Are you looking for a nice, romantic place to take your Valentine without the crowds? Oftentimes, Valentine's Day dinners could lose that romantic touch by the crowds of couples waiting for the next table to clear at the restaurant. So, if you really want to impress your date, the small, charming French bistro/wine bar fittingly named Mignon in downtown Los Angeles is the perfect alternative, now offering a new nightly bistro menu by Chef Tim Carey of Papilles.
Inconspicuously nestled in a dark, quiet spot next to Cole's on 6th St., Mignon immediately makes you feel as though you've just slipped into a cozy bistro on an unassuming Parisian street. With two small tables upon entering, the rest of the seating is on bar stools along the sides of the bar. The décor is sleek and stylish, with alluring candle-lit lighting to create the perfect ambience.
Mignon offers an excellent variety of small production wines,specializing in natural French wines, which you would be hard-pressed to find at other L.A. restaurants. You'll feel like you're on an adventurous tour of wines of the world, each offering a pleasant, new surprise. Owner Santos Uy, who also owns Papilles in downtown, started us off with a delightful white sparkling wine from Hungary called Torley. It's the perfect apéritif to awaken the taste buds.
To start your meal off, you can opt for a charcuterie plate, served with their delicious baguette, creamy French butter, mustard and cornichons. You have your choice of prosciutto, speck, mortadella,saucisson sec, bresaola or chorizo for $5 each or 3 for $12, great for sharing. The prosciutto is fantastic, from Coppa la Quercia, based in Iowa, but tastes straight out of Italy. I also tried the Paté de Campagne, which is available as an appetizer for $8 and is wonderfully tasty. We accompanied the hearty charcuterie with a nice light, red sparkling Lambrusco wine from Romania. Santos really is an expert at pairing, so just ask him for a suggestion if you're unsure and he will steer you in the right direction.
If you're in the mood for soup, especially with these chilly nights, go for the Velouté du jour. On this particular day, it was the potato leek (a vegetable that belongs to the onion family, very common in French cuisine, a creamy, flavorful soup, which is exquisite. We accompanied this with a very nice fortified wine, Pineau de Charentes, a regional French apéritif, which would be wonderful for dessert too.
Then it was on to something lighter, the Okame Spinach with pea tendrils, Nasturtium (wild flower) and lemon. This is a light, refreshing salad with a nice citrus kick which tastes like you're eating it fresh out of the garden. Next, I tried what are probably the most delicious eggs I have ever tasted. The Ouefs en Cocotte (baked eggs with leek and cream)reminded me of the eggs I would eat in my parents' town in Spain, so fresh and flavorful, unlike run of the mill eggs you find here. Add the leeks and cream and the Ouefs en Cocotte are a scrumptious treat. And just as in Europe, they are perfect for dinner time, as well. You can add chorizo for an extra $2.
Now for the newly added entrées, Les Plats, for $18, you have your choice of Garbure: Pork Shoulder Stew with ham hocks, cabbage, parsnips, carrots and leek, which is the perfect comfort stew. It tastes like it was made in your cozy home with the freshest ingredients, the pork shoulder deliciously tender. If it's beef you're after, the Braised Short Ribs, served with a wonderful potato purée, and carrots are for you. The braised short ribs are made to perfection, so flavorful and tender, they just melt in your mouth. I had them with a wonderful red wine , Siro Pacenti from Italy.
Just when I thought it was time for dessert, Santos surprised us with the most exquisite treat, the warm dates with olive oil and fleur de sel- oh yes and butter, of course. These are the perfect example of how the simplest ingredients can create the most delicious cuisine. These really are exquisite! And you can get them for just $5 during happy hour, along with the Ouefs en Cocotte, the paté, Okame spinach and soup du jour. In classic French fashion, we also indulged in Les Fromages (cheeses) after dinner, before moving on to dessert. Mignon offers an array of fresh, delectable cheeses. Santos accompanied them with a sherry flight, making for a divine treat for the palate.
Luckily, there was still some room left for dessert- the chocolate pot du creme, a decadently rich chocolate treat, perfect for chocolate lovers. I also had to get a taste of Lucie's Cake, listed on the menu,a wonderfully dense fig cake, reminiscent of a Fig Newton (only fancier), perfect for those who want something a little less sweet.
Mignon offers a Prix Fixe menu which includes an entrée (appetizer),plat (main course) and dessert or fromage for just $29...a great deal! Mignon is located at 128 E. 6th St. in downtown L.A. There is metered street parking available or nearby parking lots. For more information, call 213-489-0131, visit www.mignonla.com or like them on facebook. Bon appetit!