Cafe Lavande La Jolla - Any Thoughts
Just read Maria Hunts review of Cafe Lavande in Thursday's Night and Day. I searched the boards and no one has yet written it up. Weather is just about perfect for Coq au Vin. Form the article the price point seems much lower than other options (Tapenade). Please share your thoughts.
I was glad to hear that Cafe Lavande had taken over the Cafe Lautrec space. I'd been to Cafe Lautrec many, many times over the years and remembered the space and the food fondly -- it was always a well-run and civilized spot for a sandwich or nosh.
So we went to the new cafe for a late Saturday lunch recently. While there were a few empty tables, there was a confusing communication with the hostess as to why we could not be seated right away, so we waited for maybe 10 or 12 minutes and then were seated. Although we had menus, we otherwise sat unattended for maybe another ten or 12 minutes -- no water, no bread, no offer to take orders.
Finally our waitress took our orders, we finally got water and beverages, and much later we finally received a hot mini-loaf of good bread. We ordered the French Onion Soup and the Croque Madame and it was another lengthy wait before our orders were finally delivered, after our server had presented them to the wrong table. But, both were delicious, the soup rich and complex and the croque with a tasty grainy mustard layer. We asked for more bread to mop up the soup and that took another length of time. Finally, we split an order of the Creme Brulee for dessert, which turned out to be the blandest I've ever had -- very little flavor, even in the carmelized crust.
This lunch took us nearly 90 minutes to complete! And as if the confusion with the hostess and the slow service weren't bad enough, our server had no apparent professional training. Her manner was casual, offhand, and insincere. And here was the last straw: she quizzed us on the Creme Brulee, we said it was ok, she said just ok?, we said we'd had better, she said how, we said richer custard and much tastier crust, and she said yeah, well, when one of the two chefs who cooks there (the one we had that day) makes Creme Brulee it always looks weak in her opinion.
I wasn't going to post all of this, but then I was just reading the DiningDiva's post today on the "San Diego restaurants are bad" thread, where she (and others) talk about the fact that it's often the service that is substandard, not necessarily the food. I don't think we'll go back to Cafe Lavande anytime soon. I miss Cafe Lautrec.
My husband and I just returned from an exceptional dinner at Cafe Lavande in La Jolla
[on Girard Avenue]. All aspects: reception, moderate prices, service and the
ambiance...dark wood floors, white tablecloths with fresh flowers, a few
contemporary paintings, one Christmas tree and a few swags of spruce with
classic French music...would not have meant a thing had the young chef/owner
[C.I.A. trained, worked in numerous French restaurants in New York City] not
turned out exquisite, totally satisfying cuisine. The most deeply flavored
French onion soup we've ever tasted--made with their own heavily reduced
stock; a lightly dressed salad of greens which seemed just picked! and
everything from the freshly baked baguette, crusty and delicious, to the
beef ribs and chicken, and each side dish: the menu shows a different
vegetable AND starch for each entree! The gracious French waiter, Gerard, warned my husband that the chicken was NOT a classic 'coq au vin'. The wine list is small, but fairly priced and is imaginative: French wines in each category, California, New Zealand. Corkage is $10. We were too sated to try the classic
desserts. Do go...it's a treat.
re: Alice Q
Thanks for the heads up AQ. Dined a Cafe Lavande on Friday night, nice cozy little spot. Service was friendly and warm as was the space. I had the Coq au Vin and was disappointed, it was an over roasted airline chicken breast (skin was nice and crisp) but the flesh was really dry, it had never been introduced to the Vin. It was not Coq au Vin. The girl has the trout, which was very good and well seasoned. I have the feeling they can make good French fare, but tailor the menu and presentation to the regular customers. The trout presented skin down on top of the veg so it lost its crispy skin; it appeared they spent the time to give the fish a nice sear. Unfortunately I think I ordered incorrectly.
I have never personally NOT been disappointed by Coq au Vin, so I'm not even sure I know what it's supposed to taste like :-) but that doesn't sound like it from what I've heard. Over-roasted chicken is never a good thing. Sorry to hear you were disappointed! If and when we do go, I will report back.