FROM SANTA MONICA TO THE SOUTH OF FRANCE
Along the busy Santa Monica / Brentwood border on chic 26th Street, L'Ami Restaurant basks in a relaxing charm that whisks you away from the chaos of the city and attempts to transport you, via a romantic atmosphere, to the South of France.
Occupying the space that was formerly The Little Door, L’Ami offers fine French-Mediterranean cuisine from French born chef Francis Bey (former executive chef and owner of Lilly's French Restaurant on Abbott Kinney). Parisian owner Marc-Antoine Rambaud found inspiration in St Tropez summers and the feel and vibe at L’Ami is accentuated by open-air terraces, arched passageways and blue painted ceilings.
During our recent visit, we started with drinks in the bar, which includes a full lineup of spirits and cocktails. Major respect points were earned when I discovered that the house cognac is Hardy Cognac VS, which happens to be very good and very hard to find, along with being my favorite spirit. Needless to say, a classic Sazerac or Vieux Carre is quite impressive with Hardy Cognac as an ingredient. Although, if you don’t mind boozy, I recommend drinking the cognac neat, but then that will change your dining experience from perhaps casual to a raucous affair so be forewarned. You can always start easy with a Moscow Mule or up your game just a tad and get the Smoky Chili with El Silencio Mezcal, fresh jalapeño, Gran Classico bitters, tabasco, organic lime, organic orange juice and agave. There’s a slight smoky bite going on here but it’s hardly overpowering. While cocktails are good, the Mediterranean fare is probably best paired with wine so you may want to take it easy with the hard booze.
We started our family style meal with an assortment of pleasing appetizers, including Asiago Ahi Tuna Salad with Napa cabbage, shredded carrot and ginger with a cilantro and soy vinaigrette—very lovely. Likewise, the Beets & Burrata Tower served with baby arugula, candied walnuts and basil coulis was very rich yet clean and fresh. I’m a huge fan of gold beets and I really love the flavor they add to any salad.
The Beef Carpaccio was solid as was the Salmon Tartar. These are nice dishes to share but I think the other three appetizers are stronger options but I found all of them extremely satisfying, especially dining al fresco in the lovely open air setting with a nice glass of wine in hand surrounded by good company and fine fare.
For our entrees, we went with the Day Boat Scallops served with wild rice, Piperade of vegetable and pesto coulis, along with the Rack of Lamb. The scallops dish consisted of three hearty and succulent scallops that paired nicely with a glass of crisp white wine. These bad boy scallops were bountiful bites and serve as a great option for non-meat eaters.
However, if you are a carnivore, then the rack of lamb is a definite crowd pleaser. Served with potato gratin, haricot vert and Rosemary infusion, the meat was so tender and just exquisite. Obviously a good glass of red wine only made the experience all the better.
You can’t really ask for a better setting for a comfortable and lazy dinner—even brunch would be a great getaway in this environment—as you bask in the lovely confines of L’Ami. It’s just so relaxing and comfortable and a great meal and divine drink will only elevate the experience.
L’Ami Restaurant is located at 246 26th Street in Santa Monica. Hours: Mon-Sun 5:30pm to 10:30pm; Weekend Brunch 10am to 2pm. Daily Happy Hour 5:30pm to 7pm. Call 310-310-8064.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: L’Ami Restaurant