Life is pretty much back to normal for most of us these days, judging by the crowd at Pasjoli this past Saturday. I was surprised that I was able to get a reservation on short notice but was happy they squeezed us in for the early seating.
It was a bit surreal for me to have dinner in what is the former Omelette Parlor, a place where I had breakfast at least once a week for years. I loved the ‘Old Timey’ décor of the best breakfast joint in town. But alas, time and rental increases took that away from us.
Today however, Pasjoli has brought a new life to an old building. The menu is French cuisine and I feel safe saying that it was one of the best French meals I’ve ever had, and that includes fine dining in Paris. The joy of French cuisine is in both flavor and presentation. Pasjoli has a décor that is steeped in deep colors, bright art and makes great use of the high open ceilings.
I knew I was in for a treat from the moment we sat down and rather than being assaulted by a deafening soundtrack, there was ambient music that allowed for the space in our conversation to be filled but not overpowered. As I looked up from my seat I was facing a vibrant painting of tigers that was reminiscent of a Rousseau, I didn’t check to see who the artist was, as I didn’t want to intrude on the table in front of it.
Moments after we were seated, our server for the evening came over and introduced herself – Haley – who was obviously well trained in the art of service, the menu, and the operations of the restaurant. She was a delight the entire evening, always seeming to be present just when we needed her, yet never intruding on our conversation or experience.
We started our dining experience with a caviar set-up. In fine dining establishments this is a signature test of the kitchen and its attention to detail. The traditional accompaniments of egg yolk, egg white, chives, red onion, and sour cream, were done to perfection here. In place of boring sour cream was a pickled fish and cream, which added a tang and a texture to the mouthfeel and taste. Here the chives were chopped so finely that it was as if they could melt on your tongue, the egg yolk had been perfectly cooked and then pressed through a screen for a consistency that was beautiful to look at, let alone eat. For me, it’s the blinis that are set a chef apart. Frequently, the blinis are fairly dense, stiff and flavorless. Not so here. The plate of six perfectly browned blinis had the lightness of a Japanese pancake, the type whose structure but seems to be all air. The slight sweetness of the cake was a balance to the saltiness of the caviar and a unique contrast.
For our main we had the pressed duck for two. An enormous duck breast, with a center of perfect pink was floating on a sea of pressed juices and the crispy skin was scored and seared to a light gold so that the unctuous fat was rendered but left enough to still be savored. This was accompanied by a salad of greens and fried duck skin cracklings.
No proper French dining experience is ever complete without a chocolate soufflé, and Pasjoli delivers theirs in a copper soufflé pan that is as pretty to see, as the chocolate is to eat. We split one for the two of us, which was a wise decision given the richness of the duck and the caviar, but had we simply had smaller mains, I would definitely want my own – it’s that fantastic.
Pasjoli did not have cappuccino or espresso, which was a bit of a letdown for me, though they did offer a French Press coffee that was light and flavorful. If I could suggest one area for improvement it would be to add a cappuccino to the menu, but seriously, if that’s my biggest complaint? They’re doing a lot of things right.
While I wont be eating there weekly like I did for the Omelette parlor, I’ll definitely be back and I will highly recommend it to friends for special occasions (they have that back patio for small private parties – come spring this is an ideal spot for an engagement party or a pre-wedding rehearsal dinner.)
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra