Santa Monica, CA- Perhaps you've heard of Madame Chou Chou and perhaps you haven't. Pretentious in its unpretention, Madame Chou Chou is a hidden gem that doesn't need or want to announce that it has arrived. The French bistro is one of the places that you want to keep to yourself. The decor is elegant, chic, and slightly quirky, as is the impeccable cuisine.
Amuse Bouche of Poached Egg with Asparagus and Mushrooms
and Crispy Sweetbreads
On my fortunate visit, owner and Executive Chef Vincent Carnou sent out an exquisite amuse bouche duo of D'Asperge et Champignons and Crispy Sweetbreads with ginger bread in a cherry emulsion. The mild flavor of the poached egg melded perfectly with the earthiness of the mushrooms, asparagus and truffle oil. Chef Carnou has a delicately balanced hand, as all ingredients compliment rather than compete with one another.
Tartare de Saumon
The standout of my culinary adventure was the refreshing Tartare de Saumon of tender salmon belly, tangy cherry tomatoes, avocado, tart green apples and crispy shallots. This dish sang to my soul. Bringing his unique twist to classic dishes, what Chef Carnou presents to the table is deceptive in it's perceived simplicity. For example, the blood orange essence paired with parmesan, fennel and raw artichoke heart in the Salade Crue was a surprise element that one would not anticipate for a dish with so few ingredients.
Unlike the Salade Crue, the Salade de Cresson et Crevettess of watercress, sweet shrimp, pine nuts, fish chips, hearts of palm, avocado and a balsamic goat cheese vinaigrette is so chock-full of ingredients that only a true culinary master could execute such a successful dish.
So you must be wondering, "Where's the meat!?" If you know me, I am a die-hard pescatarian so enlist one of my carnivorous friends to enlighten my readers on that topic. Madame Chou Chou has something for everyone but meat eaters will be delighted with offerings such as the sweetbreads, Langue de Boeuf (beef tongue), Jarets de Cochon (pork shank), and Selle d'Agneau (lamb loin). My dining companion was overjoyed to experience the succulent lamb loin, accompanied by a crisp and savory lamb croquette, blue potato puffs, ramps and rhubarb and fennel puree. Dining at Madame Chou Chou is an event unto itself...a truly decadent experience. Shush! Don't tell anyone.
Lamb Loin and Lamb Croquette
Carin von Berg
Madame Chou Chou
2518 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405