The butter at Bicyclette, a French bistro by the people behind Republique, is no ordinary butter. Shaped like a bright yellow mountain, it’s full of craggy and jagged bits, as if sculpted out of the side of Mount Everest.
When this very special butter hits the table at this Beverlywood restaurant, something happens to us. The world of bumper-to-bumper traffic, Zoom calls, and ignoring third-tier friends fades into the background. We find ourselves in some sort of dream state: our sweaters transform into 18th-century garb, everything’s lit by candlelight, and we’re no longer on the verge of tears after our latest tweet only got two likes.
Simply put, a meal at Bicyclette feels like a welcome escape - not only from the hellscape of daily life, but also from the other French options around LA that generally fall into two buckets: very casual or very fancy. A dinner at Bicyclette is nice enough to feel like a luxury, but won’t force you to take out a loan. There aren’t any $200 duck presses or soggy crepes - just hearty, properly made bistro food that will run you about $100 per person.
The focus here is on French home-style cooking, a.k.a. simple, heavy foods that taste like they’ve been injected with butter by Julia Child herself. Escargots are drowned in garlic sauce then baked into flaky puff pastry (which our server instructed us to delicately cut into before flipping upside down in order to maximize its buttery juices). Beef short ribs arrive tenderly on the bone, sitting upright in a pool of gravy so rich and dark, it resembles a chocolate river. Then, there’s this hypnotic caramelized onion tart that, when dropped at the table, may cause someone to murmur “is that a portal?” even before they taste the soft, sweet onions.
The atmosphere at this subterranean spot is cozy (for those using walking aids, there’s a handy wheelchair lift next to the descending staircase). Mosaic tiles run along the floor, European art posters line the teal walls, and the lights are dim. Large and small tables mix together like a giant game of Jenga, filled with families taking photos with the flash on and 60-year-olds watching the crowd in amusement.
Meals hover around the two-hour mark, so you’ll want to be across the table from someone you actually like talking to. The service is immaculate (we once had a ten-minute conversation with our food runner about the imported ham they use). And for the $100 price point, Bicyclette offers a special, comforting experience, ideal for graduation dinners on your family’s dime or catch-ups with a longtime friend.
Or, if you’ve just watched Julie & Julia and had a disturbingly realistic daydream about Meryl Streep slathering you in butter, Bicyclette works pretty damn well for that too.
Bicyclette’s cocktails aren’t just listed - they come bound in a literal zine. In addition to apéritifs, spirits, and non-alcoholic libations, there are also kitschy illustrations we wish we could turn into wallpaper.
But wait! There’s more! In addition to magical mounds of butter, you can also order a baguette with a side of vintage sardines. Slick, oily filets are covered in a wreath of chopped olives, capers, and tiny tomato pieces. Smear this on a chunk of bread and, in the words of Doja Cat, “Go To Town.”
This raw fish dish is a bit out of place on the menu, but adds a lot of freshness to an otherwise heavy meal. Plus, it comes showered in crispy, golden potato chips.
A cross between romaine and butter lettuce, this bed of leafy greens is delicious and crunchy. There’s no wilting here, despite a thick dousing of fine herb dressing on the top.
Served in white-hot ceramic shot glasses, the escargot at Bicyclette is a full-blown spectacle. Soft snails wait to be eaten while bathing in garlic, butter, and parsley, and flaky puff pastry sits on top. This is how our server instructed us to eat it: cut into the top gently, then flip the cup upside down. Let the juices soak through the crust, then pop it all into your mouth at once.
It’s almost impossible - and ill-advised - for a party of two to finish this entire onion tart, but you need to order it. Onion halves, sliced as thinly as paper, come fanned over a butter-soaked puff pastry. Each bite is wonderfully sweet, thanks to the caramelization, and despite being called a “tart,” this thing weighs as much as a newborn baby.
This is the one miss on the menu for us. Great broth (full of flavor! Very rich!), but where is the cheese? We need more cheese.
Thick, juicy cutlets rest peacefully on a bed of baby beets, barley, and bright-red cherries. The semi-sweet sauce cuts through the fatty flavors of the duck quite nicely. It’s a solid dish, either to enjoy solo or share with the table.
Is this a still life painting? Or just our favorite entree at Bicyclette? Gravy pools at the bottom, thick and dark, like chocolate sauce. There’s a dollop of potato mousseline, which is essentially the best mashed potatoes in the world, run through a ricer and flavored with that dreamy butter. The short ribs, glazed from head-to-toe, glisten and catch the light the way an apple might in a Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin painting. It’s filling, soul-nurturing, and is the dish we want after a long day/week/month/past eight years.
There’s no formal dessert menu at Bicyclette yet, but there’s usually something sweet on the specials board. On our latest trip, we had an excellent cream-filled tarte de jour topped with seasonal nectarines that proved to us stone fruit season is, indeed, the best season.