The 'Noah's Ark' bouillabaisse at Chez Mimi in the Pacific Palisades. It comes with two of everything. (Photo by John Blanchette.)

There are so many new restaurants opening that I can’t keep up with them. Of course, new to me may not be new to you. But let me name just a few that have come to my attention in the past two weeks, although I can’t review yet because I have to eat at each one more often.
For years we loved Chez Mimi in Brentwood. Mimi was there in the kitchen and her wonderful staff, some of whom come from her hometown of Montreal, were on the floor making you feel welcome. The food was good, honest, French influenced, simple and tasty. Then she lost her lease and the space was taken over by an upscale Italian restaurant. Is that a “c’est la vie” or a “che sar√° sar√°?”
Now Mimi has opened again in Pacific Palisades. It’s an unlikely spot, near the Pacific Coast Highway at the entrance to the Highlands, where Morgan’s restaurant used to be. There is a lovely patio, but I worry what it will be like during the winter; it’s not enclosed against the wind. The interior is sparse and a bit cramped. But some of the food is like it used to be.
I had the onion soup, and it was wonderful. On another occasion I had the bouillabaisse, and it too was wonderful. It reminded me a bit of Noah’s Ark: there were two scallops, two shrimp, two pieces of white fish, etc. But it was the concentration of the broth that made it wonderful, plus the spicy aioli, which must be more Canadian than French since the French usually have more garlic and less red pepper. I like the red pepper.

The ‘Noah’s Ark’ bouillabaisse at Chez Mimi in the Pacific Palisades. It comes with two of everything. (Photo by John Blanchette.)

Then I had an old standby at Mimi’s, the Dover sole, and it was just as I remembered it, with the little carrots and potatoes on the side. Some of my friends find the cuisine too “old fashioned,” and it certainly is not trendy. Personally I like that about it. But it’s not perfect. The marinated mushroom salad was not good; the marinade was too thick. A chicken dish was drowning in a sauce too thick. Even though the Internet reviews are very negative, I like it.
But it’s a nice addition to the Palisades restaurant scene, and we wish her good luck, especially when it’s raining and you can’t sit on the patio.
In 1968 I built the building at 15415 Sunset Blvd. (I picked that address for it) and built an Italian restaurant on the ground floor for the owner of Jacopo’s. Well, I didn’t actually build it myself, but I designed it and paid the contractor, Jules Togia, to build it. Now a new, slightly higher-end Italian restaurant has taken over the space, and I’m optimistic about it. I expected just a pizza place, but when I had a pizza there recently I saw an extensive Italian menu and you can bet I’ll be back.
The owners picked a name which might not be so easy to remember, Il Piccolo Ritrovo Pizzeria and Trattoria. Nor is the telephone number so easy, so you better cut out the information below and tape it to your refrigerator.
Avid readers will no doubt remember my article on the best hamburger in Santa Monica — or the Westside in general. Well, I had a hamburger the other day at a new restaurant that blew away the others. The restaurant is called Plan Check, after the architectural bureau nearby, and the burger is spectacular.
There are a lot of other good looking dishes on the menu, so I’m not reviewing it yet until I can get back to eat more. But this is clearly a restaurant with owners who know what they are doing, how to buy the right ingredients and how to train the staff. I am really impressed.
I stumbled into Eat My Sushi on Main Street the other day. There was nothing spectacular about it, but I had an excellent bento box with three items for $20, and I thought the basic concept of creating your own bento box selection was a really good idea. I selected the rock shrimp, mixed tempura, and yellowtail sashimi and each was delicious.
On another occasion I fell into the Hummus Bar Express on the Third Street Promenade. I think it just opened. The food is a bit healthier than what I usually eat, but an occasional healthy meal isn’t a bad idea. It’s a good place for a sandwich or a salad. But the best dishes for me were the Middle Eastern dips, especially the house hummus for $7. It seems like a great place to take a family with kids.
And finally, I discovered Upper West, “a Santa Monica Bistro.” I don’t know how I’ve missed it. It’s not so new, but it’s new to me, and I’ll bet it is to you.
But for a lot of the young hi-tech crowd that’s moved into Santa Monica, it seems like the place to go. The bar seems always filled, and it’s not so easy to get a table at either lunch or dinner any day of the week.
The corn soup was as good as soup gets, and soup is a true test for any chef. There’s no sense in reviewing the food in this short space, because it’s an extensive menu, and during my last three visits I’ve had at least six dishes worthy of description. So I’ll describe them in a full review when I can.
And so it goes. By the time you read this I will have found at least one more new restaurant. And this list is not all of the ones sitting on my desk waiting to be reviewed. But my editor is a stern taskmaster, and he will make me review them all. Stay tuned.

If you go

Chez Mimi
548 Palisades Dr.
Pacific Palisades, Calif.
(310) 393-0558

Il Piccolo Ritrovo
15415 Sunset Blvd.
Pacific Palisades, Calif.
(310) 402-2552

Plan Check
1800 Sawtelle Blvd.
W. Los Angeles
(310) 288-6500

Eat My Sushi
2915 Main St.
Santa Monica, Calif.
(310) 581-3525

Hummus Bar Express
1333 Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica, Calif.
(310) 260-1994

Upper West
3321 W. Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, Calif.
(310) 586-1111

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

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