It’s considered the ultimate test for any foodie. It’s the tabooed delicacy of the French. It’s escargot. It’s what I had for dinner.
For years I was too much of a wimp to sink my teeth into those slimy insects. I still remember my brother and I, in our rambunctious years, sprinkling salt on the sidewalk creatures to watch them sizzle. Now I have them sizzling on a platter of garlic and olive oil. Equipped with a pair of tongs and a two pronged fork I delve into the oily suckers, and with great struggle, retrieve my first beautiful slug. I follow the instructions given to me by the servers and dunk my new found friend into the mound of garlic; and with one brave motion I close my eyes I place him onto my virgin palate. And he is delicious. Surprisingly similar to the texture of clams or mussels the snail is tender and juicy. The garlic and oil infused escargot makes my mouth water, and instantly I am ready to pluck my next victim. Paired with fresh baked bread and a glass of good Champagne I am transported to a French state of euphoria.
This wonderful #foodiefirst was experienced at none other than my favorite childhood restaurant, Mistral. Located in Sherman Oaks on Ventura Boulevard, Mistral has been around since 1988, and is the only bistro in the valley that serves French with such impressive amounts of elegance and service that keeps patrons coming back for years. The dining room is intimately romantic, with dimmed lights and fabulously dressed tables that make any diner feel like they have been transported to a traditional restaurant in the heart of Paris, without any of that traditional snobby French attitude. Upon arrival the Greeter welcomes you with a big warm smile, and shows you to your own stunning table. Polite waiters offer you a fine linen napkin in either black or white, depending on your outfit of the evening. For your first course, you simply must choose none other than the Escargots a La Bourguignonne, however the French Onion Soup is also simply divine. For my main I opt for the special; a beautifully prepared Panko Crusted New Zealand John Dory, with Champagne Vinegar Sauce Asparagus, Zucchini, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, and Cauliflower. The fish is perfectly cooked, and the vegetable medley complements the sauce beautifully. The sweet corn is especially delicious, adding a sweet, comforting flavor to the dish that I had not experienced with fish before. I also sample the Lobster Ravioli and Venison Stroganoff, both cooked to perfection and are none other than religious experiences. Both the lobster and venison were perfectly tender, and beautifully crafted with freshly made pasta.
Being an experienced Mistral diner, I order the house specialty, the Chocolate Soufflé for dessert. Don’t forget to order this while ordering your meal, as each soufflé is baked with love and care, and requires at least twenty minutes to reach optimum delectability. As soon as the soufflé is placed on the table my mind is transported to my childhood, where for only the most special occasions my mother would bring me here for this very special treat. I crack open the fluffy masterpiece with my spoon and watch as the steam, and aroma escape into the air, filling my nostrils with pure delight. Immediately I take a heaping spoonful of the freshly whipped cream and place it into the center of the soufflé, allowing the dish to reach its finest potential. I mix the contents ever so gracefully to allow the chocolate to heat the cream, creating the perfect symbiotic relationship. I enjoy my first bite and am filled with the same glee that I had experienced so many years ago. This is the perfect way to end the perfect meal.
Enjoy Mistral for your next birthday, romantic evening, or holiday dinner. Allow your senses to be affected by each dish, as this meal is a complete dining experience, and must be appreciated fully. Remember to not be afraid of trying new things, and acknowledge that a meal can be as much an experience for your stomach as it can be for your soul.