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JiRaffe is a pleasant space in a bright corner of Santa Monica, all neo-Palladian windows, white tablecloths, and the kind of minimal Gallic décor you see in the restored farmhouses they feature in Elle Decor. Raphael Lunetta's food tends to be elegant, almost ladylike, with the sort of seasonality you might expect from a serious restaurant located a few hundred yards from the best farmers market in Southern California, and careful, restrained presentations. JiRaffe is a real California bistro, the kind of casual yet slightly formal place the Ivy only pretends to be, and with much better food. In restaurants as in architecture, sometimes less is more.
Fantastic for dates or a special occasion, I eat here on my birthday every year. Chef/owner Rafael Lunetta has French roots and SoCal surfer soul, and it shows in both his cooking and the atmosphere. If he's there, he works the room, so take the opportunity to get to know him. The menu changes frequently to take advantage of seasonal farmers' market ingredients, but some delicious staples are the shrimp salad with white beans, wild mushroom salad, striped bass (on a yummy pea puree with cherry tomatoes and a truffle infused sherry vinaigrette) and the bone-in rib eye with a twice-baked potato. Be sure to save room for dessert - between the tarte tatin, Meyer lemon souffle and chocolate truffle cake, they are not to be missed!
From the airy charm of its decor to the warmth of its wait staff to affable chef/owner Raphael Lunetta's gift for serving up unique and fabulous dishes that won't ravage your bank account, this gourmet haven rates its many awards. My family and I choose JiRaffe for our most special occasions -- -- it's always a yummy and fun experience!
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