Tapenade’s chef Jean-Michel Diot considers his bistro his home, where he welcomes guests to dine every day on Gallic specialties with a touch of Provence. “You open your door and patrons trust you to give them a good experience around the table,” Diot said. “It’s really a magical job.”
Diot has been making French culinary magic on Fay Avenue in La Jolla since 1998. He said he gained decades of cooking experience working at Michelin-rated restaurants throughout regional France before moving to New York City, where he opened three successful restaurants. But after Diot and his wife, Sylvie, had two children, they decided to slow their pace by moving to family-friendly La Jolla and opening Tapenade.
Fresh, organic, high-quality ingredients are key essentials for every Tapenade dish. Diot said he plans the daily menu specials based on the season and what is available from his market suppliers. But many of Tapenade’s signature dishes, like the popular wild mushroom raviolis, are always available. Summer menu favorites include potato and spinach gnocchi and scallops; and artichoke and eggplant lasagna with zucchini blossoms and orange sauce.
The fish du jour also changes by the season with fresh halibut and sea bass leading the summer choices. Summer fresh-fruit dessert specialties include Framboise Melba (raspberries with vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce and whipped cream) and Clafoutis aux abricots (warm apricots with ice cream and almonds).
“Our bistro menu offers plates of small bites, like our seasoned lamb sliders with ratatouille, gruyere cheese, mint aioli and French fries,” said Sylvie Diot. “A party of two or three people can come together in a casual way to share a few small bite plates, like our Moule Marinieres (steamed clams in white wine with shallot, garlic and parsley).
Tapenade is known for its signature plats du jour items, including Veal Osso Bucco, Rabbit Moutarde, Fish Bouillabaisse, Magret de Canard, Steak Tartare and other French delicacies.
For Chef Diot, cooking is all about passion and loving his customers. “To be a good chef you have to look at something and imagine how it will look on the plate,” he explained. “And to be a successful chef and restaurant owner, you have to love people.”
Tapenade’s recent dining room renovation presents a modern, elegant decor with Parisian flair that provides an ideal setting for special events, including corporate and family functions.
Tapenade Bistro & Catering
7612 Fay Ave., La Jolla
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday
Dinner: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday