502 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
I’d been hearing a lot about JiRaffe over the past few years, so it was about time I dropped by to try it out. Helmed by chef Raphael Lunetta, the restaurant has been around for almost 15 years, consistently garnering very positive reviews. DineLA was still going on, which is always the perfect excuse to try something new. Combine this with some intriguing DineLA menu items, and we were on our way!
We were first served an amuse bouche of a wild mushroom soup.
Warm and comforting, the soup had a very strong mushroom flavor. It was kind of like a mini cappuccino in color, especially with the froth on top. I don’t think I could drink a whole bowl of this, but it was tasty in a small ‘shot.’
Crispy Potato Wrapped Big-Eye Ahi Tuna roasted tomato ginger chutney, shaved baby Asian salad, radish and lime soya chili vinaigrette
This was sort of like a “tuna wellington” with the rare tuna wrapped by thin, crispy layers of potato. I enjoyed the textural component of the crispy potato, and the tuna was quite nice. The tomato-ginger chutney was interesting, adding a little bit of acidity and additional flavors to the dish.
Pistachio Crusted Hudson Valley Foie Gras sweet and sour confit of baby tomatoes, caramelized mango, toasted brioche, roasted shallots, Tahitian vanilla/mango verjus
Next we had a generous lobe of foie gras, cooked perfectly – seared on the outside, and a tender, melt-in-your-mouth interior. The pistachio added nuttiness and some crunch to the dish, with the mango – perfectly ripe – adding a sweetness to cut through the rich liver. Underneath, a toasted brioche added an additional textural element. Wonderful.
Alaskan Halibut English pea puree, blistered red and yellow grape tomatoes, Maui onion and herb infused black truffle-sherry vinaigrette
This was a beautifully-plated dish, with the halibut being the center of attention. Like the foie gras, the halibut was perfectly cooked, moist and flaky. The pea puree and tomatoes both added some sweetness, and were delicious on their own. The onions and vinaigrette added a little acidity and depth of flavor.
Prime Filet of Beef warm fork-smashed fingerling potato salad, roasted tomatoes, shisito peppers, watercress, and a white wine-shiitake mushroom sauce
There were a number of components to this dish. The beef was cooked to a very nice medium rare, and the filet was characteristically tender. The tomato, while not entirely necessary on the plate, was sweet and juicy – a topping of toasted breadcrumbs added some texture. I enjoyed the addition of the spicy arugula, as well as the potatoes.
Chocolate Lava Cake
This lava cake didn’t really have as ‘molten’ of a center as I expected. Chocolate did not leak out of the cake as it was cut into, though the interior of the cake was very moist. Still, the flavors were there. The whipped cream added a nice lightness to the dish.
Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake
This pudding cake had a nice toffee flavor without being overbearing. Served mildly warm, the cold ice cream was a very nice accompaniment. I also liked the chopped nuts on top for some bite.
In all, this was a very good meal. There were no disappointing dishes, and the food was executed very well. Many of the plates brought together very familiar ingredients, though Chef Lunetta was able to keep them interesting. One drawback, however, was the slow service. It was polite and quick-responsive when we actually did get the server’s attention, so I don’t think it detracted too much from the meal. However, it was noticeably slow.