DineLA is my favorite time of the year. I have three nights of dinner planned in a row, and started off my foodie journey with Mistral in Sherman Oaks last night. How I didn’t know this place was just down the street is beyond me…
My date and I got all fancy and took the drive down Ventura Boulevard to Mistral. Once inside, the restaurant was dressed up classically French with an art deco wall feel and a beautiful wood bar. The place is small, but that’s the sort of feel I think you want when eating an intimate French dinner.
Here is the DineLA Menu.
One of the ways I judge the quality of a restaurant is by their list of alcohol. This isn’t about getting drunk, but rather pairing your food with wine or hard liquor that compliments what you are eating. The wine list at Mistral was extensive, but manageable. They had it broken up by glass, half bottle, and then type. There was every kind of wine; from Malbec, to Cab and even some good French Sauvignon Blanc. Aaron and I opted for a Malbec (Cahors Château Les Croisille “Tradition Malbec” 2011) seeing as we knew one thing was certain that night; we were getting the venison medallions. Something earthy pairs well with game meat and this wine was a perfect 85% Malbec 15% Merlot.
The first course had me hankering for the Mushroom Soup. I am a fan of going to places during DineLA purely to get things I wouldn’t normally order. I don’t often see a mushroom soup on menus, and figured the meaty vegetable would be an intriguing way to start my meal. The soup was flavorful, but not over powering. I didn’t want to get punched in the face with mushroom. Mistral’s crusty French bread was the perfect vessel for gobbling down the tasty soup. Paired with pieces of boule slathered in their delicious rich butter, the soup was a great choice, one that didn’t over fill me for the rest of the meal.
Aaron got one of my favorite appetizers, something my dad makes every holiday; toast and cured salmon. On Christmas Eve, my dad (who owns a French cafe called Cafe Midi) toasts thick slabs of brioche and puts it out with cured salmon, cucumber rounds, and mustard. Mistral’s version was very similar. The one noticeable difference was the sweeter mustard sauce that came with the dish. Place atop bread with the salty fish, however, everything married perfectly. I only wish I had more. I mean, look at the color of that fish in the photograph… it was excellent.
Dinner was decided around the venison. It’s not often I eat game meat because deer is hard to come by cooked so well. The venison dish was my date’s choice and came with a cranberry jus. In between the meat slabs was a pear poached in Port and Cabernet. I am a sucker for a good poached pear and this one was exceptional. The plate around the meat was sweet toned, which made the added root vegetables great for a salty break. That brick of potato gratin was an added creamy element that was oh so delicious. It melted in your mouth. This dish was overall probably my favorite of the night and the plate that I will come back for.
My dish was a pan seared Bronzino (seabass) in a buerre blanc. It is not often that a fish skin is so crispy and good you can cut through it with a fork. The buerre blanc was not overwhelming and every caper was a refreshing salt pop. I could have done without the black forbidden rice; I don’t think it added much of anything to the dish and it sort of felt out of place. The sweet pea and corn salad wasn’t over dressed and offered a great contrast to the fatty fish. All in all, a delicious vegetable medley.
If chocolate souffle is ever on the menu, I get it. Growing up my sister and I would eagerly await dinners at a French place called Moustache my dad would take us to. Why? They had the most amazing chocolate souffle. I can’t remember a single thing on the rest of the menu, just the logo of the restaurant and that souffle. Chocolate souffle sort of brings me back to a memory I cherish, which is why I get it when I can. Food should always be an experience.
A souffle should have three things; a crisp exterior puffed up above the ramekin, a moist eggy interior and a pillow of steam that escapes from the middle with you dunk your spoon in for the first time. This souffle had all three. The chocolate flavor was there, but not over powering. Coupled with the extra thick homemade whipped cream, every bite was like a little bit of heaven. It was really hard for me to have to share this.
Aaron chose the cinnamon raisin bread pudding. It was good, but nothing too special. I thought the Creme Anglaise was the best part about it. The whole dish sort of tasted like a giant cinnamon roll, and the sweetness of it wasn’t broken up enough. Maybe that is just me; I am a sweet-savory-marriage kind of girl. My date, on the other hand, loved it. I think I saw him glide his finger across the plate for the last little bit of creme.
All in all, I am so happy I ate here. The wait staff was tremendous. Everyone was attentive and has exceptional etiquette. It was obvious the rules of French dining were as deeply engrained in the staff as was the rules of cooking into the chefs. Out of all my DineLA experiences, this was by far my favorite. I recommend Mistral 100%.