Plans to dine at Max in Sherman Oaks last night were suddenly rearranged when a friend asked to drop by my favorite chocolate shop, Compartes, in Brentwood. Owned and operated for sometime now by the Graham family of Bonny Doon Winery I'd learned during a recent stop to secure a business gift that they were remodeling so I had to settle on an oversized tin of Virgina peanuts from Sur la Table. I'm not sure how you rate chocolate but like ice cream sundaes and good burgers it's about the final concoction, not just the quality of the individual ingredients. Sure there's Scharffenberger and Valrohna, but there's just the right balance of bitter sweetness to these candies with their luxurious centers (try the roasted coconut cream or the espresso truffle; or the fabulous framboise truffle made with Bonny Doon dessert wine.)
What I didn't expect when we arrived was a Hollywood type premier heralding the reopening. This was Brentwood on a Thursday night? Apparently, someone with great initiative approached a new cable show called "Blind Design" premiering in August that does complete makeovers for small businesses. The gimmick? The designer is blind. The result here - a stunningly chic little chocolate shop. Call it Le Petit Boule replete with royal blue walls spotted with chocolate brown displays and a high banquette with elegant fabric. Could I kill fifteen minutes here in between appointments sipping on some cayenne spiked hot chocolate and reading the paper. Why not? As we were leaving someone was being interviewed on camera and a nice young man with a clipboard approached us asking for our signature on a release form. "You mean we're going to be on TV?", my friend asked. "Maybe," was the reply. Ah, chocolate and celebrity.
Experiencing momentary sugar fatigue the drive on the 405 seemed less attractive so we headed for Violet instead and were very glad we did. Bustling with a mostly young crowd I love the counterpoint of this restaurant's cool and pristine interior set against the cool and edgy appearance of its chef/owner, Jared Simons, who is continually monitoring the details from the plating to the valet. And he can cook. We started with a Japanese heirloom style tomato salad with goat cheese for $9 and a decent sized bowl of steamed mussels in a savory salsa verde for $8.50. Some nice spiced shoestring fries arrived nicely in a sawed off brown paper bag for $5.50 with ketchup and a garlic aioli. My friend raved about his glass of a cabernet merlot blend from South Africa, indicative of a well considered wine program. I had the delicious risotto special with pork confit and golden raisins for $14 while my friend had the generous ahi tartare with cucumber for $13.50. We finished with a simple and satisfying lemon tart. Some nice touches have developed since our last visit. Tables have been moved on the diagonal on one side of the room making for greater comfort, butter is no longer served in those heavy glass candle holders allowing for more than a quarter size portion for that great warm crusty bread); and there's a really sweet touch when the check arrives with cookies 'n milk. Excellent.
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