Inside, the dining room (or rooms, as it were) of Pasjoli (pronounced “pah-joe-lee”) is bathed in a warm bistro light. The most electric glow comes just past the golden-hued bar, from an open square jewelbox of a window that peeks into a pristine white kitchen. There, chef Dave Beran looks over the work of the cooks at his side, including chef de cuisine Matthew Kim. He is forever calm. And then, with a quick shimmy, he’s gone from the spotlight and out next to a table turning a heavy metal duck press as diners record every spin.
This is, in many ways, exactly what Beran wanted when he first announced Pasjoli, an upscale but relaxed Santa Monica French bistro with semi-mirrored windows out front that give off a hint of exclusivity and wonder. The glow of the dining room is muted a bit from the outside, but there’s no denying that something inviting is going on behind the dark blue facade.
Beran’s menu leans into the charm and hides the complexity, offering that tableside pressed duck ($165 for two, request ahead) along with a slew of other timeless dishes like a quenelle of lightly-cooked scallop in a caviar beurre blanc. Endive salad, a tight stack of savory blue crab with cauliflower cream, and a rosy beef tartare layered over with thin radish slips and some California nasturtium make for elegant starters.
The main courses are, for a dining change, not really meant to be shared, but rather hovered over by one guest, enjoyed individually and in the moment as staff step tirelessly through the room. From the dining room looking into the fray, everyone seems to be happy, but stoic. Looking in from the street to the dining room, everyone seems to be discovering an engrossing new bite of something special.
The wine pours, the carts change places, and Beran may duck off to check in on Dialogue, the tasting menu restaurant he still oversees in Santa Monica as well. It’s going to be a split focus for Beran, at least for a while, but that’s not the case for diners at Pasjoli. They need only to enjoy the moment, nestled happily between a focused service staff attuned to their needs, and a busy sidewalk curious to taste a bit of the magic themselves. It’s a good place to be.
Pasjoli opened last Wednesday night, and is keeping hours from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with an extension to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night. Reservations are available now. The opening dinner menu is below.
Pasjoli. 2732 Main St., Santa Monica, CA.