The Canyon Bistro at Ten

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Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the Canyon Bistro has become the place to go to enjoy good friends, good food and smooth jazz.

On a Friday evening in the heart of our ever-evolving Topanga, Larry Cohn’s Canyon Bistro is packed. The center table in the cozy dining room hosts a Topanga woman and her party, including a happy child. In a corner, a young couple sits side-by-side laughing, while a multi-generational group of patrons have just been seated. Music plays, wine sparkles in glasses, attentive servers are on the job.

The sophisticated ambience is balanced with a neighborhood feel, as friends wave to each other across the room, asking after their children and bemoaning the shared inconvenience of road closure. Topanga’s community heartbeat is alive and pumping life into an eclectic, local social scene.  

How smart of Cohn, a jazz pianist who comes from a professional and highly successful musical background, to open a restaurant where he can provide the two things he loves most: music and food.  

Tonight, as on most Friday nights, a jazz band sets up on the small stage in the intimate space. The soulful, uplifting sounds of the Bob Leatherbarrow Trio with Sam Riney on sax, Reggie Hamilton on bass and Leatherbarrow on vibes, is reminiscent of some little club in New York but here it is in our own backyard. Cohn, himself, displays his own abilities performing every other Friday, often with singer Leslie Smith.

“Jazz always makes the food taste better,” mused my companion.

Previously, he was co-owner of Mimosa and familiar with Topanga and its dining needs. He left that gig and opened the Bistro in 2007, fulfilling what he saw as a need for a comfortable, friendly yet high-end place. It grew and evolved into a favorite lunch spot for our firefighters, as well as a destination to those living farther far afield. This year he celebrates the restaurant’s tenth year.

Thanks, perhaps, to the early influence of Cohn senior, the Bistro menu is an ambitious wonder in the scope of its offerings.  

“My dad was in the food business as well and a good cook. He taught me how to make proper eggs,” Cohn says. “The Bistro came about from my love of food and experience in France when I worked for Michael Jonasz, a famous singer in 1988,”. “I got to dine in great restaurants and hang out with famous chefs and nobody does it better than the French.”

As the restaurant grew, so did the space. He enlarged the patio and expanded into the adjacent space to create the dining room and enlarge the kitchen to efficiently produce and serve the California/French cuisine.

A selection of locally grown produce and some meats is important to Cohn. “We pride ourselves on sourcing our proteins and produce as close to home as possible. Most of our greens are local and organic. While most of our meats come from large steer farms in Omaha, Colorado and Texas, our burgers are from grass-fed beef in Paso Robles.”         

Cohn and his talented chef, Ezequiel Quintero, formally from Terra restaurant in Malibu, have succeeded in their culinary efforts.

The starter plate of large Tiger Shrimp tacos ($14) accented with Srirracha aioli and complimented by a crunchy coleslaw, was enough for a couple to share.

Short Rib Sliders ($12) made of slowly braised Angus ribs were garnished with horseradish sour cream and pickled onions in a Hawaiian bun.  

Bistro’s “Flight of the Evening” ($16) presented wine pairings to compliment the meal. One was a big, bold La Storia 2014 Zinfandel from Sonoma County, followed by a Madrigal Family Petite Syrah from Napa Valley that was full bodied with a hint of blueberry and chocolate (no wonder I slurped it down), and finally a rich and ripe Malbec, Mendoza, from Argentina.  

Cohn works with a variety of wineries and offers these alluring wine specials at attractive prices. One guest, sipping the Loire Valley Patient Cottat, Sancerre, observed, “It’s like a bouquet of flowers in a glass.”

Then the main course arrived.  We were served, Idaho Trout over Angel Hair Pasta ($24).  Just looking at the dish was mouthwatering. The grilled white fish cooked beautifully, was light and tender, and the angel hair pasta topped with a delicate, savory Sorrel sauce, was the perfect shade of my favorite green.  

“We make a great burger but our salads, salmon and Jidori chicken seem to be our most popular,” Cohn says. “I’m grateful to have so many repeat happy diners.  The challenge is always labor and consistency in delivering the dishes correctly every time. Our motto at the Bistro is, ‘Don’t rush the quality’.”

Other intriguing menu choices are the properly French-influenced, Petit Filet Mignon with Sauce au Poivre, PEI Mussels with Saffron and Dijon, and the vegetarian choices of Risotto Provencal and fresh Vegetable Lasagna topped with tomato and a Béchamel sauce. There are so many creative options offered it’s a tempting thought to visit the Bistro frequently, work one’s way through the menu, and then just start all over again.

If room remains for dessert—unfortunately not for us this time—Key Lime Pie, Berry Cobbler, Lava Cake and a Flourless White Cake will satisfy the most insistent sweet tooth, room for it or not.

While Cohn’s vision brought the creative combination of culinary and musical achievements to his patrons, he credits the people of Topanga: “I love the locals, they are earthy, friendly, honest and very supportive. I also am grateful to the owners of Pine Tree Circle, Steve and Leslie Carlson.  Without our outdoor patio I don’t think we could make it.”

One contented diner, Cheyenne Ellis, who lives in Topanga, says, “I love it here. This place has the most local, familiar family feeling. The jazz, the wine, the wonderful food makes me feel at home.  I come here at least once a week.”

That says it all.  If only I’d had room for the pie.



On February 14, the Bistro is offering a five-course Valentine’s Day prix fixe dinner with two seatings, one at 5 p.m. ($65) and a second at 7:30 p.m. ($75), served with a complimentary glass of champagne. Randy Strom plays jazz standards on the beautiful Warr guitar from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Reservations required.

The Canyon Bistro and Wine Bar is located at 120 N. Topanga Canyon. Blvd. Topanga, CA 90290, It is open for Lunch, Dinner and Sunday Brunch.  Contact:; (310) 455-7800 for music information, events and hours.


Kathie Gibboney

It has been said that Kathie Gibboney invented the Unicorn, which she neither admits nor denies, as it might reveal her true age. Kathie is an essayist, reporter, and poet for MMN with her column, "My Corner of The Canyon." She lives happily in a now-empty nest in Topanga, CA with The Beleaguered Husband and a marmalade cat.

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