Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Learning to Speak French, The 818 Way: Cafe Bizou

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.

Sauteed Sandabs

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.

Cafe Bizou
14016 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(818) 788-3536


elmomonster said...

That new girl probably purged the half-sandwich she atea after getting back to the office...

Peeved Michelle said...

She is totally going to scarf down a gallon of Snickers ice cream when gets home tonight.

Peeved Michelle said...

Also at Bizou, I do not recommend the grilled vegetarian sandwich or the chicken pot pie. The French onion soup is nice, though. I've only been to the one in Sherman Oaks once, but I have been to the one in Santa Monica loads of times for work lunches.

MEalCentric said...

Can you take her to lunch more often? She's growing on me...

Anonymous said...

i agree with mealcentric. take her to lunch more often.

ganda said...

bless, I miss l.a. area code politics!

Anonymous said...

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(French: Bourgogne or Vin de Bourgogne) is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France.[1] The most famous wines produced here - those commonly referred to as Burgundies - are red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes or white wines made from Chardonnay grapes. Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as Gamay and Aligoté respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wine are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and Gamay-dominated Beaujolais are formally part of Burgundy wine region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as "Burgundy wines".

Burgundy has a higher number of Appellation d'origine contrôlées (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions. The various Burgundy AOCs are classified from carefully delineated Grand Cru vineyards down to more non-specific regional appellations. The practice of delineating vineyards by their terroir in Burgundy go back to Medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in developing the Burgundy wine industry. The appellations of Burgundy (not including Chablis).

Overview in the middle, the southern part to the left, and the northern part to the right. The Burgundy region runs from Auxerre in the north down to Mâcon in the south, or down to Lyon if the Beaujolais area is included as part of Burgundy. Chablis, a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre. Other smaller appellations near to Chablis include Irancy, which produces red wines and Saint-Bris, which produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc. Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where all Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are situated. The Côte d'Or itself is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and runs till Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges. The wine-growing part of this area in the heart of Burgundy is just 40 kilometres (25 mi) long, and in most places less than 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) wide. The area is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards on the eastern side of a hilly region, providing some rain and weather shelter from the prevailing westerly winds. T

he best wines - from "Grand Cru" vineyards - of this region are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the "Premier Cru" come from a little less favourably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary "Village" wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the villages. The Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all of the region's white Grand Crus are located in the Côte de Beaune. This is explained by the presence of different soils, which favour Pinot Noir and Chardonnay respectively. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where again a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced, although the appellations found here such as Mercurey, Rully and Givry are less well known than their counterparts in the Côte d'Or. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing large quantities of easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region, famous for fruity red wines made from Gamay. Burgundy experiences a continental climate characterized by very cold winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable with rains, hail, and frost all possible around harvest time. Because of this climate, there is a lot of variation between vintages from Burgundy.
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