"La Voile Brasserie, one of the oldest and most appreciated restaurants in Cannes, France has sailed and anchored lock, stock and barrel in Boston." La Voile: [Fr. vwal]- noun, the sail.
Dinner, Sunday evening: A short flight of steps leads down to the entrance of this new brasserie below the Newbury Guest House. Passing through the door, I was honored with a friendly greeting by hostess, Stephanie, lovely blond wife of owner, Stephane Santos. At 6:15pm I was the first to arrive. I stepped over to the small bar and lounge/waiting area. Behind the bar is a majestic, shiny chrome expresso machine. I was able to chat with Stephane, Stephanie and manager, Philippe Canton-Lamousse about their new adventure in Boston.
I know next to nothing about French wines and Phillipe was delighted to tell me about the wines of Southern France. He's created an extensive French wine menu with several from each category of reds and whites available by the glass. He was offering a special this evening, that I tried, Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere blanc Pessac Leagnan, '03. Wow! [92.00 by the bottle, this evening [only] by the glass, 18.00]
At this time, La Voile has a license for wine and beer.
Wood paneled walls, pictures of sailboats: a nautical theme prevails. To add to the pleasing ambience, soft french ballads waft over the music system. The dining room is divided into two sections, set up bistro-style, with 2-tops covered with white table cloths. Waiters look smart in their white jackets, black aprons and pants. I could be in France: the owners have brought over with them their restaurant, their chef, Sam, and two of their waiters.
The menu that they offer is much the same as they served in Cannes.
LES HORS D'OEUVRE: fish soup, soupe du jour, bone marrow, endive salad, ravioli, leeks, fois gras, roasted lobster, scallop salad, cold cut selection, and cheese platter. Prices range from 8.00 to 20.00.
LES TERRINES MAISON: duck fois gras, country pate, chicken liver mousse, muscat veal. Prices from 15.00 to 43.00.
LE POISSON: mussels, baby squid, halibut, seabass, dover sole, and bouillabaisse. Prices from 15.00 to 43.00.
LA VIANDE: chicken, sweet bread, filet mignon, beef fondue, veal steak frites, veal and lamb. Prices from 18.00 to 38.00.
DESSERT: There are about 10 selections---sorry I don't have the particulars. They're all 7.00.
The menu is in French with the English immediately below in bold type.
My dinner for one: The meal begins with slices of Iggy's French sourdough contained in a warm, cloth sack and a butter pat. [The bread, it 's claimed, is the only thing not made in the restaurant.] I chose the sparkling mineral water, Badoit, "Frances' Favorite." I selected, for hors d'oeuvre, Les Petites Ravioles de Romans au Pesto/ French Mini Cheese-Filled Ravioli in a Pesto. This is a generous portion of ravioli served in a soup plate in a creamy sauce, subtly seasoned and yummy: French comfort food. [12.00]
My main course was La Marmite a la Marseillaise preparee en Bouillabaisse/ Fish Stew "Bouillabaisse" in a Saffron Broth: large, tender peices of halibut, seabass, shrimp, and mussels in a thick broth. Small slices of grilled bread along with 3 sauces accompanied this. It was superb. [29.00]
I was full and content. Philippe recommended a small dessert, L'Expresso Gourmand. This is a tiny cup of chocolate mousse, and one of creme brulee, along with 2 mini cookie-bars. Perfect. I substituted the expresso with a pot of camomile tea.[7.00]
And then the grand finale, a small glass of dessert wine, Cancaillau Cuvee Gourmandise Locarno, '95.[12.00]
Sunday was a slow night for La Voile, maybe 5 tables were occupied when I left. When word gets out, a crowd could be overwhelming for them. Because their challenge is to augment and train a proper wait-staff: a wonderful opportunity for the right person to work there.
This is an outstanding restaurant: impeccable service, delicious French-Mediterranean fare, a pleasing ambience, and the management and the crew who know how to be welcoming and pleasing. This is a restaurant that I'm excited about and I can't wait to go back.
At last some really great food on Newbury St.
Went to La Voile for dinner on Thursday and had, with one exception, an outstanding meal. This is a real step up over the other places on Newbury and should give substrantial competition to other French places around town.
Lorpa (above) provides a great review which mirrors my own experience. So I will only make added comments.
Yes, they are still in shake-down mode. (They don't expect to start serving lunch until sometime in December.) Service was generous and attentive but somewhat disorganized - the manager seemed to be running arround a lot attending to problems real or imagined. In time, these problems will go away but they are not there yet.
We were on the early side because this was a pre Symphony concert dinner, so we were the first arrivals. Seated quickly at a two-top that might feel a bit crowded if the place is full. We started by ordering wine and found a wine list that was lengthy but still had a large number of reasonable offerings. Settled on a Cote Du Rhone that was quite pleasant and less than $30/bottle. With the wine, they brough an amuse bouche of pate, small salad etc.
On to the food. For appetzers, I ordered the country pate ($12) which came in a terrine with a salad and cornichons. It was excellent. My DC ordered the soup de poissons ($12), and while delicious, it was excessively salted. (This was the ony miscue of the food.) For mains,I had the haliubut ($23) which was also excellent. The fish was cooked perfectly and was moist and flaverfull. It came on a bed of green potato infused with pesto, whcih was unque and very good. DC ordered the lamb shank (($19) which came in a caserole with kidney beans provencale style. The lamb was perfectly done.
We were full and did not order dessert. Expresso was also excellent.
When we left at 7:30 to get to our concert, the place appeared to be just short of half full. Since they have only been open for a week, that's not bad. I hope they will be able to ramp up service to deal wirh a packed dining room because that's what they are going to have when the word spreads.
Enjoy this place and get there soon - while it's still easy to get a table.
Note: No web site yet but they are on Opentable and their menu is on Menupages.
261 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116
Great report, BBHound. I almost opted for the lamb shank last night, but went for the veal blanquette (also excellent). Glad to hear the lamb is great as well.
They seem to do very well with fish, from what I've seen and heard so far (although we stayed totally on land) The mussels looked exellent, and I saw a ton of whole fish preparations being brought out last night, as well. A couple next to us had a whole fish for two that was deboned tableside. I think was a seabass, and part of a special prixe fixe offered last night. It looked amazing.
I posted my report in a separate thread:
I hit it myself recently. Had the veal loin and my DC had the scallop salad. Very impressive execution and reasonable. The Bordeaux that the bartender recommended by the glass was mindblowing. Not cheap at $12 or so a glass, but really worth it.
Can't say I got a comprehensive feel for the place as we had a light meal, but if they can execute consistently based on my experience, there is a new show in town and a lot of half-baked bistros should be quaking in their boots (Aquitaine, Hammersley's to name just two.)
The vibe is very polished and Parisian, including some of the wait staff bickering in a sort of charming way. Obviously still getting the kinks out, but La Voile definitely has the potential to raise the bar...
I have always found Hammersley's to be a rather consistent bore... Sure reliably done classic French cuisine, but in the 6 or so times I've been their never once did I go wow! La Voile has that indescribable je ne ces't pas that at least has the potential to take it to the next level. Hope they can make it happen.
Do I dump on Back Bay a lot? It is an easy target. I actually tried to take a more reasonable perspective on Newbury Street the other day: you know, "mostly godforsaken, but not completely godforsaken." But the bad places are very bad indeed. I guess you have to chalk it up to real estate prices and the presence of tourists. Not much fun if you live or work there, though (as I did for a while).
I am very excited to try La Voile! Not many new joints get a lot of Chowhounds heated up at once. It would be nice to see another Angela's Cafe-level discovery this year.
re: MC Slim JB
I think this is a big reason why I'm so excited about La Voile. If it opened in the South End, it would be much less of a big deal, probably. The thought of walking around the corner on a cold February night and getting a hot crock of fish soup or beef bourgignon is just a dreamy thought.
Finally got around to trying La Voile. Short version: the food is terrific, and the prices are amazingly reasonable for the Back Bay. But service still needs a lot of work. The soupe de poissons is the best version of this dish (which I love) that I've had in Boston, knocking Rialto's out of the top spot, building on a great, intensely-flavored shellfish stock. All the traditional accompaniments, including an aioli that's like doing a bong hit of garlic: fantastic. I'll skip the details of our other dishes, but they were all superb, and if La Voile doesn't jack up its prices once it's discovered, it will be perhaps the best bargain in the Back Bay. It's easily the best food on Newbury Street at the moment.
Too bad our server was such a rank incompetent: good help must be hard to find. We don't blame him for the promised amuse-bouche that never showed up (maybe the kitchen ran out), but it clearly was too soon to promote this guy from TGI Friday's. He was utterly hapless, didn't seem to have been given the ABCs of fine-dining service. I won't document his cavalcade of service miscues, but he essentially didn't do one thing right all night long, and had the annoying verbal tic of incessantly burbling "Excellent" at every opportunity (we nicknamed him Mr. Burns by night's end.) I noticed adjacent tables actually getting worse service from him than we did.
I expect this problem to eventually go away -- most of the other dining-room servers seemed to know what they were doing. The host/sommelier, presumably one of the owners, was gracious and helpful. Wines are an interesting, mostly-French bunch, but prices are predictably gouging, the other sole issue I have here. I guess they've got to make their margins somewhere. Room is sort of generic French bistro, rather workmanlike and noisy, with an unobtrusive nautical theme. Cafe side looks rather less comfortable, tables too tightly spaced. Nice-looking small bar, though it's beer/wine only for now. I imagine the patio will be welcoming in warmer weather, and a draw.
Food was so good I want to return despite the hash of service, and the fact that we're sort of overrun with new French places. Very, very promising.