The company actually paid for lunch today. My cheap-ass, non-provider-of-free-coffee-and-water-for-its-employees, cannot-order-you-supplies-because-it's not-in-the-budget-right-now, multi-BILLION dollar COMPANY paid for MY lunch.
When my coworker and I found out that we could expense, the food wheels started spinning. Oooh, maybe Asanebo??? We crossed our fingers, but our boss shot that down. Too expensive and she wasn't sure if our midwest-based visitors would go for something that exotic. (Sushi? Exotic??? Puh-leeeze!) See, some things are too good to be true. Back to the drawing board, I guess. Hmm, let's see, decent atmosphere, western food, moderate prices? We combed our Zagat for Studio City/Sherman Oaks/Burbank locations and finally came up with Cafe Bizou, a casual French-Californian right over on the boulevard (Ventura, that is) in Sherman Oaks.
Cafe Bizou is your typical Ventura Boulevard eatery, with an enclosed patio outside, and an indoor dining room that you have to walk through some funky plexi-panels to get to. Inside, you have your actor wannabe servers and 818 snobbery. Fortunately for this place, despite all its 818-ness, the prices are fairly reasonable for what you get.
The food here is decent; not super fantastic, but decent; I've been here quite a few times for work lunches and I've never had a really bad meal. Today, I ordered the sesame coated salmon, a fillet of salmon with a sesame (duh) crust, served on top of potato pancakes and mushrooms with a burgundy wine sauce. The salmon was very plump and juicy and the pebbly sesame coating added a nice texture. It sat in a shallow pool of a bright magenta-colored sauce, a sweet but tangy red wine reduction which was perfect for mopping up with the potato pancake wedges. I was expecting these to be more like potato latkes, but these were, in fact, more floury, sort of a hybrid between jeon, korean pancakes, and grilled polenta. Whatever the case, they worked. And a good deal for $12.95.
Sesame Coated Salmon
Order anything that falls under the French-ish realm--meats and seafood with some kind of reduction sauce--and you'll most likely be okay. The sauteed sandabs, for example, are very good and also a pretty good value at $12.95. Its lemony, buttery caper sauce goes extremely well with the tender, flaky white bottom-feeder fillets, creamy mashed potatoes and crisp sugar snap peas, green beans and carrots. I've also had the pleasure of tasting the roast lamb sandwich here: juicy roast lamb in a rosemary sauce served on a warm, crusty baguette with crispy shoestring pommes frites on the side.
Go outside of the French neighborhood and you'll be sorely disappointed. The pastas, for example, are sub-par, sounding much better on the menu than they actually taste, and are almost always slightly overcooked. The one time I ordered the shrimp and scallop pasta--shrimp, scallops, and mushrooms served on black tagallini with a lobster sauce--the lobster sauce and overcooked tagallini made for a black, slimy mess. Not impressed. Today, one of my coworkers made the mistake of ordering fish n'chips, which was fried 'til it was brown. The batter was thick and hard, not light and flaky like it should be, and my coworker confirmed that it tasted awful. Why on earth did you order fish n'chips from a French place, I asked her. She felt like trying something different, she said. Well, I guess that's what she got.
On a side note, weirdo new girl of "um, I dunno, I guess I've never really liked food that much" fame, came with us today, the second time I've been to lunch with this cutesy, high-on-life, suntanned 24 year old since the introductory incident. "Um, I'll have the grilled chicken sandwich please. Okay, but I wanna make sure there's NOTHING on it, like no sauce on it at all. Yeah, I want it totally dry." (Say it to yourself in your most intense valley girl voice. Uh huh, now you get the picture) She SKIPPED THE BASIL MAYONNAISE! Then she picked out all the grilled onions and roasted peppers on it and only ate half of the sandwich. Skinny French waitress-girl asked her if she'd like to get the half sandwich and ALL of the salad she had left behind wrapped to go and she said "Oh, no thanks! I'm totally done!" I just don't get it.
Oh, Cafe Bizou does have a couple of perks, including the option to add the soup du jour or romaine salad to your entree for just a buck. That's perk no. 1. No. 2 is their $2 corkage fee. Pretty lenient for 818 French.
14016 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423