprinkle of black pepper over the rhubarb on toast with a thick slice of foie gras was truly divine. I can’t think of a combination of flavors that was so diverse yet so cohesive.
Smoked Hamachi in a French Bistro seems unlikely, but it was real and it was wonderful. I marveled at how something so delicate and thin could be smoked and so flavorful. Just when I thought I had the chef pegged, I was thrown for quite the surprise. Ever ready to avert the main course I next tried the Fish and Langoustine soup served with a red pepper Rioulle on toasted flatbread with shredded Swiss cheese. The soup tasted akin to lobster bisque with the fish and crustacean pieces were the smallest pieces, almost a pulp. The soup had a warm wholesome feel, but was almost done a disservice by the rich dishes that came out first.
The entrée could wait no longer, the braised veal short ribs and sweetbreads with risotto was a decadent dinner indeed. The veal short ribs were so tender that I could have cut them with a stern look. Luckily, I used a fork instead and the meat just melted in my mouth. The sweetbreads were so rich that I was glad they were in smaller portions. If there is only one dish I could have had that night, this would have sent me away on a cloud.
Service seems to be one area where the new La Cachette was still settling into. On one hand, Chef Jean-Francois was very hands on, delivered many dishes personally and was on a full charm offensive with all of his customers. Our waitress on the other hand seemed out of place like an audio track that doesn’t sync up with the video. She did make some good wine suggestions. However, she made an awkward point to walk by after dishes were delivered by others to say, “Bon appetite.” As out of place as the waitress seemed, it hardly made for a bad outing. All in all, I think the new La Cachette deserves a visit from you, my trusty reader. I shall return soon.
1733 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Interview with Owner and Chef of LC Bistro Jean-Francois Meteigner
Q: How is the new La Cachette different from the old La Cachette:
A: The old La Cachette was a more traditional and upscale restaurant LC Bistro is a modern Californian French bistro with some Asian influenced flavors and ingredients like Korean chili paste with Wasabe ginger and soy but we use Harissa too which is more of a Northern African spice, we have a burger on menu with melted blue cheeses grilled onions, mussels have saffron in it Tumeric cayenne and curry too
then we have French food with the Cassoulet, Coq au Vin, Lamb rack Flageolets and then we move on to fun stuff: homemade salmon sausages, duck confit rillettes, homemade smoke trout and salmon cold Brandade with house cured cod, braised buffalo short ribs with coffee rub there are so many dishes to try at the bistro.
Q: Who are some chefs (past, present, living or dead) whom you admire?
A: Chef Alain Ducasse seems to grow into a bigger star as he expands around the world. What Joackim or Wolfgang do -those guys are unreal, BRAVO, I cannot do it, no sir I would go crazy.
Q: What is the signature dish at La Cachette?
A: Fish and salmon sausage sauerkraut, Buffalo Short Ribs, Bouillabaisse, House cured trout salad, Fish Soup and my mom’s seafood gratin.
Q: When at home what do you enjoy cooking for your family/friends?
A: When at home, which is never nowadays, my wife Allie usually cooks turkey meat loaf tomato sauce, meat balls and spaghetti, roasted chicken mashed potato, simple great home cooking but now the kids loves the bistro so much and want to eat there all the time and I’m letting them work in pastry to make money. Lots of Korean food too homemade from Allie’s mom, we love it! At the bistro we are going to be adding more risotto and raviolis to the menu. I am a quarter Italian and I love making risotto and different types of raviolis and polenta.