When Le Bec-Fin closed last month, a floodgate of memories came over me. I savored chef Georges Perrier’s distinctive cuisine on numerous occasions. When it changed owners, I did not have the heart to walk through the door as people told me it was not worth it.
As I mused about the glory days of Le Bec-Fin, I began to crave French fare. Bastille Day was fast approaching, so I surfed the Web and perused the Zagat Guide for inspiration.
I happened upon The Pickled Heron, a small, cash-only BYOB carved from a town house just like the original Le Bec-Fin. Edward and I have driven by it several times, and since the restaurant offers French food, I was game to try it.
The dining room features bright tangerine-colored walls, white linen and colorful artwork created by local artists. We brought along a sauvignon blanc and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône. Our delightful server placed our white wine in an ice bucket as Edward and I discussed the small menu.
The Pickled Heron does not serve classic French fare, but there is a hint of its technique and style.
I began with a salad of baby greens ($9) while Edward decided on an appetizer of tomatoes with homemade mozzarella ($12).
My salad consisted of a small mound of overdressed baby arugula, a few sliced radishes and bits of mild cheese. The salad fell flat because it lacked seasoning and was doused with too much olive oil. I could not detect any lemon juice or vinegar. The French love their radishes, so I hoped they would shine here.
Local tomatoes are in season. We expected thick slices of red, ripe, juicy tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil. This starter featured multi-colored baby heirloom tomatoes, a few small slices of mild mozzarella and a hint of fresh basil topped with olive oil. Unfortunately, the tomatoes were quite tart. Baby heirlooms are sometimes quite acidic and require herbs, a hearty cheese and classic vinaigrette to tame their flavor. Suffice to say, both starters were disappointing.
We did enjoy the warm bread and soft butter that arrived with our appetizers.
When I saw a dish with duck sausage ($24) on the menu, my heart and taste buds headed to France. Two slices of boneless duck breast were coated in a thick batter and either baked in the oven or pan roasted. It was difficult to discern the cooking method. The batter was a golden brown and crumbled as I cut into it.
Duck should be served medium to medium-rare. This version was slightly overcooked. It also lacked seasoning. The sausages, on the other hand, were uncommonly tasty and filled with the flavor of fresh garlic and herbs. Small half-moon slices were mixed into ratatouille, the Southern France casserole made with zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes.
I am not a huge fan of ratatouille, but at least the vegetables were not a bit overcooked. My plate also contained two rectangles of a savory cake-like confection made with chicpea flour. It was akin to polenta in texture. I liked that it was creamy inside, and properly seared on the outside.
Edward’s lamb ($25) fared better than the duck. Several boneless slices were roasted medium-rare and set upon a first-rate risotto redolent with the flavor and color of fresh mint. The nicely seasoned and very tender lamb married well with the creamy risotto that spread out on the plate. Batons of seedless cucumber were scattered on the meat after they received a quick braise. Minted cucumbers are a French classic. In all, we enjoyed this entrée.
Local blueberries are in the market, so I could not pass up homemade blueberry cake with vanilla ice cream ($6). I make blueberry pound cake in the summertime, so we were surprised to see a cute eye-appealing confection shaped like a cupcake. It was not a bit sweet and the ice cream added a rich flavor that we enjoyed.
The Pickled Heron has promise. Service was excellent. Our server kept the corks so we could tote home our wine, filled our glasses without asking and gave us fresh silverware with each course.
I just wish the menu featured classic French fare with a modern twist.
Two-and-a-half tips of the toque to The Pickled Heron.
The Pickled Heron