Butter is one of the great inventions in our planet's history — below alcohol and irrigation, but above soap, candles, and gunpowder. It's also below milking and animal husbandry, but for obvious reasons. The French are the most public advocates of the stuff, and also do some of the best work with it. Salted butter, at the appropriate temperature, spread onto a French baguette or breakfast radish, is as pure a gastronomic pleasure as you can have. But the croissant is something else, a pastry highlighting the butter itself, turning it into a soft delight, wrapped in a crackling exterior, held together by the will of God and/or the technique of a first-rate pastry chef.

Bite Bar & Bakery in Santa Monica opened quietly in March of this year, in the former Violet space. There was minimal fanfare for chef Elizabeth Goel's restaurant, until Chowhound exploded with rapturous praise for the shop's croissants. They are indeed better than most you'll come across in the city, smallish things with a great deal of crunch and flake to them. The insides are soft, with remarkable stretch and pull, like the honey in an old Winnie the Pooh cartoon. Altogether, the spacious, sleepy restaurant makes for a nice addition to your breakfast rotation.

Anisette Brasserie's croissant; Credit: N. Galuten

Anisette Brasserie's croissant; Credit: N. Galuten

Anisette is a bit cruel with their croissant au beurre, offering it only during weekend brunch. But if you do manage to beat your way past the 3rd Street Promenade traffic and sit down at the scaled-up version of a French brasserie, you will not be disappointed by the pastries of chef Noubar Yessayan. There are no tricks here, nothing overly crunchy or elastic — it is simply as close to a perfect croissant as you can get without leaving Los Angeles. But the key may well lie in the butter, transported from Normandy, its rich, creamy flavor coming to the forefront, treating the rest of the pastry as its vessel. We last had it along with a cup of coffee and the frisee aux lardons — and we couldn't have been more pleased.

Bite Bar & Bakery: 3221 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, (424) 744-8658‎., Anisette Brasserie: 225 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, (310) 395-3200.

LA Weekly