Today is: Thursday, June 13, 2024

Matisse Restaurant Review

With a quaint and romantic atmosphere, elegant French cuisine, and one of the city’s most extensive wine lists, Matisse Restaurant is one of Los Angeles hidden jewels. Tucked inside an old country Ayres Hotel, the restaurant has intimate dining
rooms that seats about 250 guests. The menu offers contemporary French
country cuisine with specialties including Paillard de Poulet, Rack of Lamb,
and Beef Bourgogne. The wine list alone may be reason to visit Matisse,
with an award-winning selection of over 800 wines ranging from
everyday classics to rare and sometimes old gems.


Ask anyone and they will tell you that Matisse Restaurantis a neighborhood institution. Since its opening the quaint restaurant has offered French-inspired, casual fine dining and an outstanding wine experience to the beachside community. Matisse has recently stepped up to become a dining destination worthy of a visit from anywhere in the city.


While the menu may be more modern, the quaint, charming setting keeps the restaurant rooted in tradition. We are greeted by the hostess before we have both
feet in the door, and smile at the immediate hospitality. Moments later, we find ourselves comfortably nestled in an antique booth in the main dining room,
where an intimate and quaint feel is achieved by a flickering fireplace,
soft classical music, and the low din of conversation.


The setting is a subtle fusion of eras and aesthetics that give the restaurant a refreshingly unique character. The building’s original high ceiling, exposed
wood rafters, and pitched roof suggest an old, craftsman-like feel; the
curiously three-foot high fireplace suggests innovative modernism.


The starters section of the menu is dominated by classic French beginnings.  We
start with Duck Confit, Papaya, Egg Rolls. The presentation is both classic and modern, the traditional accoutrements arranged on an elongated white plate in
colorful and geometric precision: the Sansho –Miso sauce itself is buttery and
supple, graciously and elegantly embracing and resonating reduction. An accompanying late Pinot Noir, Wild Rose from Paso Robles 2005, a sublime accompaniment, a nose of floral must and a honeyed sweetness lifting the
richness from each bite. This course sets the pace for the meal, demanding
slow, deliberate bites that allow us to ponder the luscious flavors.

Duck Confit, Papaya, Egg Rolls

The Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is one of many gems among Matisse's wine selected bottles, The wine list's are thankfully well-organized by style and then alphabetically by producer, offering a range of bottles from astonishingly reasonable
to rare and premium, although not overpriced. In fact, most wines are only marked
up slightly above retail, making it nearly impossible not to order one.

ShrimpTempura with Spicy Chili Dipping Sauce

Next appetizers were the ShrimpTempura with spicy chili dipping sauce, the
Ahi Mango Poke, a Sesame Seaweed Salad served in Wonton Cones,
showcase Chef Shelly’s modern aesthetic and flawless execution.
Also, the Lump Crab Cakes were terrific!

Sesame Seaweed Salad served in Wonton Cones

The tenderness of the crab cakes eagerly embraces the piquancy of the raiche and mango aioli tang, exploding with flavor on the tongue. The dish's overall delicateness shines forth, supported by a perfectly balanced medley of flavors.

   Lump Crab Cakes                               Cilantro Coconut Salad

As Salads, our choice was the Cilantro Coconut Salad, with a mix of sweet
oranges, diced avocado, pepita seeds and shaved coconut on a cilantro dressing.

This salad demonstrate the first hint at Chef Shelley’s culinary strategy—in her
dishes, the parts are greater than their sum. Each component—seems meant to be experienced alone, with a precise flavor that seems in brilliant contrast to each
other component. Every component of the plate is deliberate, and it is in the
pairing of individual tastes that makes each dish a complex, rich whole.

Pam Seared Halibut with Vegetable Ratatoille

As far as our entrees, the menu is extensive and brilliant, my choice was the special
of the day: The Pam Seared Halibut with vegetable ratatoille, and bruschetta risotto with basil crème sauce. This is a comforting repose between courses. Again, the execution is flawless, this dish offers a clarity of taste and a gentleness of texture.
An accompanying Fritz Chardonnay proves an outstanding counterpart, the
buttery fish, supple mouthfeel and resonating finish enhancing each creamy
spoonful. Like the wine, the fish subtle complexity lingers long
after each swallow, a testament to its execution.

Potato Wrapped Chilean Sea Bass

The other entrée was the Potato Wrapped Chilean Sea Bass, a Matisse Restaurant tradition dating back to the restaurant's early days, and Chef Shelley knows when
to leave tradition unchanged. Perhaps the most classic dish on the menu, the fish is
a return to the comforts of old. The savory skin is a rare treat, the sweetness of the glaze interrupted by the occasional burst of spice from a peppercorn. A lush, flavorful bed of Peruvian potatoes and perfectly crisp Cilantro Cream sauce are simple but flavorful, adding just enough zest to occasionally distract us from the rich fish meat.

Bone-In Filet of Beef

While tradition is satisfying, it is no match, Chefs contemporary additions to the menu. The Bone-In Filet of Beef is a towering sculpture of flavor: with Wild Mushroom Risotto, Buttered Broccolini, Caramelized Carrots on a Syrah Reduction, an enticing tangle of vibrant green. Bursting with moisture, the meat’s delicate flesh flakes apart, its slightly crisp, seared top lending a hint of salty richness to supple, sweet flesh.
The veggies shoots add a bright buttery, earthy flavor, while the sauce bursts
with an acidic, almost exotic, tang. The risotto—are buttery and soft,
it is a modern dish, whose spectrum of flavors and delicate,
precise presentation speak sophistication.

Each bite is actually moist—liquid flavor seeps out of each savory bite. And therein lies the brilliance of this dish—each component is so sublime, so unique on its own, that a bite of one makes me forget the intense flavors of the last. By the time I relish
in the bitterness of the greens my palate is primed for the rich savoriness of the beef, and after I muse over that bite for a good minute, I'm ready for a explosion from
the potatoes. I continue eating in this fashion, beef risotto, each bite, surprising
and full of new flavors, tastes like it is the first. It is brilliance.

Chocolate Souffle

Dessert seems an extension of the meal, just as interesting and complex as the courses that precede it. The chocolate souffles resonates with complex cocoa notes and very little sweetness, which makes the tart sweetness of the accompanying sauces of chocolat and gran marnier an ideal accompaniment, and is the perfect last bite: a melting spoonful of elusive flavors that leaves the tongue wanting nothing more.

Grand Marnier Souffle

Matisse Restaurant is one to keep your eye on. As outstanding as its dishes are now, there is a twinkle in his eye that promises there are better things to come, and there's no telling what a chef in his element is capable of. Before long, Matisse Restaurant may just become a Los Angeles institution, a pride not only of the
beach neighborhood but of the entire city.

For map and location click Here!

For more information please visit their website at

Article by: Mary Adams
Photos by: Chris Marx

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