I wanted to like Chevalier tonight, I really did. A fine, classic French restaurant in Lafayette would be an asset to the city and a place to enjoy some old-fashioned elegance. Unfortunately, dinner was a failure.
We went out with BJ and Larry Ledgerwood for what should have been a great experience. Chevalier is right on Moraga Road, in a strip mall with little parking. The facility itself isn’t large, but the patio has considerable seating, and that’s where we chose to eat.
The menu is French, French, French. Escargot Bourgingone, Torchon de Foie Gras, Salade Nicoise, and that’s just the appetizers. Prices are steep, except for the prix fixe menu, which offers 3 courses for $39.
Friday nights are busy, and Chevalier simply doesn’t have enough staff to handle the crowd. We were promptly seated for our 6:45 reservation, but it was quite a while before food started to arrive.
At first, the food was wonderful. Foie Gras will be illegal in California on July 1, courtesy of the tree-huggers at PETA, so that’s what I started with. A torchon of liver from an over-stuffed goose, accompanied by a bit of poached pear, was excellent.
Gail loves escargot, and I love sopping up the garlic butter, so we had winner #2.
The special this week was Massachusetts skate wing, a marvelous piece of fish you rarely find. The chef did a magnificent job of preparing it, served on very thick, creamy mashed potatoes with a unique vegetable melange which included some very tiny purple carrots. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
BJ ordered the poulet. You would expect that there would be something special about the chicken here, but you’d be wrong. This was just plain roast chicken, and nothing you couldn’t make at home and probably better.
So there I was, enjoying my skate, and Gail offered me a taste of her filet. I bit into it, and chewed, and chewed, and chewed. I don’t know what kind of meat that was, or where they bought it, but it was decidedly not what you would expect from a $44 filet in a first rate restaurant. It was dreadful. It may have been camel meat. Gail sent it away, not wanting anything else.
Desserts were back to excellent–Larry’s sorbet was light and fresh, BJ’s creme brulee was everything it should be. I had the molten cake with creme anglaise and had to fight Gail for it.
Chevalier is almost incomprehensibly inconsistent. Some of the food was superb, some was damn near inedible. The waitress was clearly trying, but she was over-worked, had too many tables to handle comfortably and they appear to employ no runners or expediters to help the waitstaff–because she only has two hands, our server could only bring out two dishes at a time and had to make a long trip back to the kitchen for the rest, so we could not all be served together.
Due to the debacle with the filet, that entree was taken off the bill, along with a round of drinks and one dessert. And the bill for the four of us was still over $200.
I wanted to like it, I really did. But there is just no way I can recommend Chevalier. Quel dommage.