Crème De La Crepe Bistro offers other French delicacies, such as steak tartare

Crème De La Crepe Bistro offers other French delicacies, such as steak tartare

Crème De La Crepe Bistro brings character and culture to the mall

By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)

Naming your restaurant after a specialty has its good points and bad points. If someone sees your name and wants that item, they want to eat there. On the other hand, they’re likely to figure that that’s all you do, so if you have a more wide-ranging menu you may lose people who assume you’re a specialist.

So a restaurant called Crème de la Crepe Bistro might be expected to draw 100% of the crepe aficionados who happen to be near their location inside the Fox Hills Mall. That’s good because they make crepes quite well, but the restaurant does other things quite well too.

The bright, cheery restaurant is decorated in the colors of the Mediterranean region of Provence, which makes for a great environment but is odd, since crepes are a specialty of the cool, rainy northern province of Brittany. Geographical quibbles aside, it’s a lovely and comfortable place, and except for the parking lot view there’s nothing to remind you that you’re in a mall.

The classic starters are offered — French onion soup, escargots, plates of cheese or pate, fondue, but I decided to start with beef tartare. My server, a Frenchman named Eric, cautioned me that this was a raw item, which showed both that they make it correctly and that some people order this without knowing what it is. They serve it in a sauce made of Dijon mustard, shallots, parsley and Worcestershire, along with chopped mango, tomato and a drizzle of garlic mayonnaise. The beef was good, but I might have preferred the more standard accompaniments of mustard, capers and chopped onion — the mango was a little under-ripe that day, and besides the sharper flavors accent the meat better. I added a little pepper and enjoyed the dish along with a glass of Callia Argentine Malbec, which my server had recommended.

Besides crepes, the restaurant serves a full menu that includes risotto, pasta, steak and a very good beef Bourguignon, but on this trip I had a crepe “Vendome” and my wife had pasta carbonara. When I asked Eric to select the best wine to go with the crepe stuffed with chicken, potatoes, mushroom and bacon in a cognac-pepper sauce, he thought a moment and told me I already had it — the Malbec would be fine with my main course. And indeed it was. The same wine that had accented the beef so well went nicely with the chicken.

My meal overturned the stereotype of crepes as delicate fare for “ladies who lunch.” This is hearty peasant food, a good and filling entrée served with a light, fresh salad. The crepe was made with buckwheat flour, which gives a slight nutty flavor and, even thin as it was, added a little texture to what otherwise would have been a nice bowl of stew.

The carbonara was made in the traditional style, with a whole egg yolk cooked in with the chardonnay cream sauce along with ham and garlic. They made the sauce traditionally, putting the raw egg on the hot pasta to cook it, and the creamy, smooth texture was a pleasure.  They used a French ham that my wife liked more than the usual strongly flavored Italian guanciale or bacon, which you may prefer or not depending on how much you like contrasting flavors.

A variety of sweet crepes are offered to finish, stuffed with just about anything you can think of: fruit, ice cream, Nutella, bananas drizzled with chocolate sauce, or plain with sugar and butter. These crepes are made with white flour rather than the buckwheat and are more soft and delicate. My favorites are the fondante — chopped pears, melted chocolate and vanilla ice cream — and the old classic, the crepe suzette with sugar, lemon and orange flamed with Grand Marnier.

Apparently many people who think of crepes primarily as sweet items come here only for dessert after dining elsewhere. That’s not a bad idea, and the variety here is a great improvement over the heavy cakes that are the only offering at most nearby places. Even so, they should give the dinner menu at Crème de la Crepe a thorough look, since there is much to explore at this little corner of France.

Crème de la Crepe Bistro is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily in the northwest corner of the Fox Hills Mall. Beer and wine served; vegetarian options available.

Crème de la Crepe Bistro, at Fox Hills Mall, 6000 Sepulveda Blvd.,  Culver City (310) 398-8811  cremedelacrepe.com

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