A Modern Twist on Old School French Fare

Loulay
600 Union Street
Seattle, WA 98101

2015-09-20 21.14.11

2015-09-19 19.06.27It was the final day of the 2015 International Food Bloggers’ Conference in Seattle, and I was tired and hungry. I had a chance to sample some of Chef Thierry Rautureau’s dishes the night before at the Culinary Tasting and Expo and they were all delicious. Luckily, this made my dilemma on where to eat on my final night in Seattle easy, since the restaurant is attached to the Sheraton hotel downtown. Chef Thierry Rautureau, or the “Chef in the Hat” as he’s known among the Seattle food scene, focuses Loulay on recipes and dishes from his French upbringing with a modern twist, and local, seasonal ingredients.2015-09-20 21.39.14

2015-09-20 21.25.19Before my started came to the table, the chef sent out an amuse bouche, which is a fancy French term to refer to a pre-appetizer. It usually consists of a single bite, and is meant to wake up the palette before the meal really begins. That night, the chef prepared an olive and jalapeño tapenade with harissa aioli on a crispy French bread crouton. Within that single bite, there was tanginess from the briny olive, bite from the spicy jalapeno, crunch from the crouton, as well as a warm heat from the harissa, and a textural contrast between the creamy aioli and course tapenade. It definitely woke up my tastebuds!

2015-09-20 21.30.172015-09-20 21.30.24The Smoked Pork Cheeks ($19) exemplified nose to tail cooking at some of its finest. While some may consider cheek to be a throwaway item, it can be some of the most succulent meat if cooked correctly and given a little love. The meat definitely had a certain level of smokiness, and was so tender without losing all of its chew—think of a perfectly cooked short rib. The sauce was super delicious and resembled a pork demiglace flavored with sweet onion and wine. The bread basket came in handy to sop up extra broth. The charred cauliflower side was not mushy at all and, in fact, had a subtle crust that contrasted nicely with the soft meat. The dish was garnished with some shaved scallion and watermelon radish that provided much needed color and a fresh, crunch factor to the heavy starter.

2015-09-20 21.41.262015-09-20 21.41.38Up next was one of the Chef in the Hat favorites, Seared Fois Gras ($21). The fois gras was perfectly browned and caramelized on the outside, while maintaining its fatty rareness inside. It was sinfully decadent, and served atop chewy, eggy brioche, and in a small bowl of a sweet apricot puree with pine nuts for texture, and a spiced honey glaze that played nicely with the crust on the fois gras.

2015-09-20 21.56.40The dishes at Loulay are somewhat small—as is the norm with many French restaurants—so I definitely had room for dessert. Thank god, since French cuisine has some of the best desserts on the planet! I had been considering the Caramelized Pineapple Turnover, but went with the advice of my server and tried the Portuguese Beignets ($10). While beignets are mainly known in the United States as a New Orleans delicacy of fried dough covered with powdered sugar, and eaten hot, they are actually a variation of a traditional French dish of deep-fried choux pastry. Choux pastry is the base for many well-known French desserts such as profiteroles, croquembouches, éclairs or cream puffs. These beignets were so light and airy that I could have eaten a whole box of them. They were lightly sweetened and sitting on a velvety creme anglaise flavored with vanilla. To complement the hot pastry was a funky blue cheese ice cream. The ice cream was a wonderful yoyo of sweet and salty bites, and made me think of a gorgonzola dolce flavor profile. Pears that were soft and sweet in contrast to the ice cream were lightly caramelized and helped cut through the richness of the dish.

2015-09-20 21.58.24To help wash down the beignets, was another chef in the hat favorite of the Chef’s Hot Chocolate ($5). Inspired by a recipe from his grandparents, the hot chocolate was unique in that it was not very sweet, but had a very forward cocoa flavor. Alongside the drink came brioche sticks to act as dippers and salty butter. The ideal bite was to smear some butter on the toasted brioche, dip in the hot chocolate, and eat. The hot chocolate not only was absorbed by the soft bread, but also melted the butter and it changed the whole texture of the dessert as they came together. The saltiness of the butter also tied in well with the blue cheese ice cream.

Overall, the food and atmosphere at Loulay were top notch and delicious! It was a great way to wind down a supremely foodie weekend. What was also very cool was being able to pay my bill through the new feature on OpenTable that allows you to pay for your meal through the app. How convenient is that?

Advertisements

Restaurant Review: Le Bistro d’à Côté

Le Bistro d’à Côté
1590 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10028

FullSizeRender 11Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, so it is almost required that you have some sort of meal with mom. Some years we get together with cousins for a big BBQ, sometimes we have family over, etc. This year we wanted to something a little more low key, so settled on a nice brunch with just the four of us — me, mom, dad and my brother, Dan.

FullSizeRender 5Dad ordered the Soupe a l’Oignon ($11), or French Onion soup. The broth was very rich and aromatic with a great onion flavor. It wasn’t too sweet, and still had a solid alcohol flavor, which probably came from red wine. It might’ve been cognac though. The swiss cheese gratin crust was thick and delicious, with the classic, nutty flavor that comes from using Gruyere cheese. Plus, the cheese passed the all-important stretch test. The croutons in the soup were soft and soaked up a good amount of the flavorful broth.

FullSizeRender 8FullSizeRender 2While dad opted for the soup, mom, Dan and I split the Le Croustillant De Chèvre Chaud ($15) appetizer, which featured warm goat cheese and spinach wrapped in phyllo over mixed greens. The greens were dressed lightly, and the dried cranberries popped with flavor. They were a little sour, having absorbed some of the vinaigrette, which was a nice burst of acidity to cut through the richness of the dish. The goat cheese itself was so creamy and the phyllo paper delicately thin. The sliced baguette bread that came to the table was hot and crisp on the outside, but perfectly fluffy in the middle. I loved the crunch as I bit into the baguette—it was great for scooping up some of the goat cheese.

FullSizeRender 6Mom ordered the Oeufs Nordique ($15), a delicious, bistro version of smoked salmon Benedict, served with roasted potatoes and mixed greens. The smoked salmon was chewy, slightly salty, meaty and surprisingly creamy. The eggs were perfectly cooked, and the english muffin was soft and absorbed the yolk well. The hollandaise over the top of the Benedict was textbook in its richness, but was also wonderfully light.

FullSizeRender 10The Oeufs Florentine ($13), or eggs florentine, was also tasty. The spinach was still nice and crisp underneath the eggs, and the diner staple of feta cheese wasn’t missed. Again, the eggs were beautifully cooked, and tasted great with a sprinkle of salt. The salmon Benedict didn’t need any salt because of the inherent saltiness of the smoked salmon. My only critique was that the potatoes were not very hot when the dish came to the table.

FullSizeRender 9I opted for a Croque Madame ($13.50), which is simply a French spin on a ham and cheese sandwich, covered with a Béchamel white sauce and broiled. The difference between a Croque Madame and a Croque Monsieur is that the Madame has a fried egg on top as well. I ordered mine with no ham, and was slightly worried that it would be dry, but my worries were unfounded. The dish wasn’t wet and also not dry, but rather got softer and somewhat creamy as I went inward. The egg on top was (again) cooked well with perfectly runny yolk. The fries were crisp and hot, and tasted great with some Dijon mustard—very French. The greens were dressed with some simple oil and were a great vehicle for a sprinkle of the sea salt on the table.

FullSizeRenderThe final dish of the meal was the Risotto aux Champignons des Bois ($19), or wild mushroom risotto. The risotto was in a word: delectable. The rice was cooked al dente and wasn’t too creamy, but very hearty. The dish was very earthy, and had a wonderful deep flavor from the mushrooms, as well as the black truffle oil. It was garnished with small strips of shaved parmesan over the top. The risotto was actually perfect for brunch since it had at the appearance of a bowl of oatmeal.

FullSizeRender 4The restaurant presents itself in a simple, French bistro style with exposed brick, redone hardwood floors, and a narrow but still spacious dining room on one side and a bar on the other. There was relaxing jazz music playing—they actually have live jazz on Sunday nights. Large wine cabinets in the bar and restaurant areas were prevalent, with a simple table setup in the dining room.

FullSizeRender 3I usually avoid talking about any major negatives, but I have to point out that the restaurant’s website indicated that Sunday brunch came with a mimosa, Bloody Mary, juice or coffee if a brunch item was ordered. When we asked about this, the waitress said at first that it was only for their “hangover brunch,” which was a choice between two specific items only (2 eggs any style or a ham and cheese croissant). When she finally came back when plates were cleared away, we asked again and were told that it was for their brunch, but not on holidays. In actuality there was no special Mother’s Day menu. To me, that was false representation and slightly marred the experience.

FullSizeRender 7

Overall, the service wasn’t very enthusiastic, mostly from the waitress, however the food and prices were very good. It reminded me very much of a cafe or bistro in Paris. Solid place to get some traditional bistro fare, and hopefully a glass of wine next time. Ah oui!