Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mrs. Oh and Le French Restaurant

A few months ago the old French restaurant in downtown Clearwater was sold and reopened by Chef Christopher Poix as L'Auberge des Artistes. For Tobey's birthday in October we took Frodo and Buttercup out for dinner since they couldn't make the family birthday celebration due to scheduling conflicts.

At that time - the restaurant had just opened and also at that time all four of us were not impressed in the least bit. I won't get in to what went wrong the last time but for a $300 meal for four - we expected a bit more and I stated so in a comment on a restaurant review in the local paper. Now while the comments are supposed to be anonymous - meaning no one can get my email address etc - I did use 'mrsohtobe' as my signature and I had earlier 'liked' L'Auberge's Facebook page. To make a long story short - I received an email from the restaurant manager saying Chef Poix invited us back and offered a gift certificate to cover the cost.

We had been planning to return for weeks but with the holidays and GrandTobey falling into worse health we just couldn't swing it despite being 5 minutes away. That all changed on Thursday.

Tobey and I arrived for our 5:30 reservation and were greeted by Michael who took care of our.every.need. The service was impeccable. And the food? See for yourself....

The meal started with an asparagus amuse bouche. The soup was to die for delicious. I asked Tobey if he thought it was bad form to lick the bowl. No. I didn't. But folks - it was that good. Creamy with a hint of asparagus and just a wonderful way to start the meal off.

Our next course arrived as soon as our bouche was finished. I ordered the Endive Salad that came with French Artisan cheese and walnuts. Yummy. Now I am not and have never been a fan of the balsamic vinegar. I actually avoid it like the black plague. Chef Poix has made a convert of me. The play of the vinegar against the vinaigrette dressing was so spot on that I will now embrace the balsamic vinegar!

Tobey's appetizer was the Escargot Provencal with basil garlic butter cream. And no - I didn't sample a bite. Snails? Eww! But Tobey loved it!! The cream sauce was heavenly (I did sample that) and Tobey couldn't get enough.

By now the sun had set and the low light in the restaurant played off the lights from downtown and it very romantique. The restaurant is dotted with chandeliers salvaged from Belleview Biltmore and the decor is charming coupled with some low playing chanteuse singing in the background.

The entrees arrived next. I ordered the Tournedos Rossini: a fois gras topped filet served with wild mushrooms in a veal reduction and haricot vert. I shared the fois gras with Tobey as I am not a huge liver fan - did you not read my family recipe for the Liver balls? The steak was fork tender and cooked perfectly. And the mushrooms? A superb blend which included Chanterelles and some others I recognized but for the life of me now I can't recall. Also. The veal reduction. OMG. It was perfection woodsy and meaty despite my anti-veal stance. I would definitely recommend and order the filet again.

Tobey was torn between ordering the puff pastry wrapped salmon, Saumon en Croute or the red snapper, Poissun Rouge Dore. Tobey took Michael's suggestion and ordered the snapper. The champagne cream reduction was yet another cream perfection. Light and full of flavor with a hint of what I thought was lemon and the snapper was cooked perfectly. Tobey didn't leave a smidge on his plate.

After dinner we were served a palate cleanser before dessert - Raspberry Confit. Fresh raspberries topped with raspberry sorbet and candied orange peel. Cool and crisp it was the perfect way to prepare for our desserts. Tobey liked the Confit so much he wished it was on the dessert menu in a larger portion!

And here is what I came back for. The chocolate souffle with cream anglaise. Heaven my friends. Heaven in a little ramekin. Where the chocolate could have been overpowering - it wasn't. It was light and a fluffy and.... heaven!

Tobey ordered the Tarte Tatin which I love to say. Tarte Tatin. Tarte Tatin. The carmelized apple was tender and juicy and the cinnamon sauce was the perfect compliment to the apple.

Tobey was a very happy camper and didn't he look handsome!

Michael was gracious enough to offer to take our picture and by the smiles on our faces you can tell what a lovely evening we had.

When we got home Frodo asked how our dinner at "La Pantalones de Fancy" went. Fancy pants. That kid slays me and we regaled him in every morsel. Yeah. I know he was jealous.

So all in all - I would give La Pantalones de Fancy two Mrs. Oh's thumbs up. Two big thumbs up. The only downfall I can see is the pricing. Our meal wound up being about $70 a person and this in downtown Clearwater where you can get the mufaletta sandwich for lunch at Cleveland St. Cafe for about $6 or a pizza from Tony's for around $13 (Hi, Claudia!) However. L'Auberge is fine dining and one should expect to pay more. Couple that with the food and I really don't think the price is out of line at all after all: you get what you pay for friends.

So go. What are you waiting for? As for me? We will go back. I can tell you that some of the dishes haunt me. The asparagus amuse - the filet - the souffle - friends this is what dreams are made of!



Tobey had snails in his escargot? The meal looks very yummy.

Mr. Sadie and I would be there in a heartbeat for a special occasion if we lived closer. So happy for you and Tobey that you both had fabulous meals. Will you be updating your restaurant review in the paper?

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