• Madeleine Bistro: It doesn’t get any better than this.

    June 16th, 2010mr meanerLA restaurants, madeleine bistro

    I wish I lived closer to Madeleine Bistro (or, rather, I wish it would move closer to me).

    I’ve been known to find any excuse to be in Tarzana around brunch time on the weekends, so I can pop in and grab a donut, benedict, phillet-no-phish and a sumptuous dessert before going about my day. In fact, many people I know usually frequent Madeleine Bistro for the extensive and good value brunch menu (only served at weekends, but the lunch menu served during the week has many of the same items on it).

    This last weekend, I had occasion to celebrate a palindromic birthday and could think of no place I’d rather be than Madeleine Bistro for dinner. I teamed up with three other ravenously hungry people and we set about eating our way through the menu. After all, and statistically, I’m over 50% through my palindromic birthdays, so this was a night to celebrate.

    Hurling caution to the wind, we started out with some assorted small plates, salads and appetizers while we waited for the alcohol buzz of the organic lager and wine to settle in.

    Classic French onion soup, crouton, farmer's cheese. $7

    First-up was the “Classic French onion soup”: I’ve only ever had this type of dish once before in my life – in Paris (of all places) where I managed to find one with no meat stock in it. Well, Madeleine’s take on veganizing this dish is incredible. The soup is a hearty gathering of tangy onions and garlic in a rich sauce that one practically chews rather than sips. Sprinkles of “farmer’s cheese” on top made my day. If you’ve never had French onion soup, this is a must-have experience I can tell you.

    Classic mac 'n cheese, bacon bits. $13

    Next came the “Classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese”, a dead ringer for the non-vegan dish, but with a twist I’d never seen before: “bacon bits” that were made out of thinly sliced, crispy mushrooms. They went perfectly with the gooey cheese and chewy macaroni, leading me to rate this as one of the best vegan mac n cheeses I’ve ever eaten. And I’m something of a connoisseur by now, for sure.

    French lentil salad, chardonnay cheese, spring mix, green goddess dressing. $10

    We got a “French Lentil Salad” to share, which came with spring leaves and something called “Chardonnay Cheese”. Despite the fact that this dish looked like a phallus it was gone within seconds. I took some leaves, spicy lentils and cheese and ate them all together in one mouthfull, and without a doubt this was one of the highlights of the evening, and I’m not sure I’ve ever said that about a salad before!

    Porcini-crusted tofu scallops, shiitake-green bean ragout, carrot syrup. $13

    Continuing in the vein of small plates, we ordered the “Porcini-crusted Tofu Scallops” which were undoubtedly the most surprising dish of the night. We were treated to round, crispy tofu “scallops” in a very, rich mushroom sauce along with perfectly cooked vegetables. There were four people at the table, and we had one scallop each: left to me I’d have eaten all four and ordered another plate as well! They really were that interesting. Crispy on the outside, soft and steamy on the inside. This is right up there with the best of Executive Chef Dave Andrerson’s “how the hell do they do that?” dishes, along with the donut and souffle (of which more later).

    Red beet tartare, warm tofu cheese crouton, cucumber, balsamic glace. $13

    We also grabbed a “Beet Tartare”, which has to be one of the most astounding vegan dishes available anywhere in the world. I’ve known people travel to LA from the Bay Area and beyond, purely for a fix of this menu item. And I can see why. Cool, thinly sliced cukes, a warm fried cheese crouton topped with finely chopped red beets not only looks like a work of art, but it tastes like one too. There are few adjectives to describe this creation so, in common with the rest of the menu, I usually just advise you to get one into your life (and, by eating, out of it again real fast) as soon as you can.

    Chicken-fried seitan, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetable medley. $13

    Surprisingly, we had room for entrees, so we ordered the “Chicken-fried seitan” for one of our guests who happened to be an omnivorous girl from The South (a tough customer for any dish with “fried” and “chicken” in its name, for sure). After eating the whole thing, she proclaimed “That might be the best Fried Chicken I’ve eaten outside of Dixie, y’all” (actually, I’m doing a caricature of what she said, but you get the idea. She liked it for sure).

    The "Bigger Macque" (two no beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese...) $11

    Although I love fine dining with nice wines and great company, a superb addition to the entrees at Madeleine’s is the “Bigger Macque”, and no matter what the occasion I always find an excuse to order one. This sandwich is a loosely based facsimile of the well known fast-food item, which has been served to billions and billions of poor bastards, but just better. In every way. You have to get one of these at some point in your life, just as I have to get one of these at some point in every visit to Madeleine’s.

    Phillet no phish (panko-crusted seitan, cheese, tartar sauce, whole wheat bun) $10

    As if by magic, the corollary to the above dish also arrived at the table: “The Philet no phish”, another cheeky take on crappy fast food, incredibly elevated to fine dining status. Yeah, I had a nibble of that too: crispy seitan, cheese and tartar sauce. Another amazing dish.

    Rustic mashed potatoes. $5

    Other things on the table at that point included a healthy portion of “Rustic Mashed Potatoes”, a perfectly cooked heap of creamy mash covered in gravy as well as a side of “Pan-roasted cauliflower”.

    Pan-roasted cauliflower. $6

    It’s safe to say that if I could make mashed potatoes or cauliflower this good, I’d probably never leave my house and would OD on the deadly cocktail of cauliflower and mash, when eaten by the ton.

    Lemon-rosemary seitan, cauliflower crepe. $13

    Our last entree of the night (we were getting pretty full by this time) was the intriguingly-named “Lemon-rosemary seitan, grilled asparagus crepe” which was like nothing I’d ever eaten before. Tangy, perfectly chewy seitan, was laid to rest on a fluffy crepe filled with creamy cauliflower. Let me tell you, the combination worked perfectly. The lemon and rosemary fired up one’s mouth, and the cool, creamy crepe rode in to save the day with a creamy after-texture and after-taste to die for.

    Shockingly, we found room for desert (I’m still not sure how, but Madeleine’s is one of those places I can go to, eat myself silly and feel perfectly content — never over-stuffed and certainly never needing more).

    classic cheesecake, raspberry coulis, whipped creme. $11

    We enjoyed our deserts dim-sum style, so we all had a bit of each just to prove how cosmopolitan we are. First-off was the “Classic Cheesecake”, another perfectly made dish sitting proudly on a delicious raspberry coulis with a tuft of whipped creme topping. I was told that the birthday candle was inedible — the only thing in the place I would not therefore eat.

    strawberry shortcake, almond cake, rhubabrb ice cream. $12

    I was delighted to also try the “Strawberry Shortcake”. It has strawberries. It is a cake, but this was not a short order — a huge brick of fluffy and spongy cake arrived and was consumed before our attentive server got back to the kitchen to bring our next dessert item: “Bananas Foster Split”, a tremendous triumvirate of bananas, hot fudge and whipped cream, with an order of ice cream and chocolate sauce thrown in for good measure. Another amazing dessert, another plate emptied to shining within seconds.

    Banana foster split, hot fudge, whipped creme. $10

    Finally, my favorite desert – not only of the evening, but of all time – arrived from the kitchen like an angel from a heaven: “Chocolate souffle with vanilla ice cream”. I tell you, this dish knows how to make an entrance! There are two ramekins, one containing stone cold ice cream, and the other containing a crispy-crusted chocolate souffle with gooey chocolate sauce inside. Just eat a bite of chocolate (which is oven-hot) with a bite of ice cream, and your mouth will thank you for an eternity.

    chocolate souffle, vanilla ice creme. $12

    I’m remembering my last birthday with such fondness: A three course meal, book-ended with the heretofore unattainable French Onion Soup, and rounded off with a another uniquely French creation: Chocolate Souffle is an experience to savor for a long time. As I know I and my guests also will.

    Executive Chef Dave Anderson’s creations are at the arc of vegan cuisine, second to none and lovingly prepared and served. Whatever your occasion to dine out — or even if you don’t have an occasion — you really must try Madeleine Bistro if you’ve not been yet. For a quick and informal time, show up for the weekend brunch and dine on scrambles, doughnuts or the Bigger Macque. For a family occasion or intimate dinner, make some reservations and dine away the evening with one of the best menus on this good earth, superb service and an atmosphere that only a family owned and run restaurant can deliver.

    See you there!

    Madeleine Bistro
    18621 Ventura Blvd
    Tarzana, CA 91356
    (818) 758-6971

    Hours of Operation

    Wednesday through Thursday
    Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
    Dinner: 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm

    Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
    Dinner: 5:00pm – 10:00pm

    Brunch: 10:00am – 3:00pm
    Dinner: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm

    Brunch: 10:00am – 3:00pm
    Dinner: 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

    closed Monday & Tuesday

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21 responses to “Madeleine Bistro: It doesn’t get any better than this.” RSS icon

  • I think a couple of years ago MB had lost its way. The menu hand’t changed in forever and service could be inconsistent (“lost” reservations, long waits for food, etc.). Now that Dave and his wife are regularly in the restaurant, and the menu changes up (always keeping the best dishes, of course!) MB is without a doubt one of the best places to eat in LA.

    I’m so glad MB are back on the right track and better than ever before. Like the writer of this post, I eat there whenever I can. Oh, and I drive up from San Diego!

  • i didn’t write this post, but i just wanna say that madeleine bistro may very well be the best vegan restaurant in the world.

    i’ve been to sublime in ft. lauderdale, candle 79 in nyc, millennium in san francisco, saf in london, and la victoire suprême du cœur in paris….and the food madeleine bistro beats them ALL.

    i can’t speak highly enough of this place!

  • The souffle is to DIE FOR. It’s the only dessert I’ve ever ordered, and I get it every time.

  • I’ve had the chance to work with them, and I absolutely love Dave and Molly and all of MB. I celebrated my birthday there this year too! The food is sublime. Really worth every penny.

  • OMG!!! How the hell does he make that souffle??? It is better than any egg-laden souffles I’ve ever had (back in the day).
    QuarryGirl, you are making me want to go to MB right now. I’ve only been twice because it is a bit of a shlep but dang, your descriptions are insane.

  • Yeah yeah the food is great. More importantly, this is the best-written review I’ve ever seen on QG. It’s truly magazine-quality prose, Mr. Meaner. Fantastic job.

  • That all looks so delicious!! Thanks for the review and lovely photos.

  • haven’t been there in tooooo long. mom is coming soon, will treat her to something special there!

  • I have only had the seitan and crepe and thought it was heavenly. Can’t wait to go back! I found the place because of you! Thank you!

  • I get the red beet tartare every time I go. It’s amazing!

  • I’ve had about half of the dishes in this post and they were absolutely incredible!!! Oh except for the banana split. I thought that was totally underwhelming. Oh also, I don’t know why everyone loves the souffle. When I had it, it was really dry and the ramekin was 90% air and 10% souffle. It was like an empty crust. Maybe I had it on a bad day.

    I was wondering what that bacon the mac n cheese was made out of!

    I would go here far more often if I had more people to go with–none of my friends ever want to shell out the cash. Le sigh.

    Also, yeah what is up with those phallic lentils?! That must have been a conscious decision. Odd!

  • i’m just wondering if mr. meaner was saying “i love cucumber nomnomnomnom” when eating the beet tartare.

  • I think I am in the minority here, but I went to Madeleine’s for dinner and was INCREDIBLY disappointing. In fact, everyone at my table was incredibly disappointed. I felt terrible, because I had said nothing but great things about MB (alas, I had only gone to the brunch).

    And, while the brunch is great, the dinner is a rip off – unless you have money to blow. The portion sizes are incredibly tiny and while I understand it’s “quality,” the food didn’t blow me away. I had gotten the Bigger Macque expecting it to change my life, but I didn’t even want the whole thing.

    The funny thing is, I had referred another friend to MB for dinner awhile ago since they wanted to go some place “nice” and they came back to me with nothing but disappointed. “Oh, you guys must be crazy.” But, no, they were right.

    However, their brunch is super amazing. I just won’t be going there for dinner again.

  • You wouldn’t think so, but the crepe that comes underneath the lemon seitan is the best thing on the menu.

  • Da Data Monkey

    I WANT!!!!!

    ps What’s the closest hotel to MB? On my way asap!! 😉

  • I’ve never been, but I know that when I do go, I won’t know what to settle on.

  • Maddies is just the best place there is. Ya know what makes it for me? Meeting Chef Dave. He cares so much about his food creations, obviously has incredibly high standards for what he’s doing and constantly thinks out of the box.

    He’s also devastatingly cute, and happily married 🙁

  • tofu_scramble

    @Gregalor: HAHA go for brunch and order a few things to share if you have company. That’s the best way to experience it.

  • One of my favs for sure!!

  • Shit! I need to find a way to go there this weekend. AHH!

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