Here at The Infatuation, we spend our days scouring the city in search of places you need to know about. Under freeways, behind convenience stores, inside the fingertip of a warlock on a 405 on-ramp - we leave no stone unturned. But every now and then, we find a great place that was right in front of us the entire time.
Papilles is a small bistro on the corner of Franklin and Argyle in Hollywood. It’s been open since 2011, but through a likely blood wager with a restaurant god, it has remained a relative secret. Aside from the health department’s “A” grade hanging in the window, there’s no indication this strip mall spot even serves food. Restaurants hidden in strip malls are not news in this city, but what is extraordinary about Papilles is its relaxed space and affordable prix fixe menu that goes toe-to-toe with the best French restaurants in town.
The menu changes almost weekly, but you should go in ready to eat a lot of classic bistro food. Papilles’ magic doesn’t come from biochemical extracts or a Cali-med twist on the steak frites - it comes from simple, high-quality ingredients that make a duck l’orange with a side of bok choy taste like something they invented last week.
You should also know that the prix fixe menu (which usually costs around $30) is meant to be treated as a baseline for your order, and there are several add-on options throughout the menu. Take advantage of them. Whether it’s fried oysters, a basket of perfectly-cooked fries, or an upgrade from hanger steak to ribeye, none of these additions will drive up your check so much that it hurts. You can ball out at Papilles and still feel responsible. And if three courses of buttery French food aren’t in the cards for you tonight, every dish can also be ordered a la carte.
Papilles might be a secret, but it shouldn’t be. You’ll sit in this neighborhood spot, watch people with really good haircuts go on dates or drink wine with their friends, and be pleasantly reminded that you don’t know sh*t. In this city, that can feel incredible.
Papilles’ menu changes frequently. Here are some highlights from our last visit.
These are add-ons to the original prix fixe price, but at $3.50 a piece, you should get a few. They’re massive, perfectly deep-fried ways to kick off your meal.
We’ve had better jamon iberico, but this is worth ordering just so you can eat the freshest melon you’ve ever tried.
You won’t realize how many badly-cooked French fries you’ve had until you eat the perfect ones at Papilles.
You’ll be tempted to order a salad or something off the first course section, but don’t. These are patties made from pigs feet, and they’ll be far more memorable.
We haven’t had a memorable duck a l’orange since our cruise with aunt Lisa to Bermuda in the ’90s, but Papilles officially broke the curse. The duck itself is perfectly cooked and not too sweet, and the bok choy has the exact right amount of crunch.
This is not the dish you’ll be thinking about on the way home, but it’s still a great way to wrap up the meal.