So it's not Cheval Blanc anymore, but Cheval Bistro. Those Smith guys just will not stop fiddling with stuff, will they? The escargot now come packed with so much parsley that the little plate looks like it's mounded with lawn clippings, though the snails themselves, when you finally dig one out, are as chewy and flavorless as last time. At least they're back to being generous with the bread, and good bread it is too, as is the butter. Definitely not Ralphs store brand.
We were there last night to celebrate my having done another lap around, but mostly as an excuse for Mrs. O's mom to have some more of the moules frite (mussels and fries) that she loves so much. The place was packed - it's Dine L.A. season again, which I'd forgotten about - so not only did we not get seated when we arrived early, we learned that the occupants of "our" table had decided to order dessert. There was banquette seating, though, which Mom wanted anyway because it's kinder to old bones, so we took it. Just as we'd decided our server was a jewel and everything would be swell, she returned with our cocktails and the grim news that they were out of mussels. Mom said,"I'm leaving!" and if she'd been driving she might have. They were also out of the onglet, which I'd kinda had my eye on. And it wasn't even eight o'clock yet …
But Mrs. O's margarita and my Hendrick's martini were perfect, as was the bread we've mentioned, and the server talked the parent into taking the seafood platter, with her choice of doubling up one item in lieu of the missing mussels. She chose oysters. I probably should have taken another shot at the rabbit, to see if it had improved, but decided that nobody screws up Boeuf à la Bourguignonne so I'd have that, my only real mistake all day. Well, the snails I had first weren't exactly a triumph, either. Mrs. O found her usual vegetarian escape route, the beet salad. I ordered a cotes du Rhone that was very good, Mrs. O had another margarita, and Mom stuck with water.
The seafood platter got her all smiley again, and a little taken aback by the size of those prawns. The oysters were large, too, and she found them rather disappointing and told me to help myself. I had a prawn, too, but she was not sharing the clams, which were apparently the prize offering. My beef, when it eventually arrived - why does service slow down when the crowd gets smaller? - was an island of puréed potato in a sea of inky sauce, some dead-black chunks of beef and some onions and mushrooms. The sauce was a fiercely reduced thing, the opposite of my previous rabbit's, in that it had maybe twice as much flavor as it really needed. The meat was fall-apart tender but dry; I wonder how you do that? The potatoes, however, were perfect, buttery and smooth without being starchy, and wrapping my less-than-perfect morsels in a cloak of purée made everything much more palatable. As for the beet salad, it was a known quantity to Mrs. O and she enjoyed it as she always does. We wrapped things up with another round of drinks, and a not very generous cheese platter. We made the waiter who delivered it repeat the cheeses' names three times and never understood a word of it, only that there was a goat, a blue, and something else. There were also some cherries in a light syrup and candied walnuts, and it was all quite good and gone in a flash.
The bite for all of this, with tax and 20% tip, was $186 and change, or $62 each. This is not close enough to our comfort zone to become regulars when we're picking up the tab, but on the brighter side is Mom's assertion that she still wanted some of those mussels and we'd just have to try again soon. Stay tuned, folks …
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