Late yesterday afternoon, after checking out yet more motor scooters*, we decided on a whim to check out Anisette Brasserie in Santa Monica. From the moment we walked in, I had a good feeling about the place. The bar is zinc, the leather is red, the mood is relaxed and convivial, and the food...well for an hour and a half, we felt like we were back in Paris.
We started with some huitres on the half-shell (I recommend the Kumamotos, small and sweet) and an phenomenal salad of yellow and red beets with warm goat cheese. But it was my main course that really knocked my socks off: Moules frites. The mussels are small and delicate and served in a huge black bowl with a wire screen on one side so you can get at the sauce to dip slices of baguette. And the sauce...heaven! It's a very light and brothy cream sauce with vermouth and anisette. It's that anisette that really puts this dish over the top; it complements the flavor of the mussels without overwhelming. I can easily say that these were the best mussels I've ever had. The frites are light and very crispy. Both portions are quite large; I went easy on the fries but polished off the mussels, yet didn't feel stuffed at the end, thanks to the lightness of the sauce.
Mon mari ordered a chocolate mousse with Vahlrona sauce for dessert. I had a taste and it also was above-and-beyond delicious.
At the table next to us was a couple with an adorable 16-month-old boy. Chef Alain Giraud, whose previous LA restaurant credits include Citrus and Bastide, came out of the kitchen and spent several minutes playing with the little boy, which only contributed to the mood of being in a neighborhood Paris brasserie. We will definitely be going back to Anisette!
*A combination of gas prices, a desire to be more environmentally conscious and perhaps a bit of mid-life crisis have inspired mon mari get a motor scooter for his short commute to work.