Los Angeles is known for the amalgam of cultures from across the globe, from the tiniest municipality to the most notable nations. France is well represented, and among the wide selection of French establishments, L’Ami in Santa Monica is one of the finest practitioners of this celebrated cuisine.
Hailing from Paris, owner Marc-Antoine Rambaud has created a charming spot that transports you to the Mediterranean, with open-air dining, arched passages, and blue-painted ceilings. The fresh feel and the fresh food unite all the best aspects of the cultures for a slice of the French Riviera in Southern California.
The dishes at L’Ami are the creation of French-born Chef Francis Bey, formerly of Lilly’s French Restaurant on Abbott Kinney. Chef Bey has channeled the childhood culinary memories of owner Marc-Antoine, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients with a modern twist.
For dinner at L’Ami, you can start with such classic appetizers such as salmon tartar, beef carpaccio, grilled octopus, or shucked oysters. Salad selections include shaved Brussel sprouts; Maine lobster; asiago ahi tuna; and a beef and burrata tower.
Your taste buds will lead you to the best choice, but consider a few of the highlights. The foie gras, for example, consists of homemade duck foie gras and fig chutney, paired with brioche toast.
On the lighter side, you can’t get much more refreshing than the Pink Lady apple, walnuts, and shallot vinaigrette that dresses the arugula, endive, and Roquefort salad.
The entrees at L’Ami cover seafood, poultry, lamb, steak, pork, and even vegetables. If you belong to the last category, L’Ami has a couple of delicious and fulfilling options. Go with the vegetable couscous, which includes a potpourri of rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, kohlrabi, red pepper, cauliflower, zucchini, and harissa accompaniment. The pappardelle pasta will also please not meat eaters, complemented by Russian kale, porcini mushrooms, capers, sun-dried tomato Pernod sauce, and Parmigiano.
Seafood lovers can choose between entrees featuring Scottish salmon, white sea bass, or dayboat scallops. If you prefer poultry, you’ll be glad to know L’Ami uses Mary’s Organic Free Range Chicken, which lives up to its name and happens to deliver some of the best-tasting chicken you’ll ever eat in the United States. Lamb comes with two options: as a rack of lamb, with potato gratin, haricot vert, and rosemary infusion; or couscous royal, with chicken, merguez chicken, and harissa. Beef eaters can take their pick of filet mignon, prime rib, or hanger steak.
Many of the same dishes are available at brunch at L’Ami on weekends, albeit with a few custom touches. You have to start with the pastry basket, filled with chocolate, butter, and almond crossaints, as well as an apricot Danish. On the more traditional side, L’Ami offers a range of omelet combinations, with the same emphasis on French-Mediterranean flavors and seasonal ingredients. After all, where else could you get a ratatouille (vegetables, goat cheese, and basil) or Parisian (French ham, gruyere, onion, and wild mushroom) omelet?
L’Ami can whip up a number of variations on eggs Benedict, including the absolutely over-the-top grilled filet mignon Benedict — that is, brioche toast with beef tenderloin medallions, bathed in hollandaise sauce. Feeling slightly more virtuous? Then maybe you’ll order the farro and goat cheese risotto Benedict; after all, it’s vegetarian!
L’Ami caps off brunch with sandwiches and burgers, including the French classic croque madam: grilled wheat bread, French ham, gruyere cheese, and sunny side up eggs.
Cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine are available at all meals, including happy hour. Bar bits are also on offer at happy hour. Young diners can enjoy their own menu and expertly prepared meals at both dinner and brunch.
Some say Southern California is paradise; others say the South of France is the place to be. There’s no need to choose at L’Ami. This charmer of a restaurant in Santa Monica combines the best of both worlds, with delicious and fresh-tasting entrees that marries the culinary traditions of the two cultures. Take a seat, look around, and dig in — you’re already at the best place on earth, with the atmosphere and cuisine to match.
L’Ami: 246 26th St Santa Monica, CA 90402
Monday – Sunday Dinner: 530pm – 1030pm
Weekend Brunch Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 2pm
Daily Happy Hour Monday – Sunday: 530pm – 7pm
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Written by Jane Emery