It’s that time of the year again, when foodies and first-timers flock to wine and dine at all the trendy places featured for San Diego’s Restaurant Week… or should I say weeks. Restaurant Week is so successful that it has become somewhat of a habit to extend it another week along with a whole new selection of restaurants to choose from. I had the pleasure of visiting The French Gourmet last week with some friends for their $30 dinner deal. Surprisingly the wait wasn’t too bad, we had made a dinner reservation for six the day before and they easily accommodated our group.
From past experiences at Restaurant Week, I’ve learned that doing research prior to going to any place is vital. Just because there is a great deal being offered doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality for value. Do your research!!!
Tip: I always look at the specific Restaurant Week online menu of the place I’m interested in attending. I then check on Yelp and read current reviews as well as past Restaurant Week reviews (if any). I also consult with friends if they have been to the place or know of anyone that’s been there.
Review: Before even stepping foot in The French Gourmet, we noticed the sparse parking surrounding the place. (Tip: Allot some time to find street parking.) To my recollection, I didn’t see any parking lot designated for the restaurant. We were lucky that night and just happend to find a spot directly across the street. When we walked in, we were immediately greeted by the host and then seated, the place was packed with other customers taking advantage of the RW deal. From the outside, the establishment looked fairly large but on the inside, it looked about a third less than its exterior. That hardly affected my perception of the place, and I found the atmosphere to be quaint and cozy. I enjoyed looking at the paintings on the walls (done as frescos) portraying various landscapes from France, and then reminiscing about my travels in Europe.
Menus were passed around and I immediately knew what I wanted to order. The host suggest the Surf and Turf to us but I wasn’t sure if that was truly because it was a popular dish or because he wanted to push its sales. Nevertheless, I stuck to my decisions and ordered the Charcuterie Plate for my appetizer, the Duck Leg Confit for my entree, and finally the Espresso Pot de Crème for my dessert. Every now and then, I would look around to see what other people ordered and my assumptions were validated. I saw a lot of people being served the Surf and Turf, which was a small tail of lobster with a small piece of fillet mignon (medallion-sized), coupled with roasted vegetables and some dipping sauce. I’m sure the quality was great but I prefer dishes with a little more substance. When our food arrived, it was time to dig in!
Pâté, Fra’Mani salami, prosciutto, cornichons, pickled garlic, olives, and onion chutney.
The appetizer was scrumptious, each part of the platter had it’s own unique flavor and texture. The two rolled pieces were Prosciutto (my all-time favorite deli meat) and I savored each morsel. It’s hard to obtain a good pate and this one had a pretty good texture and light flavor, it didn’t have that metallic aftertaste. Thankfully we had complimentary French bread refills and I was able to use that bread for my pate.
Duck Leg Confit
With braised local kale, cipollini onions, and fingerling potatoes.
All I can say is, “WOW!”. The duck meat was very tender and fell right off the bone while cutting into the dish. It was a little dry on the surface but overall had great flavor. All the veggies that accompanied the duck were also cooked to perfection. I’m not normally a fan of green beans or potatoes but this dish seriously got me reconsidering adding them to my diet. However, the real star of the show was the sauce! I’ll try my best to describe it… The sauce was a compilation of all the flavors that make the winter season, everything from berries to cinnamon spice was used. It had a nice sweet taste with a tough of tartness, and complemented the duck very well.
Espresso Pot de Crème
With sabayon and chocolate covered espresso beans.
This dessert had just the right amount of sugary sweetness I needed to finish off my dining experience. The chocolate-shaped espresso beans were a nice touch, hinting at the flavors I would find in the creme. Under the whip cream, there was a thin layer of creme that had been cooked to seal it, kind of like flan or creme brûlée but tougher. Breaking into the seal revealed all the sweet goodness of the espresso creme. It had the consistency that reminded me of flan and pudding, and was very light.
Here are a couple of other dishes I tried with friends:
Escargots à la Bourguignone
A half dozen escargots broiled in garlic herb butter.
This was my first time having esgarcots. All I could actually taste was the butter and the garlic. And although it had the consistency of a mushroom , I still couldn’t get passed the thought of it as a snail going down my throat. I had one and was done. I always tell myself to try something at least once. 🙂
Red Wine Braised Niman Ranch Lamb Shank
With winter vegetable ragout and truffle mashed potatoes.
My friend ordered this dish. This was by far the largest entree offered on the special RW menu. The lamb was juicy, flavorful, and fell right off the bone. They were very generous with the potatoes which could fill you up without having eaten anything else. Everything about this dish was delicious and a great value.
Rating: I give this place a 4 / 5 for it’s atmosphere, food, and service. The French Gourmet is a great place to take a date or go with family. The staff is friendly and checks up on you from time to time… We cracked a couple jokes with the waiters. The food is amazing, full of flavor, and on par with the cuisine I tried when I traveled to France a few years ago.
‘Til next time!