Santa Monica--Hotel Le Merigot's Cezanne Restaurant lives up to its name with Provence Cuisine

.. By Joe Hilbers

With Le Merigot Beach Hotel a little bit of Southern France's Cote d'Azur has somehow found its way to Santa Monica. And the illusion is certainly heightened with its restaurant, Cezanne, which under a Master Chef Desi Szonntah, features a menu that mirrors the legendary cuisine of Provence. The luxury and elegance of Le Marigot is duplicated in its restaurant, Cezanne. With a smart contemporary decor and ambiance the restaurant offers a very superior dining experience. We were introduced to Chef Desi Szonntagh and his exciting new menu on a recent evening which will remain memorable. Our table of five had the opportunity to mix and taste a number of the Chef's creations. Starters at our table included a butternut squash soup with smoked shrimp, and crab cakes with corn relish and while alba mushrooms and the seared foie gras with Persimmon and cranberry glaze. Our selection was the shrimp and crab cakes which we were rather reluctant to share since they were the best we have enjoyed in some time. Before our entrees we had a chance to talk to our erudite chef who has a BA degree in English Literature from Philadelphia's La Salle College and is also an accomplished writer. His resume as a chef is most impressive and we noted his stint at the legendary Moulin de Mougins in Provence whose owner-chef, Roger Verege personally, one evening, convinced our group of travel writers exactly what a great restaurant is all about. Cezanne has very fine acoustics and all through the evening we were entertained with the piano stylings of Robert Carpenter whose repertoire included pop and Broadway tunes of several decades. The live music helped make the evening a truly special dining experience with an attentive, helpful staff ready to make suggestions or answer questions as to either the food or the many wines available from a well selected list of mostly California vintages with a sprinkling of French as well. The entrees at our table were a fair showing of the menu. I selected the grilled veal chop with roasted potatoes, baby beans, carrots and squash with a merlot glaze and enjoyed every bite. Other selections at our table included a Thai spiced swordfish with portobello mushroom and fennel mashed potato; roasted Colorado rack of lamb with a crispy polenta cake and a wine reduction sauce; seared diver scallops with hand rolled gnocchi, clam shell mushrooms and a spicy caper brown butter sauce. All at our table agreed that Chef Desi's sauces have that wonderful flair so typical of exceptional French cuisine. Our dessert was a chocolate souffle served with both cream and vanilla sauces. A most satisfying conclusion to a delightful dining experience. As the Le Merigot dining room Cezanne is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. The Hotel is located at 1740 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica with valet parking and validation for Cezanne patrons. Reservations at 1 888 539-7899.

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Last Update:1/1/03

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