Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Le Chef de Continental - South Gate

My friends and I tried yet again to have dinner at L.A. Bistro Cafe in Downey. The last time we tried to come here on a Friday night, around 7:30 pm, the restaurant was closed eventhough the hours posted on the window clearly said that 9:00 pm was their closing time. This time, I even called in for a reservation 8 hours before. No one answered the phone, but there was an answering machine which said to leave a message with the number of people in my party, what time they should be expecting us, and a phone number for them to contact us. I did this. Twice. I got no call back, and no confirmation. We should have given up then, but we decided to chance it. So we drove up through traffic from Irvine to Downey...and what did we discover when we arrived at 7:15 pm on Friday? CLOSED again! This time there was a note on the door, hand written by the chef, whose name is Fausto, that said "Sorry, will be back at 5:30 pm". The restaurant was dark. Not a soul was there. That was their last chance with us and we won't be trying again.

It was about a year ago that we had a very memorable meal there. When we arrived, the chef who greeted us informed us that the original owner Zaya Mirzaie had sold him the restaurant. The name had changed from "La Chef" to "L.A. Bistro Cafe". Chef Zaya Mirzaie, this new chef informed us, had moved to bigger quarters in South Gate. We stayed at "L.A. Bistro Cafe" and feasted on this new chef's French dishes and desserts for a reasonable price.

But now, here we were, starving in Downey, on a Friday night. Now what? What were we to do? Then it struck me. Why, in heaven's name, didn't we consider just going to South Gate and try Chef Mirzaie's new digs? So we bolted and found "Le Chef" at "El Paseo" complex in South Gate, about 10 minutes away. First of all, this El Paseo Entertainment and Dining complex looked very foreign to me. I felt like a stranger, in a strange, but wonderful land. It was like the Latino version of Irvine Spectrum. Aztec architecture, Mexican food and Latino people were everywhere. The atmosphere there was rowdy, raucous, the crowd was the same as you'd find on a Saturday morning at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet. As far as eateries, there was a Fatburger and your usual mall-type eateries, but the most prominent and largest building, second only to the Edwards Theater was El Gallo Giro. I've heard about El Gallo Giro in Santa Ana, which is the proverbial hole-in-the-wall, but this monolithic building we were gazing and craning our necks at was something else. "Focus," we said, "focus on what we're here for."

French cuisine was the order of the night, but we did find it odd that of all places, we would find fine French dining here, amidst all this. We finally found "Le Chef" tucked away in an assuming alleyway away from the hustle and bustle. Upon entering the restaurant, we found ourselves entering another world. White linen tables. Exquisite overhead lighting. Plush designer chairs. A well-stocked wine rack. A beautiful mural of French landmarks on one wall. A full bar where most of the customers were. I remarked that this is certainly a different space than his previous post in Downey, which literally could hold no more than 8 customers. It was 8:00 pm, but the restaurant area was deserted, except for two other parties. We immediately recognize Chef Mirzaie, a small man, running about in the kitchen along with his sous chefs, who were twice his size.

We ordered the "Manila Steamed Clams" ($9.95) as a starter. It came out on a plate swimming in a thin white sauce consisting of garlic, shallots and white wine. Delicious! We sipped each drop of that sauce with our spoons and sopped any remaining with bread.

The clam chowder soup they had that night was good, but nothing particularly spectacular.

For a main course we ordered the "Chef's Taste" ($17.95) which had a small cut of Filet Mignon, Chicken Marsala, Crispy Salmon with a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables (steamed broccoli, haricots verts and a sliver of red bell pepper). Each meat was served on a pool of its own delectable sauces.

We also ordered the "Seafood Lover's" ($17.95) which had Sauteed Jumbo Tiger Shrimp with Mushrooms flecked with caramelized garlic, Seared Halibut and Crispy Salmon. The sauce on this dish was a light and creamy, made with chardonnay, garlic and butter. The dish was also served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The veggies were crisp and not overcooked.

For dessert, we ordered the Chocolate Souffle ($5.95) (ordered at the start of our meal), which was light and decadently chocolaty, served with a ramekin of creme fraiche.

After we left, we thanked our lucky stars L.A. Bistro Cafe was closed, or else we wouldn't have rediscovered Chef Mirzaie's cooking and his new elegant restaurant.

Le Chef - French Cuisine & Cocktails
8724 Garfield Ave #101
South Gate, CA 90280
Phone: (562)776-6067

7 Comments:

At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Le Chef is a hidden gem in the SouthGate area. I always take my client there for a nice meal.

Good recommendation. Prices are amazing for the quality as well.

 
At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

In a city (and surrounding cities as well) where pretty much everything around you is fast food, Le Chef is heaven sent. Not only is every single item on the menu delicious but also affordable! I've never been anywhere where I can get such excellent quality at such a reasonable price. Since it is independently owned, not a chain, you get delicately made,delicious, quality ,food that you will never forget. Like the first commenter stated...it definitely is South Gate's little hidden treasure. By the Way for anyone interested...they have Lunch Specials now for what you would pay for a hamburger combo at your local fast food chain. I have made Le Chef Restaurant my recurring lunch and Dinner stop. Everyone should too..you honestly wont be disappointed!

 
At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

Oh and I thought I would put in the address to Le Chef's website for anyone interested in what they serve and pricing.

www.lechefrestaurant.com

 
At 5:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW. Le Chef is a wonderful place. I try to go there as much as i can. Love the samon. The soups are also wonderful. Zaya and his Arthur are both very creative and will talk your ear off if you let them. Always a plesure. One thing to remember, El Paseo is in South Gate, and a pretty bad part of the city. It is so bad that they have the police doing security for the place. South Gate PD is "old School" and they take care of business in that special way. Never had any problems there myself.

 
At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears that the restaurant is now closed, as of January 2008. I am saddened that I did not get to try it...

 
At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I usually go to Le Chef for special occasions such as birthdays and our wedding anniversary. However, when we stopped by this past April, I was in dismay when I saw that they were closed. Does anyone know if they went out of business or if they just relocated? Please let me know, that would be awesome.

 
At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chef Zaya closed Le Chef and is now Executive Chef for the Firestone Grill Restaurant located in Embassy Suites Hotel Downey. He is still offering great food as he always had in the past!

 

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