B ernard, Bernard, Bernard. You are back. How nice. Well, Chez Dupont is the last place I expected to find you . . . but perhaps not. You always did want your own place.
So, Bernard Boivin--whom we first met years ago when he was a waiter at Ma Maison, then at Silvio's as maitre d' and shortly afterward at La Pasteria as directeur de restaurant, as he preferred to be called--is now owner/operator of Chez Dupont. The restaurant is named after a French cartoon character whom Boivin sharply resembles (except for Dupont's mustache) in looks and behavior.
Boivin has the kind of mobile face that alerts the funny bone; he has body movements that remind you of Jacques Tati and the kind of voice that transports you to a Parisian market where wrists are slapped for squeezing the tomatoes.
He was always a good front guy, keeping customers amused while they waited, waited and waited to be served or seated. But now that he has his own place you'll see his toque bobbing through the open kitchen, where he cooks his heart out now that he's had enough of temperamental, not to mention expensive, chefs. He stops only for a second to shout "Allo , monsieur" or "Bonjour , madame" in his familiar guttural pitch, or to suddenly plant a kiss on both cheeks.
Actually it was a pleasure to dine at Dupont. Before Boivin took over the location, it had housed a depressed French-Mex restaurant then a pretentious Parisian cafe. The pretentious predecessor's artifacts remain, adding elegance to Boivin's less affected make-over. There is great Ricci silver, napkin rings, and charming lithographs that look as if they had been hanging in a French country inn. There is Villeroy china that looks like Limoges but isn't, and a cleanliness in the air that outdoes some of the top-drawer restaurants in town.
The food is Boivin's. Nothing complicated. Nothing fancy. Nothing you would dream about. But certainly nothing you wouldn't want to eat at home, if you were lucky enough to know how to make it.
The touch is Boivin's too. I love the idea of a complimentary bowl of marinated Greek olives, which arrives at the table before the waiter does. And I like the idea of Boivin serving Beaujolais chilled, they way they do in France.
The Brie fritters served with jam are brilliant. Yes, you might dream about those. So are the moules marinier , steamed mussels piled on a plate. Boivin also does a mixed hors d'oeuvre plate of fried Brie and smoked salmon brochettes; this appetizer also makes a tasty quick meal.
The salads are French bistro salads. One of them is the traditional heart of palm salad plastered with homemade mayonnaise. Another is a very good chopped house salad.
Boivin also does a group of pastas based on his experience at Silvio's and Pasteria. There is a simple angel-hair pasta with tomatoes; butterfly pasta with smoked salmon and seafood, plus a pasta of the day. (I don't order pasta at French restaurants, but I'll have to say that Boivin's isn't bad at all.)
If you have anything at Chez Dupont, have the mashed potatoes. Merveilleux. They are served with the entrees, including grilled chicken with rosemary, which is Boivin's made-up version of chicken Dijon with a squeeze of tomatoes added to the mustard cream. I found the addition of tomato a bit off balance, but others may not.
There is veal scaloppine simply sauteed, and a steak tartare and steak (filet mignon) au poivre done traditionally. The fries are superb. The carpaccio is typically Tuscan dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, but I consider it more of an appetizer than an entree.
Seafood dishes usually depend on seasonal availability. When we were there, Boivin featured salmon, mahi mahi and swordfish, which were either marinated in olive oil, rosemary and bay leaves, and grilled, or served in a beurre blanc with chives.
It's not exactly food you'd wait hours to taste, but it is good, clean and wholesome and certainly worth a try. You get not only good food at reasonable prices but good atmosphere (perfect for romance) and a friendly welcome, which is more than one can hope for these days.
Chez Dupont, 8638 West 3rd St., Los Angeles; (213) 274-1893. Open Monday to Friday for lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner from 6 to 11 p.m. Open Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m. Closed Sunday. Visa, Mastercard and American Express accepted. Reservations suggested. Valet parking available. Appetizers average $7; salads, $5; pasta, $8.50; and entrees, $13. Wine and beer available.