My dear friend and cousin, Susan, came down from Loveland yesterday to have dinner with me. It was to be celebratory one, since I was supposed to have finished the latest battery of exams (not the last, though). I moved one of the exams to next Tuesday, however, so that I could take some time for personal things last weekend. (Auntie Ruthie is on the mend and doing very well, I hear.) So we had to celebrate the taking of the fifth exam, passing of four (so far), and just being together. Not too shabby, I'd say.
Susan is a serious francophile, so we went to Le Central, "the affordable French restaurant." It is affordable, but only relatively so. We got an hors devours to share, and each got two drinks, an entree, and a desert, all for $50 each (incl. tip). This is a good deal, even outside of the fact that it was one of the best meals I've ever had, and certainly the best I've had at Le Central. I not only loved my own food, but loved what I tasted of Susan's meal, as well. So, on to the descriptions. (I was assisted in this task by menus that Le Central posts on thier website. Very handy!)
We started with drinks. I had a Martini au Poire, which was "Crisp Grey Goose pear vodka, sweet crème de cassis and fresh lime juice with a slice of pear." Wow, was it good. It was a perfectly balanced drink, due, in large part, to the fineness of the vodka. I've had Absolute Pear vodka, and while it was tasty, there was still the sharp bite of alcohol behind it. The Grey Goose pear vodka was as smooth as silk and mellow as a summer night. Yum! Susan had Le Kir, which was "Chardonnay and black current liquor, garnished with a lemon twist." A very simple drink, and very refreshing. The Chardonnay was excellent and it would have been an easy mistake to think that economizing with the wine wouldn't be noticed because of the added flavor of the liquor. Bravo, Le Central.
Susan chose the hors devours. I had never had escargot before I met Susan, and this was only my second time having it, so I made her choose. She selected Escargots Bourguignon, which is "Six escargots sauteed with mushrooms, garlic, butter and parsley." Oh. My. God. It was so good. I know that's because of the mushrooms, garlic, and butter, but [shrug] what can I say? I'm easy. The escargot essentially borrows the flavors in which it is cooked (much like tofu does). In this case, the flavors were excellent. We made sure to sop up every last morsel of sauce with the french bread that was served with it. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
It was difficult to choose an entreè. There were so many tasty looking ones. Susan was tempted by thier Christmas Goose meal and I looked longingly at the Boeuf Bourguignon. I have fond memories of my mother's version and the only thing that kept me from ordering Le Central's was that a) it was something I could and probably would make myself and b) it would not be served, as my mother's was, on spaetzel. Ultimately, however, I chose something that sounded delicious and that I would not make myself. My entreè was Mahi Sauce Mole Durango, which was "Coco powder dusted filet of mahi mahi paired with a classic mole sauce of ground toasted nuts and seeds, bittersweet chocolate and fire roasted peppers." I have heard of mole sauce before, and possibly even had it before without knowing exactly what was in it. Of course, it was the chocolate ingredient that intrigued me. The sauce was excellent. It started out sweet (not chocolatey sweet) and then deepened into the mellow heat of the peppers. The peppers gave flavor without overpowering the sauce or the dish as a whole. I could barely taste the chocolate. It's not as recognizable when it's not flavored with sugar. I think it was the fats/oils of the chocolate brought the main value to the sauce, smoothness and a more substantial "body." I'm not positive, but I think we could credit the chocolate for the smoothing out the flavor of the peppers. This well balanced sauce paired excellently well with the fish. I had not been sure this would be the case. I ordered the fish done "medium," since I was concerned about the fish being overdone. (I've gotten way too used to the deliciousness of seared tuna.) The fish was done perfectly well, flakey and not dry. I tasted the fish by itself and it was nice, but paired with the mole sauce, it was excellent. I really enjoyed the dish. (It was served with some rice and green beans and a cooked tomato and a three inch portion of corn on the cob. They were ok, but not remarkable.)
Susan's entreè was the most expensive on the menu, but for good reason. Not only did it have some pricey ingredients, it was DE-licious. She chose Tournedos Rossini, which was "Seared beef filet served on top of a brioche toast with seared foie gras enhanced with a succulent Madeira wine and black truffle demi glace." Now my mouth is watering again. She ordered it medium rare and I got to taste a slice of the beef with an attendant slice of the foie gras. I was transported to food heaven for the minute it took me to eat it. The flavor of the two pieces of meat together paired excellently well, on top of the fact that they were very good quality. The caramelization of the sear brought all those wonderful flavors to the fore. [sigh] yum. [stirs oneself from a daydream of eating more Tournedos Rossini] As with my entreè, it was served with vegetables (in Susan's case, mashed potatoes instead of rice) that were ok, but not remarkable.
Fortunately, the portions were small, so that we still had room for dessert. I've had many of the different desserts they offer. The crème brulèe and the pain perdu are both excellent. I had the Cobbler du Central, which is "Warm apple and pear compote with cinnamon and spices topped with almond and pistachio crumble and vanilla ice cream." It was a perfect fall dessert. The crumble on top was yummy (probably a lot of butter, mmmmmm) and the spicing of the apple and pear compote was delicious. Susan chose to have some coffee and Iles Flottantes (loosely translates as "Floating Islands"), which is "A soft meringue floating on a bath of crème anglaise." Yum yum yum-yum yum. Susan described it as the most delicious marshmallow you've ever had. It was true. Light and fluffy and floating in a pool of delicious crème anglaise, which is a sweet vanilla flavored sauce, much like ice cream "batter" before it's put in the ice cream maker. It also had some caramel drizzled and pooled on the side and that was delicious too. The almost-but-not-quite burnt flavor was a great foil for the sweetness of the crème anglaise. It was the last of the iles flottantes, so we felt really fortunate to have it. We felt full a few bites short of finishing our desserts, so the portion sizes were perfect.
I highly recommend the restaurant, though I've heard reports that some people have felt ill after having the mussels. I'm not sure if that is a flaw in the restaurant or people's ignorance of their body's tolerance for shellfish. It's a good idea to make reservations if you're dining on a busy weekend night or for thier famous weekend brunch. They also have some really nice group options, particularly these feasts. I go to Le Central for lunch whenever I feel like I deserve something a little extra. My favorite lunch is the Salade de Culotte de Boeuf, which is "Grilled sirloin steak served over a classic cesar salad, accompanied by a side of flash fried Swiss cheese." I've tried finding other things on the menu to eat, but this, essentially a steak salad, is my favorit. They have a lunch martini special (which I don't indulge in) and a dessert special (which I occassionally do indulge in).
I hope you have had as good a meal as this sometime in your life and if not, that you will have one soon!
Boy! Gourmet fest galore! You go into minute food detail, just like John used to do over the phone when calling in from abroad!! LOL
I remember my mother making floating island pudding. I believe that it is not very difficult. Must look up a recipe.
Anne, I'm not a huge fan of french cuisine, but I may try Le Central. I'm trying to make more of an effort to get out of the house, so maybe I'll brave downtown and give it a try.
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