An egg salad sandwich is served open face, with organic greens, sliced tomatoes and Greek olives. Photos by Rani Sikolsky

When NilyYefet-Shalom came to the United States from Israel 28 years ago, she was a dancer with a degree in kinesiology, following her new husband to Los Angeles so he could study music. It took a while for her to get used to the idea that they might stay. She taught dance and P.E. and got a graduate degree. Three children and a community of friends later, Shalom began to warm up to Southern California.

Her lifelong interest in decorating led to work as an interior decorator, and she spent years stocking cafés like Susina Bakery & Café, The Little Door and Belwood Bakery with vintage kitchen wares — flowers, French linens and her own one-of-a-kind cake plates. And then, last year, she decided that her Sherman Oaks neighborhood needed a café of its own — and she would be the one to open it.

In January, Nésmon Café opened on Ventura Boulevard, not far from Coldwater Canyon Avenue.

“One thing you have to say about Israelis,” says the newbie restaurant owner, laughing, “is that we are brave.”

We are sitting at a sidewalk table, which doubles as her office, beneath the maroon awning of this bold venture. Before Shalom knew what was going to be on the café’s menu, she knew exactly what the place was going to look like. Pots of white baby’s breath and pink geraniums in an old-fashioned iron stand mark the division between the sidewalk and the outdoor seating area. Open French doors lead inside. Because spring, like all Southern California weather, can be unpredictable, there is a heater standing ready, and a canvas enclosure can be unfurled to surround the entire seating area. The café itself is small — only four tables inside and four lining the sidewalk.

At the entrance, a traditional chalkboard invites customers in to examine the glass display case filled with freshly baked goods, quiches and salads. There is a gleaming espresso machine behind the counter and two authentic French crepe machines where Nésmon’s cheerful cook, Gabby, ably swirls batter on the griddle. While waiting to order at the counter, customers can explore the café’s small boutique — several shelves displaying vintage kitchen items like the ones Shalom used to distribute, as well as gourmet ingredients used at Nésmon.

When Shalom told her father in Bat Yam, Israel, that she was opening a French café, his first question was: Why not falafel? What’s wrong with Israeli salad? Shalom has strong ties to her homeland, but when it comes to her passion for style, French was the only way to go.

A French baker delivers freshly made croissants each morning to be baked on site. Although Shalom was an accomplished home cook, she brought in a consultant from Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena to help edit her menu and give advice on large-scale preparation. The food is tasty, simple and fresh. There are two soups every day as well as homemade quiche. Baguette sandwiches include smoked salmon, egg salad, turkey and hummus, all served with organic mixed greens or chips.


A variety of tartines — open-faced sandwiches — come with nicoise, egg or mozzarella toppings. The terrific Tunisian sandwich is made with lemons Shalom preserves herself and just the right amount of spicy harissa. Her sweet, rich-tasting lentil soup is so popular, it never goes out of rotation.

And because this is not Paris or Tel Aviv but California, after all, there are hearty salads on the menu, such as beet, nicoise and Caesar, and Shalom’s rosemary chicken entree. All the desserts except the macaroons are house-made, including the delicious and decadent croissant bread pudding.

As we’re chatting, Shalom gets up to water the herbs in the planter by the door, refold linen napkins, help out in the kitchen. She warmly greets her growing clientele by name. She may have perfected the café’s look, the croissants and the crepes, but she’s not sitting back with a cafe au lait. She is always exploring different ways to make her little place unique. Early-morning visits to the local farmers market inspire a special menu every Wednesday. Awnings roll down to create a private indoor-outdoor space for parties. There is a kids’ corner with games, crayons and blank sheets of paper that little patrons have already learned to find and to put back. She even has a catering menu.

Shalom hasn’t spent much money advertising the café but, as she had hoped, her enthusiasm for quality coffee, delectable pastries and a charming European setting has caught on in the neighborhood. Although her ties to Israel will always be strong, especially now that her oldest son is there volunteering in the Israel Defense Forces, Shalom has finally found her place in the world: a quaint French café in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.

Nésmon Café. 13333 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 855-8818.

A Crepe for Every Palate

Twin black griddles behind Nésmon’s counter produce authentic French crepes, with a variety of simple fillings.


Savory: These delectable sandwich alternatives are drizzled with a little béchamel sauce and come with organic mixed greens on the side.

Crepe Mason has smoked salmon, crème fraîche and chives. $9.95

Crepe Verde is filled with two fresh eggs, mozzarella cheese and spinach. $8.95

Crepe a la Oeuf is made with eggs, mozzarella and tomato. $8.95

Veggie Crepe has grilled vegetables including roasted peppers, spinach, tomato and artichoke hearts. $8.95

Sweet: For dessert, the light, sweet pancake and decadent fillings are simple, perfect indulgences.

Parisienne Crepe is filled with sweet hazelnut-chocolate Nutella spread and banana slices. $5.95

Crepe Suzette is simply butter, sugar and a splash of orange liqueur. $6.50