Thierry Perez, the restaurateur behind Fraiche (also in Culver City), opened his one-stop European shop, L’Epicerie Market, in December of 2010. I was recently invited to breakfast at L’Epicerie; it was a lovely escape, and I didn’t even need to bring my passport.
We started at the natural starting place of any proper breakfast: Coffee. My vanilla latte was ok: Delivered in a large, bistro-style mug, and decorated with a pleasing double-heart design, painted in frothy, milky strokes. The syrupy sweetness was marginally cut by the richness of strong coffee, but all-in-all it didn’t wow me. What did knock off my proverbial socks was L’Epicerie Market’s drip coffee. Obviously a source of great pride for the L’Epicerie people, they use a combination French press/drip system called a Timolino, and make every cup fresh. It’s gimmicky, but I’m a sucker for gadgets – and the coffee is good. After a diner chooses their grounds (roasted offsite, at City Bean Roasters), hot water is poured through the device, and magic is made. I tried both the Blue Bottle (medium-dark roast, low acidity) and the Guatemalan (medium roast, medium acidity) and enjoyed the nutty-sweet power of both. L’Epicerie also brews their organic teas in a Timolino, but I didn’t have an opportunity to give these a try.
What would a European bakery be, without a buffet of buttery pastries? L’Epicerie’s are solid. At the moment, they bake some of their pastries in-house, but order their croissants, pain et chocolat, scones, etc. from elsewhere. After a planned upcoming renovation, the kitchen (among other things), will increase in size; at that time, the rest of the baked things will be made on-site. For what it’s worth, the pastries are light, but not quite as flaky as my favorites.
Les omelets are an entirely different story. Light and springy, stuffed with fillings like smoked ham, field mushrooms, salmon or sausage. They’re served a la cart but potatoes, tomatoes or fresh fruit can be added for a nominal charge. Their crepes are fantastic; buckwheat for savory, classic for sweet. The eggs florentine is L’Epicerie’s take on the classic eggs benedict brunch staple, but substitutes a Filipino longaniza sausage instead of Canadian bacon, which – while an interesting update – was considerably too sweet for my taste.
On the other hand, L’Epicerie’s waffles are somewhere on the opposite end of the spectrum. Not savory, but definitely not the type of cloying sugar bomb one commonly finds at their average waffle joint. L’Epicerie Market’s waffles are made with a Belgian liège batter – made by dropping sugar pellets and chunks of butter into the mixture, which caramelize during cooking. The result is a yeasty, almost nutty-flavored waffle, with a crunchy outside and an almost creamy consistency in the middle.
But for all of their breakfasty goodness, L’Epicerie’s true attraction might be their happy hour. Served daily, from 4 – 7pm, they offer a limited menu of $3 (yes, the number between 2 and 4…) food and beverages. Items like Tortilla de Potatas, house-cured pickles, and marinated anchovies can be enjoyed with an assortment of wines and beers (Bitburger, Spaten, Fisher Amber). For $3 each. Those looking for heartier fare can scan the tapas menu – items such as marinated octopus and Ceviche de Corvine start at $5 per plate.
L’Epicerie is a tasty new adventure, right in downtown Culver City. They’re open seven days a week, from 7am to 9pm. No jetlag.