18 years. Some say that's when a child becomes a man or woman, but I think we all know that it could still be another decade (or two) until an adolescent truly grows up. I'm not sure why the inverse is true in the restaurant industry. When a restaurant gets more than a few years old, or after people have eaten there a few, or even one time, it's on to the next. People like to try the latest and greatest restaurant du jour, and yes, I'm guilty of that as well, but there's a few restaurants I'm always happy to know are still there. Jiraffe is, or shall I say was, one of them.
Jiraffe was always a solid recommendation I could give to someone looking for a nice restaurant on the westside. Jiraffe is closing in February after 18 years in business. The owner Raphael Lunetta decided it was time to call it quits. He started the restaurant with Melisse chef Josiah Citrin back in 1996. Citrin left in '99 to start one of my favorite restaurants in town, and Lunetta kept JiRaffe himself.
The good news is that while Jiraffe is closing its doors after Valentine's Day, it will quickly reopen again in March with a new concept under Lunetta. More details to come. In the interim, I needed one last Jiraffe meal before the end, and decided to try their Monday Taste of JiRaffe, which I had always meant to get to, but then there are those new restaurants.
For $46 you get a 3 course menu that includes choices for each course, so you're never stuck with something that might not be to your taste. They also have reasonably priced carafes of wine for $16 with a red and white option.
The mushroom salad has been a workhouse on the menu for years so I was happy to see it on the Monday menu. Normally I find baby frisee distracting and unwieldy, but the weight and heat of the sautéed mushrooms wilts it just enough to make the leaves more pliable and the acid from the vinaigrette brings a nice pop the dish. There's a chance I may need one more of those salads before February.
The other starter option the week I went, and it does change frequently, was a pan-roasted wild shrimp. The 3 shrimp were not shrimp at all. They were quite large and served on a bed of white bean hummus and julienned zucchini. Sweet, savory and delicious.
Entrees included a healthy, but less interesting loup de mer with a saffron rice cake, while pork osso buco appealed to the heartier eater with fall off the bone meat and a creamy polenta with apple chutney and Makers Mark apple reduction.
I went with the lamb bolognese. The handmade pappardelle pasta was folded between the slightly sweet bolognese and pistachios scattered on top. Each bite was balanced and satisfying, like a good home cooked meal.
Dessert was a delicious warm chocolate hazelnut torte with vanilla ice cream - a fitting end to the farewell meal.
Was the meal ground-breaking? It wasn't, but it was solid. Classic. And while it can be sad to say goodbye to the classics, it's also exciting to see where the classics can evolve. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next iteration and evolution of Jiraffe.
502 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA