Thursday, July 28, 2011
Yes, It Rhymes With Mex - TAIX French Restaurant
TAIX French Restaurant
1911 Sunset Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Info on Yelp
You've driven past it a million times, on your way downtown or to Dodger Stadium or to your hipster friends' houses in Echo Park and Silver Lake. It looks like one of those old school L.A. restaurants that's been there for so long, unchanging, that that can't possibly be any good. You know the type: Little Joe's Italian restaurant still hunkered down in the middle of Chinatown (terrible!); The Buggy Whip on the way to LAX; the Smokehouse.
Taix French Restaurant shares a period-LA vibe and catacomb-y, sprawling design with those places, and I confess it made me afraid to eat there. I generally avoid restaurants that take up an entire city block. But after finally, trepidatiously going to check it out about a year ago, I've been a dozen times since and it's become one of my favorite restaurants, full stop.
Pulling up to the valet under the Smokehouse-like covered motor court ($2.50 charge - a sign of good value to come) you realize you can be nowhere but Los Angeles. The wide entryway features Flintstones-scale brick pillars -- one can imagine Fred pulling up and ordering a car-tilting sized side of Boeuf -- as accent to the Tudor building that is the home to "French Country Cuisine." You're not surprised to learn that although the restaurant has been in operation as a strictly family enterprise since 1927, the current location opened right in the Flintstones wheelhouse: 1962. Entering through heavy wood and wrought-iron doors, you ambulate down a long flagstone hallway past the restaurant's 321 Lounge, which is worthy of another post all its own. Suffice to say it's a comfy, intimate space voted "Best Free Music Venue" by the LA Weekly), with a spectacular long bar that pours long drinks and serves the restaurant's full menu.
A pleasant if comfortingly aloof maitre'd' takes you to the main dining room, which is a pastiche of a tourist's imagination of a high-end French restaurant. Gold and black marble-glass walls, baroque chandeliers, Art-Nouveau etched glass; it's a tour of styles from Belle Epoque to Art Deco that somehow manages to hang together... just barely. Every table in the main room is a comfy booth. Another plus.
But the food and drink are where Taix shines. Their dinner menu (they also have lunch, late-night (service in the bar 'til 1:00am weekends) and even children's menus) strives for, and achieves, classic French country cuisine with none of the attitude, obfuscation, or overcharging of most French restaurants. Cocktails are expertly made, generously poured, and reasonably priced. Appetizers run the socio-economic gamut. If you're feeling peasant-y there's a simple, tangy Ratatouille ($5.50) and a classic Gratinée a l’Oignon (French Onion Soup) ($6.95). If you're feeling bourgeois, there are two kinds of Moules Frites (steamed mussels), a classic white wine "Moules Mariniére" and a Moules Maison, featuring leeks, both of which are bread-soppingly tasty. If you'd prefer to let them eat cake while you pop escargots, Taix's snails are imported from Bourgogne ($16.95) And if you're feeling ugly American, there's an $8.95 Macaroni Gratin that is plain ol' mac and cheese, an entree-sized portion, that's become one of my favorites in town.
The dinner entree menu is a tour of delights. The Poulet Rôti au Jus (roasted half chicken, $13.95) is the best I've had in any restaurant anywhere. The Côte de Porc Grillé (Grilled pork chop with port wine and caramelized onions, $19.95) is tender, perfectly cooked, the onions an ideal complement. Plat de Côte de Boeuf Braisé (Braised short ribs in an exquisitely dark, reduced Cabernet sauce on garlic mashed potatoes) is heavenly and rich in the best French style. Trout almandine, rack of lamb, skirt steak... all have been yummed over by dining companions over several visits. On my last trip, on the waiter's recommendation, I had the Tagliatelles Aux Fruits de Mer ($19.95) a simple pasta with seafood, cream, and white wine that was simply splendid, despite its Italian roots. As you can see, the prices are ridiculously reasonable for Los Angeles. Most entrees are under $20.00, none is over $30.00, and, especially if you treat yourself to an appetizer or two, the portions are plenty. (although $4.00 extra gets you soup du jour and your choice of salad).
Also of note are the rotating "Cuisine Grand-mére" (Grandma's Cooking) specials. I've been back several times to get Thursday's heavenly Lapin a la Dijonnaise, a braised half rabbit with mushrooms, pearl onions and mustard sauce, and have in fact launched a personal campaign to eat more rabbit. So good. Tuesday's Braised Oxtail and Saturday's Duck a l'Orange are also exceptional. Basically, everything is good at Taix; I've yet to be disappointed with any dish I've ordered there. And the wine list is terrific, an array of both French and California wines, with loads in the $20-30 range (also lots of half-bottles, which is nice), and helpful and knowledgable waiters to help you choose one.
And yes, ladies, there is Mousse au Chocolate and Crème Brûlée to be had for dessert.
[Alas, my trusty point and shoot Canon Powershot 450 finally died while writing this, and I have no photos of the food. But somehow that seems right... firing flash photos against such tasty, classy dishes seems wrong, somehow. I'll try to fill in next time I go. In the meantime, there are some swell photos of a lamb chop and a review on the LAIST website.]
I never post bad reviews, and I don't generally give star ratings because of the difficulty of balancing quality and value. But Taix gets my strongest recommendation: a true LA institution serving outstanding food with excellent service and fun ambience at reasonable prices. It's my kind of place. And just today, as I was prepping this post, I received an e-mail that it was voted "Best French Restaurant" in an LA Times Readers Choice poll. Clearly, you should go dine there.