Anytime I see a restaurant open that has anything to do with French cooking, I'm there. Having lived in Paris for nearly two years, I'm always yearning for some more French cuisine at Los Angeles restaurants. Do they ever compare to eating in Paris? Mais non, but I love to see the different interpretations.
The interior of Cadet looks a lot like some of the LA hot spot that have been opening lately like Scopa and Chestnut Club. There's exposed brick on one wall and a massive glass wall facing the street. Even if it has been done, it's still a cool, nice vibe, but unfortunately it's also just as loud as these other places.
I don't think they, or the many other restaurants who share the same noise level, care about the sound. They think it adds to the energy of the place. Was there a lot of energy at Cadet the night I went? Absolutely. It wasn't even a month old and every seat was filled with the young and the beautiful, who likely don't know any other way to eat. If they want quiet, they eat at home.
Luckily we were by the window so we didn't have full-on surround-sound noise. While perusing the wine list, a waiter (not the one serving us) whirled past us and dropped us this tidbit, "the French margarita is where it's at." The cocktail list is interestingly arranged with 6 main headers like Martini, Negroni and Margarita and then 3 styles of drinks listed under each: Classic, French and Cadet. The French take on a Margarita included Mezcal, yellow chartreuse, yellow peppers and firewater bitters. I can definitely say I hadn't seen that drink in Paris, but I was game to try and it was fabulous - smoky, spicy and with just a touch of sweetness. Not sure I would call this French, seeing as the French don't like anything spicy, but I will call it fantastic and indeed where it's at, and yes, there have also been attempts to recreate, though no one does it like Gaby, the mixologist at Cadet. She was even so kind to share the recipe, which you can find on her very cool blog.
A selection of tartines are on the menu, as they are in many Los Angeles restaurants now. Can't say it's a big thing in Paris, but this is a French-Californian restaurants, and this was definitely a California menu item. We picked a recommended smoked mussel toast with a really well balanced roasted pepper and caper relish. Unique and delicious.
There's a large wood-fired grill in the kitchen and on display to the restaurant and we took advantage of it with an ember roasted black cod that was so perfectly done. It was light, but spiced with a delicate butter, garlic, chive sauce, topped with a collection of sautéed shimeji mushrooms. I woke up thinking about that dish, and the French Margarita.
A wood grilled shrimp, octopus and monkfish medley was spiked with a spring onion, marjoram vinaigrette. It was also solid, but not quite as memorable as the cod.
With every main comes an odd collection of small dishes that are scattered on your table, or rather stacked and balanced because there's not room for all of them. One plate simply has lettuce on it. Another, carrot salad. There's pickles, salt, aioli, stewed tomatoes, mustard seeds and crepe like pancakes. I don't think it worked except to clutter the table. The entrees were so strong on their own, they didn't need doctoring or burrito rolling. I guess you could say they're nice extras for the money, but I'd say put that money into a little sound proofing.
The apple crumble with walnut ice cream was fine. Not memorable, but fine.
I like a lot of what Cadet is doing. They have some unique drinks and great flavors in the dishes. The noise, names and tiny sides are all a bit annoying, but I can overlook it due to the strength of all the other ingredients.
2518 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA