In a city where so much of our great food exists inside strip malls, swap meets, and order-at-the-counter cafes with fun wallpaper, fine dining can be a tough sell. Sure, everybody loves getting dressed up and pretending they have more money than they actually do, but at the end of the day, we all want to be assured there’ll be some moment during a meal where the price of admission is validated. At Bon Temps, you won’t have to wait long to find yours.
From the very first bite-size canapé to whatever epic dessert your table decides on, a meal at this fancy French restaurant in the Arts District is one continuous stream of “ah-ha!” moments - an experience that’s not just validating, but exciting as hell.
Unlike most high-end restaurants in the A.D., Bon Temps is not some giant, glittering warehouse that spans a full city block. In fact, if you don’t turn your head to look down the slim alleyway that houses its outdoor patio, you might miss it altogether. But what the space lacks in industrial artifice and exposed-concrete epicness, it makes up for in sheer comfort. If you do end up sitting on the patio (a move we strongly endorse), the atmosphere feels much closer to that of a neighborhood cafe than a French restaurant with an $80 chicken dish on the menu. But don’t worry, the laid-back environment isn’t the “ah-ha!” moment we’re talking about. That happens the second the food hits the table.
In the grand scheme of Bon Temps’ menu, the tiny canapé section at the top feels insignificant, but starting your meal here isn’t a suggestion - it’s mandatory. Watching the faces of people at your table bite into the tomato tartare for the first time, or experience the creamy saltiness of the uni caviar tartelette, is half the fun. It’s also a relief, because it’s at this moment everyone realizes they’re in for the kind of meal they’ll be telling their friends about.
From there, we like to pick a few things from each section and watch as plate after plate hits the table looking like professional works of art, but tasting like home-cooked meals. Whether it’s an incredibly unique Dungeness crab cake prepared with crispy pain de mie and mustard beurre blanc, steak tartare with caper dijonnaise, or a Parisienne gnocchi so perfectly sweet and buttery we once blacked out and involuntarily shook our server’s hand, Bon Temps’ food is rich and decadent in ways many upscale restaurants wouldn’t dare attempt. We love the lamb ribeye, which comes out a perfect medium-rare and is served with spicy summer squash that could be its own appetizer. The St. Honoré (puff pastry topped with chocolate, piped cream, and candied pecans) is one of the best desserts we’ve had in a long time, and arrives looking like something you’d find on the second floor of The Broad.
The “ah-ha!” moments aren’t just limited to big meals, either. While dinner will probably always be the main event, Bon Temps also serves breakfast, and their savory pastries and porchetta-topped breakfast sandwich are absolutely worth a trip across the city during morning rush hour. It’s never too early in the day for a little validation, after all.
One of the best bite-sized canapés on Bon Temps’ menu, and a required introduction to every dinner here. It’s a straightforward dish - finely chopped tomato encased in pastry - but as it explodes in your mouth and visions of summertime flash through your mind, you’ll quickly realize there’s nothing simple about it.
This is the other canapé that we always order, and though its sticker price is a tad shocking ($24 for two), these tartelettes are worth the splurge. They feel like shooters, and the saltiness of the caviar and creaminess of the uni balance each other out perfectly.
We usually get a mixed half-dozen of Washington State and Massachusetts oysters, reigniting the East Coast/West Coast turf war in the process. Spoiler: Everyone wins.
This is the most unique crab cake we’ve ever eaten in a restaurant and also one of our favorites. The cake itself is plump and firm, almost like it’s been put into a sausage casing, and it’s topped with avocado, frisée, and a razor-thin slice of crispy pain de mie.
It took us a few trips before ordering this, but now we never come here without it hitting the table. The gnocchi itself is soft (but not-too-soft), and the mix of sweet corn and mimolette cheese sauce on top has caused us a few sleepless nights recently.
If there’s a dish you can skip at Bon Temps, it’s this one. The octopus itself is cooked well (no easy feat), but compared to other dishes here, the flavor comes across a bit ordinary.
We frankly would recommend every dessert on Bon Temps’ menu, but if we had to choose our favorite, it’s this one. Puff pastry topped with chocolate sauce, piped cream, and candied walnuts (among other things) - it’s quite substantial, and will take at least three adults to finish. That’s a challenge we will always accept.
Available only in the mornings, they’re some of the best in Los Angeles, hands down. We tend to go for the more savory varieties, like the egg-and-spinach Toad In A Hole or an everything croissant with pastrami inside. That said, you can’t go wrong with any of them.