Reviews

HERE’S WHAT THE CRITICS HAVE SAID ABOUT RAPHAEL LUNETTA AND JIRAFFE…

“Chef –owner Raphael works ‘wonders in the Kitchen, ‘… crafting ‘marvelous dinners’ from ‘locally grown ingredients that change with the season’. … The ‘exceptional staff’ makes you feel ‘well taken care of’ and its ‘elegant, simple setting’ complements the experience.” ZAGAT Survey 2012

 

“A culinary superstar in this restaurant Mecca…Raphael Lunetta shares not only a passion for food but also a passion for surfing…’Surfing is very much like cooking in the kitchen’, Lunetta says. ‘When you own a restaurant, you’re always pushing yourself.’  He knows the best local spots as intimately as he knows the farmers market, where he shops weekly for the seasonal, locally grown ingredients”
Smart Meetings Magazine, January 2010

 

“This Santa Monica bistro from chef-owner Raphael Lunetta continues to surprise and delight with sensational seasonal French-New American creations …it remains one of LA’s finest, the kind of place that simply gets it; P.S. Monday’s prix fixe special is a steal.” ZAGAT, 2010

 

“Spending an evening at this charming California-French bistro doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money.  Each week, the Monday Bistro Night offers a new 3-course prix fixe menu for $38. Selections on a recent Monday included seared Fiji Albacore appetizer with a salad of braised endive, bok choy, Napa cabbage, red onion and a brown butter ponzu sauce…”
LA.com, December 2008

 

“Lunetta twisted the idea into one of his own by making the semi-formal JiRaffe a bit more relaxed.  Operationally, the limited menu forced the kitchen to be creative with new dishes while modifying others…”
Nation’s Restaurant News, June 16, 2008

 

“On Monday Nights, Chef Raphael Lunetta creates a three-course bistro menu for $35 in his Cal-French jewel box of a restaurant.”
Los Angeles Magazine, February 2008

 

“Surfer/Chef Raphael Lunetta dished up divine treats (roasted New Zealand baby lamb chops, potato-wrapped Ahi tuna, blueberry tarts).”
Angeleno Magazine, August 2007

 

“At JiRaffe, Lunetta focused on using local ingredients and creating traditional French food that is soft and velvety, comforting.” Sauces are almost a main course on their own.”
Reagan Wheeler, Santa Monica Daily Press, July 23, 2007

 

“JiRaffe is the perfect blend of American and European ideals, straddling the line between French bistro and American grille, between elegant destination dining and casual beach community hangout.  Whether we’re in the mood for a simple pan-roasted rib-eye or an incomparable almond crusted swordfish, the ever changing menu is always smart and interesting, bolstered by fantastic produce from the farmer’s market, plus always sincere service, and fine wines.”
Brad Johnson, Angeleno Magazine, August 2006

 

“Raphael Lunetta is no stranger to exotic ingredients. The owner and chef of JiRaffe routinely turns out dishes with the likes of barrel-aged Banyuls vinegar, purple Peruvian gnocchi and lotus root.
Randye Hoder, Los Angeles Times, May 7 2006

 

“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.”
Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential LA Restaurants/ LA Weekly, June 2005

 

“It’s the sophisticated comfort food and the elegance without attitude that have kept (JiRaffe) bustling.
Town & Country Magazine, February 2005

 

“The space has two levels, and on entering, one feels a kind of life.  That is what this restaurant does: it lifts the spirits as it awes the palate.”
California Homes Magazine, August 2004

 

“On Monday’s, JiRaffe in Santa Monica goes casual French with a three-course menu for about the price of a modest meal in a neighborhood bistro in Paris…It’s quite a deal.”
Los Angeles Times Magazine, June 20, 2004

 

“JiRaffe is one of the hottest restaurants in town, with a very different spin on surf and turf.  The chef/owner, Raphael Lunetta is a former surfer who still rides the waves most days.  In the belief that ‘most guys don’t realize good food can go with a hard training regimen,’ he goes for intense freshness and avoids weighty, cream-based sauces.”
Paul Gogarty, Sunday London Times, October 20, 2002

 

“Since Lunetta has been on his own, the 33 year-old chef has found his own style.  When Lunetta reins in his natural exuberance and pares dishes down to fewer ingredients, he can turn out California cuisine that expresses South California to a T. It’s been fun to watch JiRaffe grow up.  The chandeliers Lunetta added to perk up the décor aren’t what did it—it’s the confident cooking.”S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times Magazine, January 7, 2001

 

“Surfer-Chef catches the wave…JiRaffe offers California-French cooking from Santa Monica’s resident surfer-chef.  Chef-owner Raphael Lunetta has a particularity deft hand with foie gras, such as his pistachio-crusted slice cooked to the exact point when rare crosses over to medium.  He also makes a mean lobster ravioli cloaked in a gorgeous lobster sauce.”
Departures, October 2000

 

“The pro-surfer-turned-pro-chef spends as much time catching waves as he does making entrees.  And he’s incredible at both.  His maverick spirit prompted him to create his own version of California-French cuisine remarkable for its simplicity and clarity of flavors.  Like Raphael himself, JiRaffe is simple and understated.  It’s warm, unfussy ambiance keeps the spotlight on the extraordinary food.”Food & Wine, September 2000

 

“Mr. Lunetta’s cooking sings with freshness. The flavors are intense and seductive, making it very difficult not to overeat.”
Mark Bittman, New York Times, June 18, 2000

 

“If I’d closed my eyes I’d have know exactly where I was with the first forkful of gossamer gnocchi, paired with slow-roasted tomatoes and asparagus and a light, herby tomato emulsion.  A seared crisp-skinned whitefish with an aromatic “tagine sauce” redolent of cumin and coriander summed up everything I’ve always admired about this kitchen.”
Gourmet, January 2000

 

“JiRaffe … where they’ve proven themselves to be among California’s brightest young talents.  If they served only vegetables, I would eat here once a week, because they coax extraordinary flavor out of every green bean and red pepper.  But they also blend them with wonderful meat and seafood, like their roast rabbit with polenta gnocchi and oven-dried tomatoes and their coriander-dusted whitefish in a ginger emulsion.”
John Mariani, Esquire, March 1997