The Mona Lisa of my Taste Buds

It is truly unfortunate when you are exposed to the best at an early age.  Your standards are set so high that many restaurants just do not satisfy you like the best can.  I will say this now so it is clear and where my heart lies and what this blog is all about.  Until proven otherwise, my favorite restaurant of all time is CHINOIS on Main in Santa Monica, California.  This is my father’s favorite restaurant and he has gone at least 3 times a month for over the last 15 years. I don’t remember when my first dining experience was but once I visited, I pretty much knew that I had found a jackpot.  My parents have very different eating habits so most of my fine dining experiences stem from my time spent with my dad.  Here is what I consider the criteria to make a restaurant experience amazing called the Seven Mac Score:

1) Parking/Accessibility- Scale from 1-10: (Parking options and cost, easy to locate & get to.) 

2) Customer Service- Scale from 1-20: (From the host, the wait staff, bartenders, manager, owner, etc.) 

3) Cleanliness- Scale from 1-10: (Will I leave smelling like the restaurant and need a shower after? How quickly are plates being cleared?  Are the plates, cups, silverware clean?) 

4) Food Presentation- Scale from 1-10:(Portion size. Was the food just thrown on there or was put together to be appealing to both the eyes and the taste buds?) 

5) Price Value- Scale from 1-10: (Initial price range. Were the prices worth the food presented? Do I feel scammed?)  

6) Taste of Food- Scale from 1-30: (You know where I am going here but this holds the most weight.)

7) Overall Experience  (Would I return based on my overall experience?)

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way….

Chinois is the absolute best for me because above everything else, the food is absolutely outstanding and the food presentation is incredible.  It is a French-Chinese fusion family-style restaurant, considering that Chinois is Chinese in French, located at 2709 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405.  The moment you pull up in the valet parking area and are greeted by the valet people, you feel special.  The $7.00 valet parking cost is pretty reasonable considering the area and lack of parking available. The restaurant is a decent size with an open kitchen so you can hear and see the food being prepared.  However, this can be a little noisy for some interested in a more intimate setting. I promise the food will make up for it!  There is also a bar that overlooks the kitchen so that you can watch the mass production by the chefs and how they put it all together.  I have celebrated many accomplishments and family birthdays there.  Having grown up there, when I visit the restaurant with either with family, friends, or alone, it feels like a homecoming and everyone from the host, owner, chef, and wait staff welcome me and I feel right at home.

The minute you walk into the restaurant you feel welcomed.  The Los Angeles area can be quite pretentious and give off a member’s only vibe but the hosts are just so welcoming. You can be greeted by the host Michael or the owner Ms. Bella Lantsman who both do a wonderful job and take you to your seat.  In all the years I have visited, the wait, bar, cooking staff have been accommodating and friendly. They do a wonderful job keeping the tables clear and keeping your glass full.  Some of the dishes can be a little difficult to serve yourself and they are happy to serve them for you. It is quite the experience. Whenever the Executive Chef Rene Mata is there, when he is not doing a catering job, I always take time to greet him and thank him for such a wonderful meal. My dream is that he will cater my wedding whenever the time comes.

 There are some incredible dishes being cooked there such as the Shanghai Lobster (Marketprice), shown below.  The dish is a whole lobster that is cut in half and pan fried and then then baked in a curry sauce served with white rice and fried spinach.  I have never ever tasted anything like it. In addition to that, there is a Soft Shell Crab dish (below)  that is fried with an amazing cilantro and honey dipping sauce and served with fried spinach that is a seasonal treat served mostly in the late spring to about the early fall.  Also, the Rock Shrimp and Calamari salad that is just divine served in a tostada shell with a sweet dressing and their signature Chinois Chicken salad is a classic that is just as amazing.  But I would be remised if I did not mention the Black Cod served in a banana leaf that is cooked to perfection served with a miso sauce on the side.  And then there are the short ribs, shown below, that are simply tender, flavorful, and delicious. It is served with a potato puree, snow peas, soy ginger glaze, a truffle oil drizzle, and two spoons. Meaning, you don’t need a knife, you press the spoon into the rib and it pulls apart. This is usually a special and not included on the menu.  I often call in advance to make sure it is available for dinner. I just have to have it! It is incredible!!!

The desserts there are just amazing.  Typically they come in an assortment of different items to include three crème brûlée options of traditional, chocolate, and coffee favored; a warm soft chocolate cake served with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle that is my all-time favorite, a macadamia nut tart, raspberry sorbet, and fresh berries.  The tray may include a few other treats depending on the evening. During their 30th anniversary celebration, they prepared a strawberry sorbet that was out of this world and if I had it my way, would be a staple menu item.  But either way, I’m always satisfied.

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Please note that this is a more pricier restaurant BUT because it is family style, you are able to share dishes with one another and split the cost that way. Or not, it is all your preference. But this is a splurge rather than an everyday restaurant though it I could afford it and lived close enough, I would go everyday or at least once a week! One can dream.

The Seven Mac Score

Chinois on Main

Criteria Scale Score
Parking/Accessibility 1-10 10
Customer Service 1-20 20
Cleanliness 1-10 10
Food Presentation 1-10 10
Price Value 1-10 10
Taste of Food 1-30 30
Overall Experience 1-10 10
TOTAL: 100/100

Please look out for my next post as I review a new restaurant or share an old experience of another one of my favorites. Enjoy! And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!


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