I just returned from my meal at Le Bar Lyonnais, or shall I say, the mezzanine of Le Bec Fin. I think the experience is what you make of it. By that I mean, it will be a good meal, but may be not the best of your life, or earth-shattering.
The maitre d' station area is extremely small. With a few parties coming in at once with coats and doors opening into the space, it was anything but an elegant reception. Foreboding? A bit. My dinner companion and I were escorted to the mezzanine and were seated at a 4 top next to a large 6 person round table. Only out of 6 people, 3 were children 12 and under, 2 of which were *ahem* screaming. Other diners had raised their voices to a point where it was almost unbearable. I felt as if I had entered Chuck E Cheese. Water was served in large goblets. Butter was placed. Bread took some time. I couldn't believe children under 12 were allowed, and even sarcastically commented to the wait staff about them. They said they have seen extremely well-behaved 5 year olds staring at the decor, and leave it to the discretion of the management to handle such cases. For the first 15 minutes, I had truly entered the ninth circle.
The family left, and another party of 6 twenty-somethings arrived. Noise in the small mezzanine was maintained at a nice din. I don't expect silence, but I do expect to be able to carry on a conversation with my tablemate. The room then took on a more "adult" atmosphere.
On the advice of another 'hound here (Capeneus), I had the sommelier summoned. Their 19+ page wine list with its accompanying table of contents is daunting, and I even stated so. Using cues from Capeneus -- "something that won't break the bank, something you find interesting, a light to medium bodied red, etc." -- Mr. Sommelier asked for our preference of an earthy or fruity red, and then guided us towards an absolutely terrific choice, a 1999 Gevrey-Chamberlain "Vieiles Vignes" by Phillippe Naddef. The choice set me back $115, but this was one of their "more reasonable choices". Side note: the sommelier did suggest one for $75. I have never used a sommelier, mostly because they don't exist in my dining realm, but by all means, use them! The wine really made for a special meal. Mr. Sommelier is very approachable, reasonable, and really seems to enjoy his job. He doesn't frown upon RW patrons and asked us is we would like the label, and at the end of our meal presented it within a Lec Bec Fin greeting card.
On to the chow.....
Appetizers: Seafood Salad and Country Pate. The seafood salad was a sizeable serving of mussels, scallops, fish, baby clam, and calamari in a creamy sauce over shaved fennel, accompanied by micro greens. Dining companion enjoyed a single slice of pate accompanied by micro greens, but wasn't sure of the tiny mushrooms in a what-she-called "unfamilar gelatinous" base.
Entrees: Roasted Salmon and Monkfish. I only had a small bite of the salmon, but it was very tender and moist. It's skin had been reduced to mere crispy paper, which reminded DC of bacon in its crispy charredness. My monkfish was quite good, but not extraordinary -- the fish had been slightly breaded and possibly pan fried; there were no aromatic traces of the basmati rice, and I found it overall to be a tad salty, although I am "salt sensitive". The armoricaine sauce, usually served with lobster, was yet another light buttery cream sauce.
Desserts: Tiramisu and Almond Raspberry Cake. The menu did not have the roasted pineapple as listed on the website. DC prefers a light fluffy tiramisu, this was more of a torte. Very good nonetheless. I enjoyed my Almond Raspberry Cake, but to be critical, I can compare it's density to those "jam thumbprint" cookies made during the holidays -- solid with small chunks of almonds. In it were 3 raspberries, while very fresh, were also too tart. The accompanying rasperry coulis was sweet. Size wise, I didn't find it as small as fellow 'hound JanR did, maybe 2-1/2" in diameter, certainly enough for me. Coffee was offered during dessert and was served with white and brown sugar cubes. Not exactly the coffee service of Lacroix, but I still had wine to finish :)
Overall, our experience was very good. I think the fact that we ordered wine and thus had to be provided wine service throughout our meal encouraged much more interaction with the staff than we would have had otherwise. Our server/waiter had as much personality as a dead fish, but that was made up for with the attentiveness of George's brother and the sommelier. Had I merely ordered a glass of wine and my meal, or had wrongly selected a "cheap" wine on my own, I might have left disappointed. The staff is polite and professional, but not stuffy. Other parties came in after us and left before we did; we lingered for 2 hours and were not rushed at all. It's quite possible to be in and out in a little over an hour should you so desire. Somehow the staff is able to pace the courses accordingly. I thought we might have been one of the last parties, but there were plenty people entering LBF at 10 when we left.
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