A new French restaurant in Culver City ? I wondered if it would stand up to all the hype. I wondered if it was possible to have a dynamite French meal without feeling intimidated, or if you’d have to refinance your house in order to dine there. Well, I’ve met Le St. Amour, and yes, it lives up to the reputation. It’s affordable, and there are no noses in the air.
Thanks to owners Florence and Bruno Herve Commereuc, formerly at the helm of the successful Angelique Cafe in downtown LA’s fashion district, they have brought their concept of friendly French dining to trendy Culver City. It’s the next big thing on this swelling boulevard, and It’s a smash.
You can park your attitude at home, as you don’t need airs at this lovely French find. Whether you dine inside, within their airy crisp decor, or mingle and dawdle on their patio, you will be privy to some outstanding dishes. For those with an adventurous palate, let yourself be thrusted into gastro-decadence as you parade among pigs feet, floating islands and other delicacies that will delight and amuse you.
While waiting, we watched a parade of diners, all meandering toward the front of Le Saint Amour. Were they new to the place or industry standards? Some were ushered inside into a train of banquettes. Others preferred to bask in the balmy twilight. We sat outside to enjoy the summer splendor. I’m glad we did.
Start with the wine list and pick your pleasure. The list will dazzle and inspire you and from my perspective, all were reasonably priced, especially since many of them were French.
Bruno, who is also the executive chef, has been a resident of the U.S. for twenty years. His culinary history shows. He soon jump started our journey with a few of his favorites. Planked before us was their Assiette de Charcuterie, a dense sampling of house pates and prosciutto. French, very French, and a nice accompaniment to the lighter Burrata et Tomates Confites, which mingled polenta with succulent tomatoes, along with a pesto dressing and cheese. We lapped this up with little restraint, slathering the bread with the remaining pesto and cheese. Whoa. Let’s pull on the reins a bit. There’s more to come Tonto.
Can the French also tackle the Middle East? I say so with their Merguez et Carottes au Cumin, featuring a Morrocan lamb sausage, piled over cumin carrots. This dish was by far our favorite, even though meat isn’t high up on my food chain. I’ve never had anything like this in my journeys into French restaurants, and it twirled me quickly to the other side of the globe.
Here comes the Pintade au Foie Gras, a Guinea fowl stuffed with foie gras, with seared cabbages and green beans flavored with a cognac sauce. I must say, the vegetables at Le Saint Amour were beyond flavorful, and punctuated the opulence of the main courses quite nicely.
Also greeting us was a delicious side dish, the Oyster Mushroom Fricassee, a host of wild mushrooms, dancing in garlic. Go for it. You’ll be glad.
Ever had stuffed pigs feet? The Pied de Cochon Farci is one of Bruno’s specials accompanied with a tangy tartar sauce. I was ready for the Amazing Race after eating this one. I think there’s Dijon mustard in the sauce, but the menu didn’t say. Bruno can’t give away all his sultry secrets, can he?
Also memorable was their unique Quenelles de Brochet a la Citronelle Pike “Quenelles” Lemongrass, a warm fluffy orb of fish, similar to a soufflé. What a surprise on this one! My culinary boundaries were expanding with every bite.
For dessert, the Ile Flottante Floating Island is a must. The meringue is like inhaling a piece of heaven, the sweet white clouds enveloping a memorable evening. Tamer souls can dive into the Apple Tartatan, also dense with pleasure.
Price points are moderate for this type of food, but it’s no more expensive than the neighboring French restaurants in the area, with the quality of the cuisine upped several notches. We’ll be back.
Le Saint Amour
9725 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Photo by Mary McGrath