Frank and I often remark that we’d rather cook at home, but our meal at Maison Giraud last night proved me wrong. I’d rather eat there.
We usually grab a quick bite after our mid-week bike ride with friends, and occasionally Frank and Noah join me for lunch at Wahoo’s, a favorite haunt after making the rounds at Santa Monica’s Farmer’s Market on Saturday. But we don’t often dine out. I’m tired of spending a lot of money on less than delicious food.
Recent forays at nicer restaurants only reinforce my resolve to mostly eat at home. In August I complained after eating a meal at Elliot’s in Seattle. In September, a meal at Waterloo and City didn’t quite deliver, but hinted at potential greatness. I’m willing to try it again. Dinner at The Wood Cafe in Culver City basically underwhelmed.
Last week we endured a rather mediocre meal at Marla’s Cafe in Venice. In the quiet patio, I appreciated that conversation was easy– a rather rare experience in the hyper-kinetic environment celebrated in most restaurants. The service was attentive, the atmosphere funky, but the food disappointed. (How did they get those Yelp stars?) Still, I am not against eating out. I just want to enjoy good food prepared at least as well as I cook at home. Maison Giraud offers a lot more than that.
AN EVENING WITH FRIENDS
Thursday night I was inspired to text Pierre while he was working at the restaurant. Would his mom join us for dinner on Friday night, and could we get a reservation? What a great way to see her again before she returns home on Sunday. Pierre doubles as Noah’s surfing instructor, and is now “family”. His mom is included in the package deal, especially after we stayed in her home in Biarritz during our summer vacation to France two years ago. We confirmed our date Friday morning.
Pierre secured reservations for 8PM, and we arrived just as the dinner rush was winding down. Pacific Palisades is not exactly hopping on a Friday night, a relief considering we usually face a frenetic press at local restaurants near our home in Venice. Pierre gleefully informed us he was almost done for the evening. He would be able to join us after he finished taking care of his tables. Then he discussed the menu and later took our order.
FOOD AND WINE
Certainly our visit was unusual. The manager greeted us by name at the door and led us to our table. They had been waiting for us. Alain Giraud visited the table and chatted with Pierre’s mother, this being her first visit. Then he turned to greet us, a charming and gracious way to begin the evening. Alain remembered us from previous visits–even though we have eaten at Maison Giraud only a handful of times.
Pierre recommended a delicious Grenache wine to compliment the incredibly savory Lamb Shank Cocotte both Kathy and I ordered. Noah ordered Chicken Catherine. (I want to learn how to prepare chicken like that) And Frank feasted on Steak Au Poivre with Pommes Frittes. This is deliciously clean food masterfully prepared, using fresh market vegetables, pastured meats, free range chicken, and other ingredients I appreciate.
After plates were cleared, Pierre swooped in with a delectable Sauterne to complement three fabulous treats: authentic Apple Tarte Tatin, a remarkable Pistachio Nougat Glace, and a sublime Hazelnut Praline Crunch. We each savored our samples while Noah and Frank gamely maneuvered to get the last bite.
A WARM, INVITING AND CASUAL SPACE
In 2012 Jonathan Gold deftly shared his experience at the restaurant, noting many attributes, and honestly assessing the occasional misses. That seems fair, even though last Friday I was completely enchanted. Maison Giraud offers unpretentious but exquisitely prepared food, served with care, and enjoyed by everyone at my table. The experience was all about the food, but so much more.
I savored this evening with friends, celebrating food in it’s rightful place. I am reminded of the essence of a good meal–something that transcends every culture and language. We closed the restaurant after 2 hours of laughter and conversation that tapped into the functional Spanish that all of us could understand, coupled with hearty doses of French and English translation. This is dining out the way it should be, and I can’t wait to return.