Dominique’s Kitchen in Redondo Beach is far enough away from the water to put their money into their food instead of their rent, and with their very low corkage fee of $10, locals are flocking to this place like seagulls. There is a tiny lot, but plentiful street parking, and the dining area is warm and inviting. Make reservations if you want a seat because even on a weekday night, it is fully booked.

Some of my friends have known me since I was too young to drink (in the US) and as we have grown up, our tastes have evolved, as well as our skills in the kitchen. Finding a place we all like wouldn’t be difficult if we had unlimited resources, but part of the fun of eating out is finding a hidden restaurant gem that doesn’t cost as much as a car payment. Six of us ate all of the dishes below for about $40 per person including tax and tip (we brought our own wine). At prices like this, do not expect perfection; some of the flavors were muted or mangled, and the plating left a lot to be desired, but there was definitely value and some well executed dishes.

An amuse bouche of kale with cannellini beans and Parmesan started off the evening. Fresh flavors using local and classic ingredients, but with an overwhelming ratio of cheese to the kale and beans.

The generous serving of house made chicken liver paté was delicately seasoned and served with a nice handful of mache in a light vinaigrette, toasted baguette, and crunchy cornichons.

My favorite appetizer was the lamb sausage over a bed of organic quinoa. It was well executed with a nice blend of textures and a savory accent.

The garlic perfume from the escargots was enticing, but it needed a touch of coarse sea salt and I was disappointed by the lack of actual garlic pieces in the garlic butter.

The salmon special was the best main course I tasted. The skin was perfectly crisp, the fish was moist and the flavor of the relish added zest to the fish without detracting from it.

The filet of sole was a close runner up to the salmon, with a beautiful buerre blanc and an enormous serving!

Several people ordered side Caesar salads and although they were freshly made, they were not noteworthy, but for only $2 with an entrée it was a very good value.

The braised short rib was the best of the meat dishes. There was depth and complexity in the flavors of this dish, and the beef was tender from the long slow braise in Pinot Noir.

I ordered the lamb chops and the meat was tender, but I was underwhelmed by the garlic and thyme au jus which tasted of neither and lacked seasoning. I did not eat any of the polenta that came with this dish because it tasted like it was made with MARGARINE! The restaurant contacted me to say they do not use margarine, so if it was butter it was awful. For a place which uses local and fresh ingredients in other dishes, I was very disappointed by this incredible faux pas.

Grilled steak with fries is the classic French bistro dish, and they offer the classic version, as well as a ribeye with green peppercorn sauce. The night we went there was also a skirt steak on special with sweet potato fries. The meat was done to order (very rare) and if you like a rich sauce on your meat, this would fit the bill.

The chocolate mouse was a good choice for people who like their chocolate flavors light (since it was only $4.99, do not expect it to be made with Valrhona).

Since I rarely see it on a menu, I ordered the floating island. The crunch of sliced toasted almonds added nice texture to the fluffy meringue and light Creme Anglaise.

My favorite dessert of the night was the panna cotta with berry compote. The fresh berries added color and tang to the smooth base, providing a good ending to a great night with old friends.

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