Every time a “new” place opens, the Feeder is bombarded (well, maybe three or four) with questions about “have you been to the new place yet?” along with some notes on early experiences. The restaurant buzz around Leonardtown for the past several months has revolved around the replacement for the venerable Café Des Artistes, the bastion of French Cuisine presided over by the indefatigable and affable Loic Jaffres (and his charming wife Karleen). When rumors became fact and plans, talk of course returned to “who/what/when” would be replacing it. Not an easy task to be sure with the heritage of the Café lurking in the background.
Eventually it seemed a “guy from DC” would be coming down here, and taking over the space. True enough, Brian and Steve Wilson who have culinary experience at Montmartre in DC, were to be the new owners/operators (maybe that should be lessees, not owners) and early summer predicted an opening in August. Not surprisingly various delays have finally resulted in the opening of La Rive Breton (the bank of Breton). As is usual in these things they did a “soft” opening with limited menu choices and so forth.
So although the Feeder usually prefers to wait a while until they have a few weeks or months under their belt to get their game down, there was such anticipation for their debut that MFO and I acquiesced to an invite from a friend to give it a shot this last Friday (10/28). Didn’t try to book not knowing whether they accepted reservations yet, we showed up at an uncharacteristically early hour of about half five.
So, when you go to a “new” place early in their evolution, you can’t exactly rate them against standards one might for an established restaurant. Of course the Wilsons are not doing their first rodeo (“I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant”) so they should know the ropes pretty well. However rather than a full Bottom Feeder review, I thought I would kind of look to see if possibilities looked promising, and encouraging signs were there.
I am pleased to report that I am very enthusiastic about their future. Moving into “Loic’s Place” is fraught with inviting comparisons “well, Loic used to….”, and I think the Wilson team have done a wonderful job of injecting their own identity into the venue.
Clean lines, no tablecloths on warm wooden tables, at present bare walls, all kind project a feeling of casual warmth.
note the absence of the image of John Hanson Briscoe and Ted Koppel, but I hear it is safe hands
The pass has been moved “around the corner” and not directly into the bar space. We recognized a few faces from the “old” waitstaff and were very pleased that a server that we very much like was able to be our server. Since she knew us, no silly “welcome to ….” And “I’ll be taking care of you” speeches, just our favorite opening “what can I get you to drink”.. Not sure if the restaurant requires the welcoming speeches for others, but I for one much prefer the latter.
And I am further glad to report that whoever manages the bar has fleshed out the gin selection from the “big three” (Bombay, Tanqueray, and Beefeater) to include Green Hat, Citadelle, and a new one to me “Bluecoat” one word, no play on Green Hat. I very much enjoyed the bluecoat up martini. Although as time goes on I would encourage the barkeep to stir it rather than shake it so there aren’t entrained bubbles. The wine/cocktail list includes several interesting labels and “craft” drinks, as well as a nice selection of Beers AND Cidre’s (which a certain videographer friend would appreciate).
The menu at present is a single sheet with sections for first, main, and sides.
An encouraging note for me was the prominence of cheese on the menu, with some intriguing offerings.
We decided to share the cheese plate and chose the bleu, the Pont-l'Évêque, and the goat cheese. Very nice, the cheese was fresh and was accompanied by the traditional stuff.
The main menu
has varied choices covering the waterfront (ha ha), with some creative touches. For instance they serve the teres major steak, a cut not commonly showing up on menus..duck confit is always welcome. The choices of sides, while common here, are separate cost items.. we don’t see that much.
Anyway, MFO made a meal from the (cheese plate), and the crispy mushroom strudel from the first course section with a side of the baked white beans. Our friend did the same, the roasted beet carpaccio from “first” with a side of the roasted mushrooms, and I decided to try the Atlantic scallops. Nice to have that kind of flexibility, first and a side can make a complete meal.
The dishes arrived with MFO’s “crispy mushroom strudel” nicely presented:
The beet carpaccio (with ricotta, watercress, toasted pistacios and blood orange vinaigrette):
And my scallops
Another creative touch, the gnocchi weren’t the usual glob of dough, but rather “parisienne” meaning they are made from pate a choux--the same dough used for profiteroles, cream puffs and éclairs which is much lighter and were very tasty. The addition of the hazelnuts provided a nice textural contrast to the creamy scallops which were done very nicely.
Although I didn’t have a “side” I did taste the white beans and seared mushrooms. The beans were quite good, and the Madeira seared mushrooms were also worth it. As I said, separate “sides” are not the norm down here, but from our experience they are absolutely worth it. It is easy to make a satisfying meal from a first and a side, although I greatly enjoyed my main.
We finished the meal with a three spoon dish of Crème brûlée, also nicely done
All in all, we had a very encouraging experience for a “first time” visit. We will return soon, I’m so happy that what Loic started seems to be in very good hands. Don’t stay away, they’re pretty much on their game right now. And oh yes, despite the early hour we indeed were