After having brunch at Bottega Louie, my friend Marian and I went to look inside Coco Laurent across the street. They were going to open the next day and didn’t even have menus or business cards yet, but the indoor/outdoor space was beautiful and the host said they had imported a chef from France, so of course we made plans to come back once they opened.

After giving them a week to let the dust settle a bit, I ventured in for lunch today since my favorite French restaurant downtown, Church & State, had already stopped lunch service by 2:30pm. Coco Laurent serves all day, so it seemed to be perfect timing. The complimentary filtered water had lemon in it, and as with any good French restaurant, they offered a decent sourdough with excellent butter.

It was a cold (for Los Angeles) afternoon, so I started with the Soupe de Poissons, a fish bisque soup with tomatoes, saffron, aromatic vegetables, croutons, and sour cream for $9. The saffron tomato base made this a nicely rich soup, and the flavor of fish was present without being overwhelming. I would have liked it to have been more aromatic and complex, but I think this was conceived to be more middle of the road for those who might not appreciate stronger flavors. Tant pis for me, but I’m sure most would like this soup (I did like it, but I just didn’t love it).

My wonderful server Justin, as well as the manager Pascale, stopped by to see how I liked the soup. I appreciated the attention to customers from the staff very much. The busboy even picked up a button that fell off my raincoat for me and set it on the table! The wine list is quite varied and reasonably priced with a glass of St. Emilion for $15 or a Malbec for $9, for drinkers of white, they have a a nice Chardonnay from Sonoma Cutrer for $10.

I couldn’t wait to try my steak tartare, made with extra lean Angus ground beef, cocktail sauce, onions, capers, cornichons, capers, chopped parsley and topped with a quail egg, served with smoked rosemary waffle potato chips for $14. Like the Soupe de Poissons, I found this good, but not great.

The quality of the beef was wonderful, but the flavor was a bit bland. I loved the rosemary waffle potato chips and although they were fragile, topping them with the beef tartare added a nice texture and seasoning to the beef. I mixed in the micro cilantro greens, but I found that they detracted a bit from the tartare, so I would recommend not incorporating them into the beef.

The desserts looked lovely, but with aggressive Los Angeles parking enforcement, I risked being towed if I lingered. Coco Laurent would be worth another visit, perhaps after a few more weeks as the kitchen and executive chef improves to equal the service in the front of the house. If the wait at Bottega Louie is over 30 minutes, which it often is, this place will surely get some of the overflow, but they won’t keep it unless they add more flavor to their French menu.

Coco Laurent on Urbanspoon