Thursday, January 19, 2012

Le Foret - New Orleans

I love the pomp and circumstance of fine dining. There are few things more enjoyable than donning your Sunday best and sitting down to an evening of well-crafted cuisine. Throwing caution thrown to the wind with a tasting menu including four courses of foie gras and two with caviar? Bring it on. A table lit by candlelight, covered in pristine white linens, and manned by a wait staff that seems to be near clairvoyant, why not? If the kitchen is headed by a certified Master Chef like Jimmy Corwell, it’s all the better. Combine those expectations with a handsome review by Blackened Out and I was ready to step into Le Foret and enjoy some of the best that New Orleans had to offer.

To start, while it may be a subject I don’t particularly enjoy dwelling upon, it’s hard to forget the ambiance at Le Foret. Some might call it intimate. I would simply call it dark. Looking in through the windows on Common Street, if it hadn’t been the one or two occupied table, I would have thought the restaurant was closed. Once seated, even with acclimated eyes, reading the menu became the primary challenge.

After finding a way to read the menu, it was a matter of either choosing dishes from the standard sections or the five-course tasting menu. Normally this wouldn't be up for discussion. I've come to think of a testing menu as a chance for the chef to show his skill and creativity. For some reason, this time was different. Even though the tasting menu had an enticing dish with butter poached lobster, I decided a few options from the “something to start”, “something in between”, and “entrees” sections were the superior choices.

One major downside to the lighting situation at Le Foret was the poor quality of the pictures. I’ve still included the pictures but with the warning that there was some adjustment to the exposure compensation. With that out of the way, the first dish on the table was a small amuse bouche of tomato bisque and sweet cookies with rabbit pate.

The cookies, true to their description, were sweet, crispy, and delicate. Easy to miss, the rabbit pate was small in quantity but rich and meaty. As for the tomato bisque, it was thick and condensed tomato goodness.

Working on the idea of one dish per section, the choice from “something to start” was the eternal classic, gulf oysters – Rockefeller Style.

Consisting of five of the gulf’s finest with spinach and celery fondue and a pernod glacage gratinee, these oysters were just cooked and featured a pleasant, but not overpowering anise flavor.

Intrigued by the name, I picked Le Foret Champignons as the “something in between” representative.

Instead of a simple plate of confit mushrooms, pickled onions, pate de foie gras, sultanas, hazlenuts, and watercress, this dish took a whimsical approach.

A trio of shitake topped, foie gras pate stuffed pastries formed the mushroom forest with the watercress, sultantas, hazlenuts, and pickled onions making up the forest floor.

Aesthetics aside, the highlight of this dish was the textural contrast of crispy pastry and smooth, rich pate. While the mushrooms did provide an extra touch of velvety meatiness, this plate was truly all about the pate.

Call it gluttony or call it being a glutton for punishment, I needed more confit. This time the confit came in the form of a spiced duck confit pasta terrine. Sitting beneath a Moulard duck breast and joined by sous vide radish and baby beets, crookneck squash, duck cracklings, and buttered duck jus, this entrée was billed as a duck tour de force.
Cooked medium rare, this duck breast had a salty and crispy, almost burn skin.

Beneath the skin was a duck that was very chewy with small, medium-rare center. As for the rest of the dish, the buttered duck jus was as rich as expected while the other components, the pasta terrine, radish and baby beets, cracklings, and squash seemed to do little more than simply round out the dish.

Although the duck had been an underwhelming end to the meal, I can’t help but feel that the whole Le Foret experience was a bit anticlimactic. Let me explain; there was nothing wrong with the amuse bouche or the oysters Rockefeller; they were perfectly suitable, above average dishes. The Le Foret Champignons, again a very nice dish and a delightful play on words, was nothing exceptional. If there was a true downside to the meal, it was undoubtedly the duck breast. Once again, this was a passable dish but hardly class leading. Concerning service, while I respect Blackened Out’s opinions, in my experience, Le Foret provided nothing equal to or striving towards three star levels. This was a pleasant dinner but sadly not the standard setting meal that I was expecting. Le Foret may be one of the few outlets in New Orleans striving towards world class excellence but I believe there are better meals to be had in the city.

Le Foret Address & Information

129 Camp Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 // 504.553.6738 // Le Foret Website // Le Foret Menu // Le Foret Reservations

Le Foret on Urbanspoon

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