A meal at this classic French restaurant elicits three gasps.

The first comes when the menu arrives and you get your first sight of the prices.

The second is when the first taste of Chef Dave Beran's absolutely divine food hits the tongue.

And the third gasp happens when the bill arrives and you realize that you don't mind—because were lulled into a devil-may-care state by the opulence of the meal. You forgot your vow to skip that extra glass of wine, and you forgot to decline the perfectly executed chocolate soufflé (it takes a while, so if you're in the market—and I recommend all chocolate lovers are—order it at the start of your meal).

Chicken liver mousse in brioche at Pasjoli in Santa Monica, CA

Because of the shocking prices—mitigated a hair by the fact that gratuities are included—I had to deduct one star.

But still, Pasjoli may be the best place in Santa Monica to celebrate a special occasion.

Not only do the wait staff have a talent for making every guest feel like a VIP, but the presentation of the food also comes with a lot of old fashioned flourishes, making this feel more like dinner-and-a-show. That's especially the case with the pressed duck, which is flattened in an antique, torture chamber-like device on a cart. As the juices run out of the duck, the waiter transforms them into a luscious sauce. Other dishes, like the deeply comforting braised short ribs, get their sauces at the table, usually with the server pouring the stream from a dramatic distance above the plate without splattering. And even when plates are simply set on the table without that drama, as is the case with the chicken liver mousse encased in brioche (see above), the tastes are so outrageously rich that you feel like one lucky diner.

My only quibble? The cocktails aren't up to the standard of the rest of the menu. Order a bottle of wine instead—and enjoy!