Unless you have been living deep in the Australian Outback, you know I adore French food. I’ve stated I would love to retire in Provence. Olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs form the foundation for simple fare that borders on peasant food. These are the dishes that please me.
The Good King Tavern, which opened more than a month ago in Queen Village, offers these types of dishes at moderate prices. Chef Paul Lyons is at the culinary helm turning out appetizers, entrees and homemade desserts. There are many vegetarian options and yes, burger and fries are on the menu as well.
The foods of Provence depict the sunny nature of this region in warm weather months, so it was enjoyable to find a bit of sun on a cold winter night.
Edward and I were shown to a booth and perused the menu over expertly prepared cocktails. Prices were spot on, $12 for a Bluecoat martini and $12 for a Rob Roy.
There’s a bar in the front and booths that line windows covered in pretty white lace. The building’s original tin ceiling is painted a dark blue, lighting is fine and James Brown was playing over the sound system. This put me in a fine mood.
Brussels sprouts ($7) were not at all bitter beauties that were roasted, bathed in tangy Chevre and topped with toasted hazelnuts.
Lyons obviously enjoys pickling vegetables, which was evident in eggplant three ways ($7). He pan seared eggplant wedges, including a finely chopped eggplant spread, which packed a nice spicy punch and pickled eggplant. Thinly-sliced cool radishes and sunchokes were included on the plate.
I really enjoyed the mushroom croquettes ($6). Mushrooms and spices were pulverized, rolled into balls, coated in seasoned crumbs and quickly fried to a crisp golden brown. Four came with the order, but I could have eaten a dozen. They rested on a bed of pickled mushrooms that I thought contained too much vinegar.
One of the specials of the evening, which were written out on a separate sheet of paper and appeared on the blackboard, was braised artichoke hearts with lentils. Three globe artichokes were expertly peeled down to the centers, which were braised in white wine, a bit of olive oil and herbs. French green lentils retained a bit of bite and shared company in a heavenly white wine, olive oil, garlic and chopped vegetable sauce. Rectangles of toasted homemade bread gave us the delicious opportunity to mop up the sauce.
A glass of house Pinot Noir ($6.50) and a fine French Chardonnay ($7.50) drank well with our entrees.
The feature of morteaux gratin ($12) was the homemade chicken and pork sausage, which I found required more fat and seasoning. Lyons took a gratin dish and layered it with au gratin potatoes, which needed salt and could have been hotter, temperature-wise. He then crammed the sausages in the dish and topped it with arugula. I found this an odd presentation. When vessels like this are used to bake more than one ingredient, the temperature varies with the ingredients.
Skate wing was popular 10 years ago, and I have not seen it on a restaurant menu in years. Lyons placed his version ($16) on the list of specials a week ago, describing it as skate wing with pork belly in a saffron broth. I received perfectly pan-seared skate that was first dusted in unseasoned flour. The fish was so bland I had to ask for salt, pepper and lemon wedges. This improved the fish’s flavor. The squares of pork belly were perfectly done, crisp on the outside and creamy inside, but the broth was a disappointment. I did not detect the yellow color or flavor of saffron. It was milky white and sweet with sautéed leeks, carrots and onions.
Do not miss the homemade pot du crème ($6). This French version of chocolate pudding is among my most enjoyable ways to end a meal. It was topped with chopped nuts and a dollop of perfectly whipped cream.
The Good King Tavern is a welcome addition to Queen Village. Some of the dishes were uneven, but I want to return and sample the steak frites and frogs’ legs.
Three tips of the toque to The Good King Tavern.
The Good King Tavern
614 S. Seventh St.
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