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Sep 19, 2007 08:28 AM

Leon de Lyon sad and disappointed

We were so eager to to have dinner at Jean-Paul Lacombe's restaurant before he retires.
It was sad.
We were greeted formally, and again, the tasting menu main was pigeon.
When S explained that he doesn't eat pigeon, the server suggested "sticky spareribs".
S said no, he would like fish, and possibly the sole.
The server actually repeated the sparerib suggestion a second time.
S, repeated no thank you, I would prefer sole.
The response was "I need to ask the manager".
The server came back and told us that we would both need to order the sole.
S said that he would have the sea bass, if that was possible for one, as he was aware that I had wanted to try Chef's duck.
The response was again, ; I need. to ask the manager".
I was forced to have the same menu (which I do understand, as this is the way with some restaurants).
The server told us that this was the new menu, and I believe that this will be the way of Leon de Lyon in the future, so it is too late to make a special trip for that last special meal.
Amuse boring
Rillette of duck liver and mushrooms, quite good.
Canneloni of duck in cream froth, not great, but quite tasty, The truffle suggested on the menu, may have been the tiny pepper shaped specks in the cream, and certainly there was no taste whatever of truffle..
Third course, the same inexpensive, basic common chopped mushrooms that appeared in the rillette on gingerbread. not good.
S had sea bass grilled. Only side.... exactly the same chopped circle of mushrooms this time on bread.
Could hardly believe it!!!!
My duck was at best adequate., again no veggies whatever.
When we entered the restaurant we were immediately asked "Praline or Chocolate".
I said, pardon?
"Dessert ,you must choose now.
We chose praline.
Desserts were raspberry combinations, and none good enough to really eat, and we love raspberries.
I requested a copy of the menu, and the answer, " I will have to ask the manager".
We asked again, at the completion of our meal for a copy of our tasting menu, and the server came back with a bag.
I specifically asked if our tasting menu menu was in the bag, and was told yes.
Well, it wasn't, (just filled with PR) and I was not too surprised... not a sight ever of a green or a veggie.
Not one excellent dish.
I would be embarassed if I had presented this absurd menu...

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  1. none of this sounds ANYthing like Jean Paul and Fabienne! I am shocked. So shocked, in fact, that I am going to send him your review. (We have been friends for a long time.)

    I cannot imagine what has happened. I really look forward to speaking with him in person in November.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChefJune

      I would be interested in his response.
      I don't believe he was present at the time, although our server told us he was, but also can't comprehend the new menu.
      A circle of mushrooms on gingerbread followed by a circle of mushrooms on toast?
      Possibly this is the future, just another brasserie.
      I am sure that the new menu will be altered in any case.
      We are sad, because we were excited to try his food.

    2. Sometimes, when restaurants know they will close, they lose their spirit. That was the case with Jamin -- had been one of the best restaurants ever, amazing virtuosity, a place that worshiped ingredients and cuisine. Then Chef Guichard decided to close it, and the last few weeks, nothing tasted nearly as good anymore. Hope that is not the case with Leon, but it maybe that we have to accept that this is already history.

      8 Replies
      1. re: souphie

        this would be so sad to us. many years ago we went to Leon, inexperienced but eager eaters. we were bowled over by our meal but most particularly by the kindness our naivete generated. We had never seen a cheese tray so magnificant, but we were far too stuffed for a cheese course. My husband mentioned, in his faltering french, how very beautiful the cheese table was and how he wished he had left room. Our waiter brought the table, said "please choose something that appeals", served my husband two small and wonderful tastes of cheese, and did not charge us for this pleasure. It remains one of our favorite memories and also one of our antidotes to the stereotype of french officiousness we had heard so often but have, thank heavens, not experienced in our many years of happy eating. I would hope Leon would go on forever!

        1. re: teezeetoo

          We dined there in October. Service was wonderful; food was very good, but mains were on the salty side as noted by others. Leon was charming and dear. I asked about the closure and he confirmed that he was converting to another bistrot, that he was tired of haute cuisine. We are glad that we had the opportunity to go before the changeover. Cuisine and food culture are changing; my only hope is that the bistrot do not become cookiecutters!

          1. re: nanette90278

            Who is "Leon?" M. Lacombe's name is Jean-Paul, and he is a dear!

            He already owns 8 bistros in and around Lyon, including his first, Le Petit Léon, next door, that he opened 16 years ago. I really love what he's done... when mom and pop bistros (the old tradition) are closing because no one in the family wants to continue, Jean-Paul has bought them, maintained the tradition, and installed young chefs-de-cuisine, giving them the opportunity to run their own place w/o the problems and $$ of ownership. Several have already gone on to their own places, having gained valuable experience under his leadership.

            I have dined in several of these bistros, and only Petit Léon "tastes" like Jean-Paul. The rest are unique to themselves, and very good. Reasonable prices, too.

            I don't blame him at all for the change. Times change, dining habits change, and as we all grow older, we often look for ways to slow down!

            FWIW, I'd rather eat his food than that of any other chef I've ever encountered.

            1. re: ChefJune

              I wonder if the OP's disappointment with the meal stemmed from a misunderstanding.

              In my experience most restaurants will offer substitutes from tasting menus if people don't like a dish or have an allergy. However, isn't it quite unusual to expect to make your own choice from the main menu? My guess is that the restaurant tried to accommodate the OP, but to serve a whole sole would only have been economic if it was shared (the same for the bass and duck), after all tasting menus usually consist of small portions of food rather than the normal sized portions.

              If you start a meal in a poor frame of mind maybe that coloured the experience and impacted the relationship with the staff?

              1. re: PhilD

                Actually a recent meal at Leon confirmed Erly's experience: recipes are the same; ingredients too, and techniques. But the drive is gone, and this meal was sad and boring. The passion is not there anymore and we are left with our memories. Trying to go one last time was a mistake (and I made the same experience alas with my favourite restaurants closing -- Jamin, Tante Jeanne, Lucas Carton): They say it ain't over till it's over, but that's not true of restaurants, I believe.

                1. re: souphie

                  Sorry to hear that you were disappointed at Leon, as well.
                  Souphie, did you by chance go to Le Bec?
                  Can't wait to return, as this is a chef looking to the future, rather than living off past glory.

                  1. re: erly

                    <this is a chef looking to the future, rather than living off past glory.
                    > are you comparing LeBec to Lacombe? That's like apples to oranges. LeBec IS the future. he is a very young man. Lacombe has been doing what he does for more than 40 years. He's thinking "retirement!"

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      I understand how you feel, as you have stated that he is a friend,but he should have converted to a Bistro, before he lost interest, or sustained the standard until such time.
                      I recently had lunch at L'amboisie, as I was going to Brussels, and there are no direct flight from Toronto, so we complete the trip by train.
                      Took the late train to have the opportunity to dine there.
                      Food was just as fantastic at lunch, as it was when I had dinner there in September.
                      I expect a * restaurant to maintain a standard.