In bustling Los Feliz Village, Mes Amis is a quiet, welcoming French respite
Los FELIZ-Silver Lake is well on the way to becoming L.A.'s most French-centric neighborhood. Silver Lake has the charmingly named Madame Matisse, Cafe Stella and Casbah Cafe, plus the fromagerie Cheese Store of Silverlake and Silverlake Wine, where you can find cutting-edge French labels. Los Feliz, on the other hand, can boast a bistro that -- with its zinc bar, pedestal tables and thoroughly Gallic menu -- wouldn’t look out of place on any street corner in Paris. That would be the picture-perfect Figaro Brasserie.
As of three weeks ago, North Vermont Avenue got its second bistro, Mes Amis. Opened by a former partner in Figaro Brasserie, it’s just to the south on Vermont, directly across from the Dresden Room in what was once the restaurant half of Tiger Lily. (The bar and lounge half of Tiger Lily remains open.)
With comfortable dark burgundy booths and banquettes, crisp white tablecloths and dark wood beams and detailing, Mes Amis definitely looks the part. There’s also a wine bar at one end and, out front, a handful of tables on the sidewalk patio. But very little kitsch. A soundtrack of old tango, French bal musette tunes and chanteuses belting out songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s sets the mood, along with a delightful blond French-accented waitress who fusses over guests in the nicest possible way.
Prices are moderate. The same goes for many of the wines. Looking carefully, you can come up with a Bandol rouge from La Bastide Blanche or a Beaujolais from Domaine du Vissoux that drinks beautifully with the food from the Lebanese-French chef.
But what’s with the menu? Just when you’re longing for steak frites or an omelet aux fines herbes, the menu proposes needlessly complicated dishes that the kitchen can’t quite pull off -- or at least not this early in the game. Maybe the crew just needs to get up to speed. The bistro has only been open a couple of weeks, after all.
Galette alsacienne, the bistro’s take on the thin-crusted Alsatian “pizza” topped with creme fraiche, onions and lardons, is crowned with thick slices of chilly Brie. Escargots are sauteed with button mushrooms. A shiitake mushroom soup is tasty, but thick as porridge. Terrine de foie gras is homemade, but could have more flavor.
Among the main courses, poulet aux herbes -- an herb-marinated chicken breast served with a barley artichoke risotto -- is the best we try, winning, hands down, over a dried-out pork chop or the roasted rack of lamb.
As for my terrine de ratatouille, somehow I think that if the restaurant critic from the Pixar animated film “Ratatouille” took a bite of this one, he wouldn’t be blasted back to his childhood.
But, if you want to share a nice bottle of wine and have a conversation, Mes Amis is quieter than anything in the immediate vicinity. Except on Monday nights when it’s stand-up comedy night next door at Tiger Lily.
WHERE: 1739 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz
WHEN: Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Monday and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Full bar. Valet parking.
PRICE: Dinner appetizers, $7 to $21; galettes de pain (pizza), $16 to $19; main courses, $18 to $29; child’s servings, $7; desserts, $5 to $9.
INFO: (323) 665-7810