When I think of a 5-star culinary gem, I usually don’t think of a tiny strip mall by the freeway and a bill that’s under $200. This is what makes Papilles, my new favorite French restaurant, so endearing. Inspired by the bistronomique movement in Paris (uptown food meets downtown vibe), Papilles is one of the few places you can enjoy a rich gourmet meal and a fantastic bottle of wine for just under $60 a person—then stroll home in jeans and sneakers. (OK, I wore red Pour La Victoire pumps last time, but still.)
Helmed by owner/oenophile Santos Uy (Mignon) and chef Tim Carey (Patina), Papilles—which means “tastebuds” in French—is tucked at the base of the Hollywood Hills. Located between a pilates studio and a cozy Mexican restaurant, the restaurant inhabits what used to be a pizza place called Raffallo’s (you can still see the remnants of the old space). All that hints at its location is a small sign and a loose padlock on the door.
Inside, a compact, somewhat romantic dining room awaits, complete with candlelight, an open kitchen and a “wine library” (essentially a bunch of stacked bricks and wooden shelves that openly display a sticker-priced wine collection along with select European and domestic beers). The seasonal, market-fresh menu is simple and changes weekly, offering only a choice between two prix fixe 3-course dinners (appetizer, entree and dessert). Sometimes there is an optional additional appetizer, but always there is artisanal cheese.
Words of wisdom: If you’re lucky, you’ll be dining next to a celebrity—but he or she probably won’t want to be bothered. If you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, I recommend reading these handy FAQs before you go. Finally, while reservations are strongly encouraged, you can sometimes pop in and get a table before 7 p.m. without one. (Just make sure you take me with you!)
Papilles is located at 6221 Franklin Ave., at Argyle. Parking is free but limited. To make a reservation, call (323) 871-2026.