By Andrew LaRochelle
Le Chef is a new French restaurant close to the intersection of East Oakland Park Boulevard and Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. As I entered the front door, I felt like I was transported to a different world; the décor is bright with lots of white and modern finishes. You can tell the space was recently renovated, as it looks brand new but the faint smell of fresh paint is secondary to the aromas of onion and garlic. The venue has an interesting mixture of the international influence of Paris, France and a refined style that you would see in Hell’s Kitchen, New York.
The immaculate display cases showcase the different pastries, variety of cheeses, desserts and prepared foods. Some highlights here are the Club Sandwich and the homemade Quiche Lorraine. The displays were colorful, and organized. I immediately identified a couple of pastries I was excited to try. I looked to one side of the display cases to see a lounge area with large orange chairs, a perfect place to meet friends and have some coffee or a glass of wine. On the other side of the space, there are 24 seats where you can watch the Chef prepare your food through large windows as you listen to soft contemporary music.
The owner Marie-Christine Solal, a Parisian native, came over to greet me with a beautiful French accent and a big smile. She showed me to our table and introduced our server, Andre. Andre was very attentive and made me feel relaxed and at home.
For the first course, I decided on a fresh Caprese salad with oregano, tomato, basil, mixed greens and fresh mozzarella balls on tiny skewers ($12). This was served with warm French bread as I sipped on a bubbly Blanc de Blanc ($11 per glass). The salad was a perfect combination of savory flavors, and the crisp sparkling wine was a nice complement to the salad.
On the table, I discovered a chalkboard with creative descriptions of the menu specials. A couple of options immediately made my mouth water. The Snapper Filet in Papillote with Leeks ($28) was the first dish that piqued my interest, which is snapper prepared in a foil paper pouch and baked in the oven. Another was the Crusty Salmon and Leeks ($24) and was described by Andre as a salmon fillet cooked inside a puff pastry. Both of these entrees were served with roasted zucchini mashed potatoes. I asked Andre for his thoughts on these two dishes and he responded that these were his exact top two favorites. I knew I was on the right track!
Both entrees were served hot an only took about 15 to 20 minutes to prepare. I enjoyed a glass of Sauvignon Blanc Grand Caillou ($16), which was light and crisp, with a citrus taste that complemented the snapper and salmon, as I had two try both. The fish was extremely fresh, perfectly cooked, and just the right size to save a little room for all those desserts I was admiring when I first walked in. The roasted zucchini mashed potatoes were creamy with a hearty vegetable finish. Andre very carefully cleared our finished plates, making sure that we were happy and doing well throughout the entire dining experience.
Now it was time to pick our dessert, my favorite part of the meal! There was so much to choose from so I had to try more than one. I remembered one pastry that stuck out in my mind. The sugar delight resembled a cheeseburger but was much more intriguing. The little hamburger from heaven – named Le Chef Burger ($9), was created by Pastry Chef Stephane Merlat, and is an apricot macaroon with a chocolate mousse. This confection is something so different and decadent at the same time, a perfect mix of sugary fruit and milky chocolate. I had a little time to work on this as the other dessert was ordered and prepared. This item was another recommendation from Andre, our waiter: the chocolate fondant or lava cake ($8.50). It takes about 10 minutes and is made to order. The warm chocolate oozes out of the flourless cake like a dream, and was a superb way to end the meal.
From beginning to end of the meal, all was spectacular. Le Chef really lived up to their descriptive tagline of “Deliciously French.” The service, ambience, décor, and most importantly, the food were très magnifique! I couldn’t leave empty-handed, so I picked up a bottle of French Chablis ($31) and some country pate with black pepper ($14) to enjoy with friends the following night, and it was the perfect sophisticated snack. My friends were impressed with the combination of flavors of the light buttery flavors in the Chablis and the creamy pate with a peppery finish.
Visit Le Chef at 2104 East Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, where they serve lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch! Catering is available. Visit their website at lechefrestaurant.com or call (954) 870-5994 for reservations.