I'm a sucker for packaging, even of the virtual sort - so after perusing the photos on Meet's website, I was eager to test drive the dishes in person. I also happened to have $25 worth of Dining Dough for the place, so with gift certificate in hand, my friend and I had our rendez vous at Meet for early dinner on a Sunday night.
Based on the look and feel of the website, I was expecting a small, intimate yet sophisticated bistro. What I saw when we arrived was 'cozy', alright - but at first I thought I had mistakenly gone to a pizzeria, or a mom & pop Italian eatery - with the restaurant's red and white checkered tablecloths and wooden chairs, and brick-focused decor. We decided to sit in the outdoor patio, the better for people watching and less claustrophobic, for a balmy summer night in California (though the tables on the patio are still fairly close to each other - so that you can hear conversations at the tables next to you). Brushing off first impressions of the decor, we were excited to see what savory treats the night would hold for us.
Having developed an addiction to beet salad after my recent euphoric experience at Magnolia, I decided to give Meet's Beets salad ($11.95) a try to see if it would give Magnolia's version a run for its money. The description was straightforward, and lead to an expectation of a simple yet elegant and clean dish - "frisée, candied walnuts, warm goat cheese with honey champagne vinaigrette". When the plate arrived, I must admit the presentation was not of the caliber advertised on the website - a tower of crudely stacked slabs of beets, two different colors, were topped by a pool of goat cheese (which congealed after sitting a few minutes untouched, since I was busy catching up with my friend).
For our entrees, we were both instantly captivated by the description of the Moulieres Meet ($18), mussels served in saffron broth with crab AND bacon. Sounds like heaven, right? This dish did not disappoint, arriving in a gigantic white ceramic bowl, with the mussels at just the right texture - soft, smooth and just slightly chewy, without any hard ridges - and a flavorful broth, with generous piles of crab and bacon that made it a very tasty and filling dish. We were actually too full after this to get dessert (though the trio of profiteroles was tempting!)
My only other complaint about Meet is the service - while the waiters were very nice and friendly, and seemed to mean well - I asked for an Arnold Palmer when we sat down, and had to remind the waiter three times before they brought the drink over, which arrived halfway through my entree. The place was small and definitely not at capacity, so it was a little disappointing that he simply forgot my drink order many times over.
All-in-all, not quite what I expected from a french bistro in the up and coming neighborhood of downtown Culver City - but not a bad deal for mussel lovers who want to explore variations on the classic Moulieres Marineres, and of course be sure to get your discount certificate from Restaurant.com first for an even better bargain!
Update Aug 2011: All-You-Can-Eat Moules Frites - Wednesdays for $23.95! All the delectable mussels you can eat in any or all of the different styles - now there are 12 (they added two). My favs are: Bisque (in lobster broth), Thai (curry broth that sounds questionable on the menu but is not spicy at all and incredibly flavorful), and Provencale - all of these are so delicious I could pick up the entire bowl to slurp the broth after the mussels are done. You wouldn't see my face at all for 10 minutes. One serving of fries per order.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5 bites
Presentation - 4.5 bites
Originality - 4 bites
Ambience - 3 stars
Service - 4 stars
Overall experience - 4.5 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 70%
9727 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
OpenTable: Look for reservations