Restaurants & Bars

Los Angeles Area

JiRaffe and Mandarin Noodle House (long)

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JiRaffe and Mandarin Noodle House (long)

NAspy | Oct 26, 2005 12:34 AM

We have eaten at JiRaffe several times off the regular menu, and tried Bistro Night for the first time last night. They offer this every Monday night, as well as their regular menu. It was fabulous. We have never had less than an excellent meal there, and at $29 for three courses, this is hands down the best fine food value out there. It was also the first time that we exited the place with a bill for considerably less than the $180 or so we usually find ourselves paying.

We were celebrating an anniversary, and though we were very intrigued by the cocktails menu (including a fascinating looking "cucumber martini," served in a lowball glass on the rocks), we opted for our traditional kir royale. This one actually had the flavor of cassis in it and we were really pleasantly surprised.

Though tempted by the regular menu, we were curious about the set menu and decided to go for it. Ever since a very disappointing evening at Lucques "Sunday Supper" (at $35 per), I have wondered if other top restaurants could do better with a "bargain" prix fixe meal. I don't think it makes sense to give a restaurant a pass because you're not ordering off the regular menu, and the food turns out to be second rate. In fact, I think the restaurant, if it chooses to offer these menus, should realize that many diners may choose to go there for the express purpose of trying them out without spending a mint. We haven't ever returned to Lucques. Why would I go there to spend $200 bucks when the $100 I spent there on Sunday Supper was a waste?

JiRaffe's Bistro Night Menu offered either a spiced chestnut soup or seared ahi tuna salad with a "50 year old Banyuls vinaigrette" as starters and both were very impressive, though I give my nod to the soup. I asked for no details so I don't know if it was dairy based or not. I had never had chestnut soup before and have to assume that the generous dollop of shredded meat-like shreds sitting atop the soup were chestnuts themselves. They had a marvelously mild meaty quality to them, and the soup was perfectly spiced with what? ginger and nutmeg. Both dishes were wiped clean with the excellent bread they serve.

Good amount of time between courses. Next up were the two main courses: pork tenderloin and whitefish sauteed in an amazing beurre blanc. I think it was a riesling reduction of some kind but I'm not sure. IT was one of the best fish dishes I have had in a long time. I just went to their website to see if I could include the details of these yummy dishes, but no luck. The pork came with roasted gold yukon potatoes and cubes of butternut squash.

We ordered a half carafe of Concannon at $14 to go mostly with the fish, and it was a perfect match. Obviously they match the carafe choices with the set menu selections.

Dessert was pecan pie with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream that had a slight grand marnier flavor to it. We were actually stuffed by the time dessert arrived but managed to eat most of both. Total bill for the two dinners, two kirs and a half carafe was less than a hundred bucks. A total deal and worth a return visit soon.

Today for lunch I tried Mandarin Noodle House with two co-workers. We have long favored Heavy Noodling, but I think this place has it beat. The beef and handmade noodle soup came in either spicy or mild variations, and we had both. The broth was rich and filled with generous slabs of beef and handmade noodles, not thick cut, but actually better than the Heavy Noodling noodles. Scallion pancake was comparable, but I may still give the edge to Heavy Noodling on that. Denizens of Heavy Noodling may want to try their own taste test. The pickled cucumber salad was also a great starter before the soups.

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