Joe’s makes you feel at home

We’re so lucky in Santa Monica to have a number of extraordinary chefs trained in France by the greatest of the great. Michael McCarty has been around the longest I guess, and has maintained a top quality restaurant for years. Josiah Citrin at Melisse has raised the reputation of his restaurant so that it is now among the best in the country. Alain Giraud is opening a new restaurant in Pacific Palisades. And Joe Miller, while having operated a bit lower on the radar, is right up there with the best — and has been for 20 years.I recently learned that Joe trained with one of my favorite chefs in France, Michel Guérard — the creator of “cuisine minceur,” a reduced-fat fad a few years ago that started at Guérard’s famous spa “Eugenie Les Bain” where we’ve spent some wonderful weekends with the family (in the Southwest of France, near the Basque country). We always got a kick out of the fact that while the spa visitors started out with the “spa menu” they soon switched to the traditional cuisine prepared by chef Guérard.

Joe’s restaurant looks like a small house, with comfortable small rooms with high ceilings, which makes the air fresh and reduces the noise I so dislike in so many restaurants. The placement of the bar near the front entrance is unfortunate, creating a traffic jam during busy periods, but the advantage is that you often meet people sitting at the bar, by necessity, while waiting for a table.

The menu, although small, features well chosen selections which frequently change. There seems to be two different groups frequenting the restaurant, a young crowd having a really good time, and an older group of regulars seriously focused on the food.

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I hadn’t realized until the last few times I ate at Joe’s how superb his kitchen is. At a few recent lunches I had a pheasant pate appetizer, a white bean soup, and Albacore ceviche, all of which were delicious. Among a number of main courses, I particularly loved the grilled Fijian Escolar in citrus vinaigrette. I couldn’t resist a few bites of dessert, and I was blown away by the coffee crunch ice cream and the salted caramel panna cotta.On another occasion we had a rich, buttery butternut squash soup — as good

Check it out great reviews.

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