Like most American holidays, Valentine’s Day has morphed into a commercial nightmare, encouraging the purchasing of over-the-top gifts and unnecessary merchandise to prove one’s love for a significant other. Yet with Ralphs dedicating a whole aisle to heart-shaped chocolate boxes and Ackerman Union placing heart-holding teddy bears on full display, it can seem obnoxiously unavoidable, especially if your significant other has been enticed to the dark side and is on a quick descent into full-fledged swoon mode.
If you do happen to be the peanut butter to someone’s jelly and are expected to pull out all the stops, but, in the midst of midterm season have yet to plan anything, you might want to consider reserving a table for a Valentine’s Day dinner night out. Rather than spending your money on a restaurant offering the typical Valentine’s Day menu scam that provides little bang for your sizable bunk, consider purchasing a ticket for a memorable, worth-the-expense meal at Trois Mec. They don’t do a special V-day menu, but their menu on its own is special enough. I can vouch from experience.
With its five-course and constantly changing tasting menu, Trois Mec has made quite the splash on the LA food scene. Known for his heavy French accent and multi-city restaurant tours, chef Ludo Lefebvre has succeeded in creating a dining experience like no other, somehow managing both an ultra exclusive yet refreshingly understated image.
Just like Coachella or any other popular festival, getting a ticket to Trois Mec proved to be a difficult task. Every two weeks, tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for a reservation beginning ten days after the date of sale. So, in order to reserve a table for two, I set my alarm bright and early one Friday morning and incessantly clicked refresh until the tickets were released, snagging myself an $85 per person reservation and subsequently draining my bank account in the process.
Two weeks later on the night of the much anticipated dinner, my friend and I arrived at an underwhelming Hollywood strip mall, wedged between a gas station and Raffalo’s Pizza & Italian Foods. Expecting a bougie red carpet or at least a valet service, we were confused, and dubiously circled the place, searching for any sign pointing to Trois Mec. With the clock ticking and the friendly “Don’t be late” reminder email fresh in our minds, we frantically attempted to check the address listed on our reservation.
Right at that moment, the door to Raffalo’s Pizza opened, and a stream of French rap music tumbled out, along with a delighted looking couple. We caught the door before it closed and found ourselves inside a small, bustling restaurant, the chefs behind the counter shaving truffle and plating what looked like art pieces, no pizza dough in sight.
We gave our name to the hostess and were seated at the counter, which, if you’ve ever wanted to watch a live cooking show, is the best view in the house. The chef working directly in front of us was sporting a blue hat, white chef’s jacket, dark blue apron and furrowed eyebrows as he concentrated on laying a thin piece of pineapple over a small mound of rice.
With conscious effort, we managed to scan the wine menu, before returning our gaze to the tiny longitudinal kitchen, where the staff moved like one organism, swooping, flipping, saucing and plating in perfect harmony.
Soon we were presented with an array of different amuse bouches, the French term for bite-sized opening snacks. The theme seemed to balance on a contrast between sweet and savory. There was a foie gras beignet, a tiny flavor bomb that detonates in your mouth, just reaching the maximum level of richness. The tandoori madeline was spicy yet buttery, and the mustard crème brûlée toed the line between appetizer and dessert.
While waiting for our next round of plates, I noticed the vibe among the staff suddenly shift. The intensity level cranked up a few notches and low and behold, chef Ludo entered the kitchen.
All business, he hovered over each chef, quietly reprimanding and fixing plates as he moved down the line. He noticed a slightly deformed dumpling make its way onto a plate and quickly snatched it away, scolding the chef before popping the defect dumpling into his mouth.
Nothing goes to waste in the French kitchen.
The next five courses provided a small taste of both the land and the sea. There was a raw Alaskan salmon, sea bass with sunchokes and a generous serving of dry-aged ribeye. The supplemental course of potato mousseline with gnocchi and black truffle shavings quite literally left me speechless, as I was unwilling to let the truffle leave my tastebuds too quickly.
By the time the assortment of desserts arrived, we were in a food daze, lulled into the bliss afforded by great food and a few glasses of wine.
Before leaving, we thanked the chef, and managed not to gush or get on one knee to propose.
I like roses and chocolates just as much as the next girl, but I’d give up a lifetime of crappy Valentine’s Day gifts for another ticket to Trois Mec. Roses are red, violets blue, snag a Trois Mec reservation and skip the mediocre Valentine’s Day menu.