I like a restaurant with personality, so that when I think of that restaurant a particular dish comes to mind. Nowhere is that more true than at Le Saint Amour in Culver City.
Yes, it’s French. And I mean really French, like you can go there and not speak a word of English and do just fine, if you speak French. And if you look on the Internet you will see a lot of complaints about the staff being a bit haughty and unfriendly. That’s very French. And yes, there is a varied menu with loup de mer (sea bass), steak frites (always the most popular dish in French restaurants, probably because of the “French” fries), poulet roti with spinach and mushrooms, salmon, moules and the ham and cheese “Croque Monsieur” that I lived on when I was a student in Paris. These dishes are made in the on-site kitchen by a couple of young men that love what they do.
But I’ve never sampled any of these dishes. I go to Saint Amour for one reason only: the charcuterie maison. Not only is it the best in town, it rivals that of many restaurants in Paris (that’s as in France). The charcuterie is made by the owner Bruno Herve-Commereuc in his own kitchen, from which he supplies this restaurant, a few others, and private customers. You can buy it from his website, www.locharcuterie.com, and check out the restaurant at www.lesaintamour.com.
I start with the terrine de foie gras, with toasted brioche (I usually order extra brioche) and mesclun salad. The foie gras is as good as it gets, and the salad has a lively lemon dressing that contrasts well with the richness of the foie gras.
I move on to the assiette de charcuterie, an assortment of pates and terrines. There is usually a country pate, a lean pork rillette, and a chicken pate en croute. Each is delicious and has its own flavors.
I end with the Lyonnais sausage on a bed of warm lentils cooked in a port wine sauce. It’s just like in Lyon, except the lentils are better.
Of course that’s too much food for one person, but just right for two. And this rich flavorful food cries out for a good Rhone wine. My friend Harvey and I usually split a bottle of Cote de Rhone La Deveze ($10 by the glass, $37 for the bottle — so we save at least $3 by buying the bottle and get three glasses each). But there are other wines on the list that I have my eye on: a Gigondas from 2007, a Faugeres from 2000, and a Saumur Champigny Cabernet franc from 2006. In other words, there’s plenty to drink, and this is one of the few restaurants in town where you can get a really good glass of wine for $10.
Although the interior is small and very plain, there is a lovely patio.
Our bill for this feast runs about $35 for the food, $37 for the wine, and $13 tip, total $85. It’s a treat that I only allow myself once a month or so, for this many calories and this many dollars, but — as my doctor says — “living well and enjoying life is good for your health.”
If You Go
Le Saint Amour
9725 Culver Blvd., Culver City, Calif., 90232
(310) 842-8155; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Monday — Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m. — 9:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. — 3 p.m., 5 p.m. —10:30 p.m.; Weekends 5 p.m. —10:30 p.m.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at email@example.com.