Tastes of LA: Bicyclettela & Birdiegsla

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As the weather here teases us with the prospect of Fall approaching, my thoughts turn to comfort foods. In my dreams, Grandma ladles out a hearty, thyme-scented braise, while Mom pulls creamy au gratin potatoes from the oven. In fact, cocktail hors d’oeuvres were as close as my grandmother got to a kitchen and Swanson’s Salisbury steak was the only gravied meat in my childhood. So, how did I become so enamored of stews and pot roast and Osso buco and cassoulet and bouillabaisse? Bistros, that’s how!

Bistro fare is the ideal intersection between warm and fuzzy home cooking and gourmet chefery. What is beef stew at home is made elegant in the hands of a chef like Walter Manzke and becomes a deeply flavorful, utterly satisfying boeuf bourguignon. Leg of lamb is transformed into Lamb a la Saless, intensified by fenugreek, beet molasses, dill and saffron at Jeremy Fox’ direction.

While they are stylistically quite different, both Bicyclette and Birdie G’s evoke the same sense of comfort through their food.

Of the two, Manzke’s Bicyclette is the more traditional bistro setting and menu. The aforementioned boeuf is a standout. Even the baguette and fancy-pants butter to start are sensational. But what knocked it out of the park was the carmelized onion tart tatin. Every buttery bite made Foodie Friend # 2 and me rock back in our chairs in reverence for the artistry involved. Sugary browned onions are stunningly arrayed on the ethereal and gracefully chewy puff pastry for the comfortingest of comfort foods. Bicyclette is bistro royalty in my book.

Birdie G’s skews more to the comforts of Eastern European food, surprisingly fused with good ol’ southern cooking Their baguette is an artisanal matzo, their Caesar salad is enhanced by fried oysters, and sausage-derived ‘nduja spices up the vinaigrette. My out-of-town Foodie Friends and I loved the lamb, the earthy rice-battered mushrooms and the blistered Jimmy Nardello peppers doused in that piquant vinaigrette. The intriguingly-named Southern kugel and Pickle Chick will have to wait for our next visit, and with Birdie G’s welcoming, casually festive vibe and whimsical take on some classic comfort dishes, that visit won’t have to wait long.

Logistical tips:

#1: If you are as disenchanted as I with the decibel level of restaurants these days, I recommend an early start to your Bicyclette meal.

#2 Don’t imagine you’ll be parking anywhere but Valet at Birdie G’s.


  • Molly Cheek

    Molly Cheek is a retired actor and Epicurean School graduate. She is best known for her roles in “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and the “American Pie” franchise, (she baked the pie!). For her second act, she turned to her real love: Eating!!! Molly created a catering and home-cooked gourmet gift basket business, placing her baked goods in coffee joints and on craft service tables around Los Angeles. And even though she’s moved on from that endeavor, she still loves to eat. She starts dreaming of lunch as soon as breakfast is done. Cooking is fun, but eating out is her happy place. And she loves to talk about what she eats…..and what you eat and what people on TV eat…. So, she hopes her enthusiasm for food will ignite some tastebuds and inspire you Tomatoes to try something new.

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