Restaurants have personalities. When we think about where to go for dinner, we think about the type of dish we want to eat, and run through those restaurants we know (or look on Google) for a restaurant with that personality. When I think of a good Caesar salad in Santa Monica, I remember Boa. When I think of a wonderful raw food platter, my mind immediately takes me to the Water Grill.
On occasion, a restaurant develops the personality of its owner, not just of the food. And so it is with Chez Mimi. There is not just one dish that I associate with that restaurant, I just think of Mimi. I think of Quebec, where she comes from.
Madame Mimi, at 80 years of age, has been in the restaurant business a long time. She started out on Abbot Kinney in 1976. I remember well her restaurant on 26th near San Vicente where I would meet my sister for dinner several times a month. The restaurant was there for 13 years, until some wealthy entertainment group overpaid the building owner to take over her lease. The fancy Italian restaurant that usurped Mimi’s place didn’t last long. I think the space remains empty.
But Mimi was undeterred. She opened a restaurant in Pacific Palisades that was excellent – until she fell down some stairs and was hospitalized. We didn’t hear from her for a while and the restaurant closed.
Suddenly, six years later – without much fanfare, Mimi opened up again. Her new place is better than ever!
I used to occasionally have dinner at the revamped little house that is now Chez Mimi, before Mimi took it over from an elderly French couple. The food there was nothing like it is now under Mimi’s direction. And the new outside patio is lovely.
The mussels in white wine sauce are as good as any. She serves French onion soup, pate Maison, escargots, trout with almonds, and sometimes bouillabaisse. The pork chop is big enough for the most voracious appetite. The steak frites is just like in Paris, or you may prefer it in a pepper Cognac sauce. All the favorite French dishes are there; vichyssoise, frog’s legs, tomato bisque and, on occasion, cassoulet. For dessert, Mimi serves my favorite: Tarte Tatin. Mimi’s favorite dessert, called “chomeur”, is a caramel and maple syrup pudding popular in her hometown of Quebec. As many Francophiles know, tarte Tatin was invented (discovered?) by the Tatin sisters in the Dordogne valley when they accidentally dropped an apple pie on the floor, picked it up and recooked it upside down. At least that’s the story I heard.
This new gem is located on Colorado Ave. in Santa Monica, and there seems to be plenty of parking. I don’t think it is open for lunch yet, but one hopes. Make a reservation before going; the old crowd is there en masse! One thing we noticed, the clientele is much older than in most restaurants in Santa Monica, and many seem to know each other. Maybe, like me, they have been following Mimi from restaurant to restaurant for many years.
Le Petit Chez Mimi 2842 Colorado Ave. Santa Monica. (310) 264-4464.
Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3rd Edition” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to: email@example.com