Beauty and the Bistro, Piret’s Style

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“Oh George, it’s darling!” gushed a woman sitting down in the casual chic of the latest Piret’s, 998 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 657-2545. She ordered a glass of white wine (there are any number available), contemplated the soups, the salads, the pasta possibilities. Then she gave a contented little sigh.

Piret’s opened just last week, but it feels instantly familiar. This may be because the original Piret’s in San Diego (Piret’s has been inching northward until this, the seventh, reached Los Angeles) almost single-handedly defined the California notion of a bistro. The service is cheerful, the prices are reasonable and the front room is filled with cases displaying cheese and tarts and all manner of meats and salads to take out. But while most of the signature dishes are French cliches--quiche, pate, soupe a l’oignon-- there are many foods no self-respecting Frenchman would claim. Angel hair pasta salad with shrimp in a Hunan-style vinaigrette? Banana-nut muffins? Chicken salad sandwiches on whole wheat pita? Mon dieu!

Already the restaurant is filled. In the sparkling-clean cafe, people sit sipping cappuccino, eating eclairs and wondering what they should take home for dinner. In the dining room, up a few steps, patrons twirl their forks and look soulful. There are flowers on the table, art on the walls, and everybody smiles a lot. Pleasant is the word for Piret’s.