D'floret: Chef Dennis Foy brings upscale French/Modern cuisine to Lambertville (and the price is right)
Lambertville is fast becoming a dining destination, as the search for a parking spot there on recent Friday and Saturday will evidence. Our long-time favorite is Hamilton's Grill Room, but we've recently tried Brian's, which proved to be quite good (although noisy when crowded and, according to another hound, a bit hot during the summer. Here's a link to a recent thread about Brian's: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/837013). Now, open just four weeks, is D'floret, which we visited recently.
The first thing you'll notice is that D'floret is NOT located at 18 S. Main St., despite the address given on the restaurant's web site. It is located just around the corner from 18 S. Main St. on Ferry St.
When you call to reserve a table (and reservations, at least on weekends, are a must, as the restaurant seats fewer than 30 indoors and, perhaps 24 outdoors), you'll be asked whether you want restaurant seating or grill seating. This is an important distinction, as the restaurant and the grill have different menus and different chefs. The grill area is actually a back yard to the restaurant and is more casual.
Not sure what they'll do in case of inclement weather. My comments below will pertain only to the restaurant.
The restaurant is brightly decorated with large canvases which, I believe, were painted by the chef, who doubles as an artist. You'll also be impressed with the fabric covered light fixture which provides soft lighting throughout the room. The walls are painted white, reflecting the ambient light. A Nakashima panel separates the dining room from the open kitchen (nice touch, as George Nakashima worked his entire career in nearby New Hope and his daughter continues his craftsmanship in the original workshop).
Upon entering, you are promptly greeted and brought to your seat by Chef Foy's wife, Estella.
There were at least three waiters/busboys working the floor, along with Estella. Service was usually attentive, although at peak times servers were a bit taxed.
I have no prior experience with Dennis Foy's cuisine, but he apparently has many fans of his prior efforts in New Jersey. At least one couple seated alongside us came to Lambertville from Princeton because they had been fans of Foy at his previous location.
Cuisine can be described as modern American with French touches. The menu is simple: choose from four appetizers priced at $10 each or four "signature" appetizers priced at $12 each. Then choose from one of six main courses priced at $25. There was a supplement on one of the main courses, although I can't remember what is was nor how much the supplement was. Desserts are all house made and were price at $8. The restaurant is BYO, so an average check for two comes in between $80 and $100, which is very fair for Lambertville and comparable to Brian's and slightly lower than Hamilton's Grill Room.
We started with a non-dairy pea soup, which was served chilled and nicely flavored with ginger. We also started with a tian of crab, which proved to be a generously-sized crab cake, held together with dijon mustard (not gobs of mayonnaise and bread crumbs, as so often you encounter).
Our mains were a perfectly-done salmon filet and a sauteed whole golden trout served over soba noodles and edamame. The trout arrived whole and, indeed, golden. The fish was done just to the point of crispness of the skin and was delightful. I generally shun photography in restaurants, but had to snap a quick one of my fish before I attacked it. I'll share that photo with you, below.
The amount of trout was most generous for the price. In fact, I had enough to toss over my salad for lunch the next day.
D'floret is a keeper. We were most satisfied with the price, quality, service and ambiance. Highly recommended. Leave enough time to park if you visit on a Friday or Saturday and remember to walk around the corner from the posted address.
We were fortunate enough to be in town when demand for reservations was low and we able to secure an early table.
I would echo the OP's and subsequent general comments about the space, service, commitment to quality freshly sourced food.
Our experience included a mushroom soup that was wonderfully light and foamy, but with deep layers of flavor. (Umami sense for lack of a better description.) My dining partner loved it and even shared some with me.
A greater surprise was the Haricot Vert salad. The beans were nice,fresh, and crisp, but more impressive -- the combination of beans and dressing was pleasantly aggressive and nicely seasoned. It was salty, acidic, sweet, and supported by a complicated mix of fresh herbs, but also shallot, marinated tomato, truffle oil, etc... If the typical salad were a Pale Ale or (worse) a Heineken, this was a Double IPA. Like a Stone Ruination of green bean salads. (FWIW, my father would claim it was too salty, but I am a huge proponent of salt as a flavor enhancer and I think people who can't stand salt need to communicate that as they order. /end rant.)
Entrees were also extraordinary. My fluke, which I ordered out of a mixture of optimism and curiosity (having had OK fluke before), was *perfectly* cooked. It came out with a bit of a crust, and I immediately assumed, as a thin cut, it was overcooked (as most fish is, IMHO). Instead the inside was incredibly delicate, soft, moist, etc.. I should add that it came as *two* fillets, and was a great value for the money.
My wife had the lobster pasta which, true to description, was nearly a lobster bisque tossed with pasta. Having said this, the lobster wasn't a passing ingredient in the stock -- I'd guess she had half of a medium lobster in her dish for only a $5 supplement over the base entree cost.
Service was very welcoming without being smothering or uncomfortable. We have dined in all levels of restaurants, but when we are out on adventures we appreciate it when a restaurant doesn't dismiss us because we aren't formally attired.
Because it's BYOB we were able to share a bottle of wine for less than what we might spend on a single glass further north.
Overall, my new favorite restaurant in either Lambertville or New Hope.
We will make reservations and come back fairly often.
PS My only nitpick is that the menu listed wild Alaskan salmon, but the waiter said, upon clarification, that it was steelhead. Trout and salmon are related, and there are many different varieties, but I can say that steelhead is not wild Alaskan salmon. There are salmon I like less than steelhead, but steelhead is IMHO pretty much inferior to real wild King, Sockeye, even Chinook, etc..I suppose it is sometimes better than farmed pacific salmon. (Therefore, always better than the bland Atlantic salmon (99% farmed -- don't be fooled by 'Scottish', etc..).)
However, In an age when true fish identification is a such a problem, mis-communication doesn't help, IMHO.
We ate dinner at D'Floret this weekend. I was surprised at how small the interior is. It probably seats 30 at most.
We found the service to be attentive, but a bit bumbly. Not surprising as they have only been open a couple of weeks. I found Estella to be less than friendly. Maybe she was having a bad day, but she was brusque. I found the art on the walls to be joyful and bright. My biggest complaint with the space would be the open kitchen. While it is a pleasure to watch Chef Foy work, a lot of odors wafted our way. They really need a better exhaust system to pull that kitchen air out of the restaurant. We literally could tell you every meal that was being fired. And fish does not smell great when cooking. It is really off-putting while you are eating to smell other foods cooking.
The good news here is the food. Very simple in both presentation and preparation but fresh tasting and delicious. The food really is the star here. Every ingredient is allowed to sing. We ate the mushroom gnocchi and crab tian appetizers. Both were outstanding. Each ingredient was noticable, perfect, fresh, and delicious. For entrees we got the golden trout and the chicken. I was a little confused by the french fries as an accompaniement to the chicken. Certainly it could have been better paired with a more refined potato dish. Similarly, the soba didn't pair perfectly with the trout. The trout was cooked TO PERFECTION and was delicious, but I would have enjoyed the plate more with something other than soba noodles. For dessert, the lemon tart was fabulous but the tart itself was a bit too hard and difficult to cut through. The profiteroles were just OK. The texture of the ice cream was a bit too grainy and the texture of the pastry was tough.
All in all, D'Floret and Chef Foy are great additions to the dining scene in Lambertville. There were a few minor missteps, but in time, will hopefully be worked out.
madgreek99 - agree on all points. First and foremost, apps and entrees were indeed great. It should be noted the swordfish was not offered Sunday because the chef felt the quality wasn't up to spec.
Estella was OK, but had very little presence once you've been seated. In such a small place, I'd expect she could help out - once the service team had most tables seated. Also being a new place, you'd expect some interaction with diners would help the operations. She was running a few plates out back.
The open kitchen situation and ventilation challenges are a concern - mostly for the heat. We didn't pick up any strange odors, but we were seated in the window and against the wall (furthest from the kitchen).
For our dessert, we had the fresh berries with cream, profiteroles and a special raspberry tart. The shell of the tart was super dense and rock hard, like it had been refrigerated. Could not break it with the provided spoon and had to spear it with a borrowed fork to chip it up. We'll select something else for our next visit.
Look forward to returning and hope D'floret blossoms into greatness.
Enjoyed our dinner at D'floret last night. A nice addition to Lambertville.
Everything was well prepared by chef Foy - gnocchi, crab and mushroom apps and wild salmon, chicken and veal entrees. Gnocchi was superb and rivals our local favorite at Blue Bottle in Hopewell.
Service was leisurely with room for improvement. The dining room is compact. With a wall of windows and the open kitchen, the room really holds the heat. Additionally the front door is the passage for the service team to the garden seating - so there's a lot of opening closing and loss of any available AC. Our thought would be to add shades to the window and a ceiling fan or two to help keep the dining room comfortable in the summer months.
We checked out the garden/patio area and it looked very inviting. We'll give it a go on our next visit. The patio menu is a bit less formal than the dining room menu. Last night, they were offering the grilled pork (from the patio menu) to the dining room in place of the swordfish.
We'd put D'floret in the same company as Hamilton Grill Room, Brian's and Manon. A notch down would be Anton's and others in town.
@Foody4life: I agree with your ranking of D'floret in the same category as Hamilton's Grill Room and Brian's. We returned to Il Tule on Saturday evening and enjoyed it just as much as ever. Lambertville is lucky to have a burgeoning fine dining scene. If you haven't already tried Il Tule, do so at your earliest convenience and be sure to explore the Peruvian menu, starting with the ceviches.
I agree. In one of the local papers (probably the Packet), they are advertising a prix-fixe 3 course dinner for around $24---the actual ad is not in front of me-- but also no mention of it on the web site. I'd love to know what the prix- fixe includes without having to ask for a recitation over the phone!
Yes, the Packet is carrying an ad for the "prix-fixe" menu. It is $25 for three courses and is available Sunday through Thursday from 5:00-6:30 PM. It should be noted that this information appears right under a statement that the outdoor patio is now open. In view of comments above, I wonder if the $25 menu is available only on the patio.