Located in a central spot on Hartz Av. in downtown Danville, this is a small plates style Cal/French bistro which was originally La Salamandre. We went there on Saturday evening for an early Mother's day dinner. There were 3 of us, so right from the start we had some issues with sharing, as most of the dishes are sufficient for only 3 or 4 bites. My daughter is a bit pickier than my son or me, so we had to order a couple of plates that she could have, while my son and I shared others.
Upon being seated, we were given a little soup sip of chilled green pea, very sweet and creamy.
We ordered 8 plates:
-foie gras, warm & cold;
-skillet seared skate wing in brown butter, marjarom and lemon with chive puree and micro greens;
-bouillabaisse: shellfish and shrimp in lobster stock and marsala with rouille toast;
-roasted lamb loin medallions in red wine sauce, mache and white bean puree;
-gin-cured salmon on crisp lavosh with cilantro cream, yuzu and roe;
-braised duck pot pie with chorizo, dates and curried wine juices under puff pastry;
-spring vegetable cassoulette, rosemary cream and hazelnut bread crumb crust;
-roasted chicken, caramelized garlic custard with tiny greens, nuts and black pepper vinaigrette;
They used to offer a 3 course prix fixe meal, but have discontinued it. I liked the duck pot pie and the skate wing the best. Everything was put together with care and tasted great. Two things that I noticed though -we did not get bread with our meal (I would have loved it with the bouillabaise and the duck), and other than the vegetable cassoulette, there were no other real vegetable options, not even a green salad. This being our first time there, we weren't sure if the lack of bread was normal or an oversight. On the lunch menu, there are salad choices, so I suppose you could request a salad with dinner, we just didn't think to at the time. Service was fine, the plates came out 2 at a time and were well paced.
For dessert, there is a sampler of 4 items: 2 little eggcups of sorbet (that night it was basil and tangerine), an apple tart with a mild rocquefort filling, a strawberry flan with diced strawberry on top and a warm chocolate cake with whipped cream and toasted almonds. The strawberry flan was my daughter's favorite, luscious and pure berry heaven. The sorbets were cleansing and a nice balance to the richness of the other desserts. We will return for that sampler alone. I almost forgot - I had coffee with dessert that came to the table barely warm.
The atmosphere here is relaxing, not hectic. Compared to that other small plates restaurant, Va De Vi in Walnut Creek, this place is calm, while VDV is a bit flashier. Based on food alone, I would give VDV an edge for bolder flavors, but perhaps it's not a fair comparison.
Next time we go, we'll order individually. I thought we ordered the proper amount, but when we got home, my teenage daughter declared she was still hungry and ate half a bagel.
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