I am low-key mad that I never made it into Kendall’s Brasserie prior to 2017. French food has always held a special place in my heart, especially in my teens and early twenties when I was an overzealous Francophile who listened to a lot of France Gall, Serge Gainsbourg, and Françoise Hardy and watched everything Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer and Breillat made. Having never been to France - unfortunately even still - as a youth I romanticized everything about the country. As an adult on the other hand, one who wrote her UCLA senior thesis about the xenophobia tied to the banning of the head scarf in France, my world-view of the country has certainly changed, but my love for their food and culinary practices has exponentially grown.
Prior to my first visit, Kendall’s was not the kind of restaurant I would suggest to friends, as it usually appeared to be filled with older men in business suits and that has never been my idea of a fun time. Recently while at The Broad, I gave Kendall’s another glance and noticed something changed, which made me reconsider my previous notions. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but I’ve since learned the restaurant went through a remodel and are now positioning themselves with the fresher DTLA vibe.
Upon arrival at Kendall's I was quick to notice the restaurant’s beautiful dark woods and white marble bar. The restaurant felt grown and sexy, just as I have imagined brasseries in France to be. The restaurant’s environment was chill for a mid-day lunch, much the opposite juxtaposed to Grand Avenue outside its front doors. There are a variety of dining areas to choose from–romantic and tucked away in a room full of leather booths, bathing in natural sunlight by the windows, al fresco, a seat at the bar, or posted up with your laptop at their new counter with accessible plugs for those needing to charge up during a power lunch. The space reflects much of what Chef Jean-Pierre Bosc loves about his homeland of France–simple, beautiful, and refined. Each year he visits his hometown of Lyon and through the restaurant design process, shared photos of his travel adventures which included plenty of culinary celebrations with friends and family. Kendall's aimed to capture that essense.
My recent foray into Kendall's Brasserie made for one of the richest lunches I can recollect. When delving into any French menu, my order typically includes charcuterie, escargot, beef tartare, and steak frites, so that I may gather a thoughtful assessment of the chef's vision. At Kendall's, I was delighted with three out of the four aforementioned. My only true disappointment was my steak, which I asked for medium rare, and was served nearly medium well. Such has become my typical experience with Los Angeles steaks, as I speculate chefs assume most of us don't want blood. I do.
If you’re looking for a elevated cocktail and wine menu, you won’t be disappointed with the restaurant’s options. I haven’t been in the mood to drink, much less on a weekday afternoon, so I opted for a raspberry lemonade, which was made fresh at the bar. I began my savory lunch with a couple small plates – the Deviled Farm Eggs with lemon aioli and Santa Barbara sea urchin and Steak Tartare made with natural beef, capers, and pickled red onion. The deviled eggs, although not my idea, were absolutely delicious. Over the past couple of years I’ve continued to see Deviled Eggs edge their way on to countless menus in Los Angeles, with their peak moment circa 2014. As I mentioned, these were quite good, topped with sea urchin after all, but do they have any business on a French menu? As for the Steak Tartare, perfectly prepared with fresh beef, olive oil, capers, egg yolk and worchester sauce, this dish was so incredibly flavorful that I found myself scrapping every last bit on to my fork despite the anticipation of many dishes ahead of me. I barely touched the bread that accompanied the tartare, as the flavors were so vibrant in each bite, I didn’t want to risk interference. I love tartare–steak, ahi, or otherwise. The flavor of raw meat is something that awakens my senses and Kendall’s delivered in every way. If by chance you are like me and live for steak tartare, you must pull up a seat and enjoy every heavenly bite of this dish.
Up next was Kendall's colorful Heirloom Beet Salad, made with goat cheese bonbons, little gem lettuce, oro blanco, pistachio and Satsuma tangerine. After taking one look at this fresh creation there was no surprise as to why it was the official salad of the Grammys last year. As a long-time beet lover it’s been a thrill to see beets pop up all over the country. Long gone are the days of beet slander warranted by the gross canned creations so many of us remember as children. Dark purples and golden hues were laid before me, my eyes bulging with excitement upon each flavorful bite. Goat cheese bonbons? I was tickled with these babies. It’s an obvious win to have balls of goat cheese to accompany a salad, especially with bright bites of citrus along for the ride. If you’ve experienced this variation before, it’s just as delicious here. It’ll leave a smile on all my beet lovers faces.
One of the dishes I was most excited to experiences was the Porc en Trois, pig in three parts or “tasty pig parts” as they called it. I was most excited to eat this when I first looked at the menu, and after speaking with Chef Jean-Pierre, this was the first thing he mentioned when I asked about the “must-orders" on his menu. Classically French, with head cheese, pig ears, and trotter, this wooden tray of pig treats was quite the savory experience. As a child who spent a lot of time in my Mexican American grandmother’s kitchen, I developed an affinity for pig parts, particularly because of the giant jar of pig’s feet she kept and fed me when I would want a snack. Looking back on that culinary upbringing, I realize now I didn’t full understand what I was eating, all I knew is that is was delicious. Trotter, the French term for pig’s feet, were transformed into crispy croquettes before my eyes and they were a revelation. Never had I eaten pig’s feet in this form and for that, it’s criminal. Although one of the richest pieces of food I’ve consumed in months, it was worth every bite. The flavors encased my tongue, leaving it to linger in my mouth. The richness was delightfully unreal, so much, that I could only indulge in one of them, and even so, I could not finish it. Sometimes greatness only needs to be experienced in a few bites. The headcheese and pig ears were not to be ignored, but the trotter croquettes were hands down the show stopper of the charcuterie plate.
Kendall’s is dropping some of the best French fries in Downtown Los Angeles, and it’s no surprise they take this crown when they are prepared in duck fat and tossed in garlic. They’re perfectly crispy and rich with every bite. These fries are ideal for a glutinous night of spoiling – preferably by a gorgeous man feeding you with this hands (or insert your fantasy here). French Fries are one of my favorite things to eat, although I have limited my intake, and when they’re executed like Kendall’s, it will make you mad at all the terrible ones you’ve consumed before them. Bad French Fries are a travesty, so when you want to treat yourself, come here. Even if you simply pull up to the bar and order a drink with a side of fries, you’ll be glad you did.
Croque Madame should be saved for a special weekend brunch indulgence. When you’re ready to take that dip into Sauce Mornay, you can do that at Kendall's and be happy with your decision. After all that was nibbled on, I was overwhelmed when I saw our server gliding our way with a tray displaying this beautiful sandwich. At Kendall’s, the Croque Madame is made with Jambon de Paris, comte cheese, levain country bread, farm egg, and sauce Mornay. After some research I found that Jambon de Paris is made according to the “traditional French charcuterie recipe for cooked ham." Thinly sliced and tucked under melted cheese, each bite of the Croque Madame is part crunchy, with bits of toasted cheese and smooth with creamy Mornay and melted cheese. This is a rare dish that tastes just as good as it looks. If you've never had the pleasure, try it here, preferably al fresco one beautiful Sunday morning.
For those who are keeping tabs on where to eat escargot in LA, I enjoyed this twist on the classic dish. These burgundy snails rest in a pool of absinthe-garlic butter inside a puff pastry. At first glance they look like pastry shooters, but when served, you'll need a tiny fork to make your way to these little guys. Every element used in this dish is necessary to its perfection, remove one and it simply wouldn't be the same. If you have never had the opportunity to eat snails, I am confident this would make for a pleasurable first experience. It may have taken me a decade to finally walk though Kendall's doors, but now that I have, it will be my pleasure to recommend this French restaurant when someone asks.
Kendall's Brasserie | 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012