Two weeks ago, 13 of us went to Chez Leon for our eating club. This French bistro is located in the Central West End, near the corner of Euclid and Laclede. We made reservations weeks ahead of time, because we knew we'd have a big group. The atmosphere is very soft and comfortable with perfect lighting, a friendly host who actually speaks French and nicely set tables. Chairs are comfortable. Chez has a prix-fixe menu, which means you choose three dishes for one price, out of six categories. The categories are: Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Entrees, cheese plate and dessert. So, you could order an appetizer, a salad and a dessert. Or an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. Sometimes some of the choices are slightly more expensive than what the fixed price covers, and a "supplement" is added. The wine list is largely affordable, without the usual obscene mark-up, and the choices are a little unusual. Chez also has a very lovely bar, in which smokers can indulge themselves. Children would seem out of place at this restaurant. There is also a wonderful small outside area in which to dine.
For appetizers, many of us got the Coquilles St. Jacques, a scallop dish in which the scallops are seared and served with a hollandaise sauce. These scallops were tender and sweet, and the onion lettuce relish served alongside was perfect. Hollandaise was delicious. Also some eaters got the Salmon Cru, thin layers of fresh smoked salmon, served with minced hard-boiled eggs and nice crispy crackers. Onion soup was not served hot enough, but was good nonetheless. Escargot was very garlicky and buttery (as it should be!), and was positively judged. Salade lyonnaise was truly outstanding - field greens lightly dressed in vineagrette, with hefty chunks of fatty bacon and a soft-cooked egg. All of it was loudly declared to be orgasmic by the diners who had ordered it. When you break up the egg, it adheres the dressing to the lettuce and bacon in the most unusual way. It is gloppy, but so good!
Entrees were next. Many eaters ordered steak with frites, which were oohed and ahed. The herbs on the steak were delicate, and the steaks themselves were cooked to perfection. The frites are the best in St. Louis - crispy on the outside, golden and buttery, and they manage to stay warm thoroughout the meal. The steak also was served with a teeny muffin-shaped carrot-cumin flan, which was very tasty, and a side of sauteed spinach that was out of this world. One eater said this was the best spinach in the world, except for flash-fried spinach. I ordered the steak without the frites, and was served an interesting oniony, red pepper relish instead. Chez's ability to substitute was admired. Another entree was Escalope (shoulder, I think) of veal. This 1" cut of tender, delicious veal was served with a very (too) salty mushroom sauce. The duck l'orange was branded "amazing". The eater of the trout dish was so excited, he almost plotzed with joy. He said it was the best trout he'd ever eaten. I'll take that as a recommendation.
No one at out table ordered a cheese dish, but a few desserts were ordered. The creme caramel was light, floaty, creamy, delectable, and very sweet. Its caramel sauce was runny and not too-thick. The profiteroles came as three bread-encased ice cream balls - 1 vanilla, 1 chocolate and 1 neopolitan. The rolls were delicious, but the dish could have used a bit more of the luscious chocolate sauce. Dessert wines, after-dinner drinks and expresso/cappucinos are available and insofaras we sampled, very good.
All in all, this was one of the best restaurants we have been to. Service was absolutely impeccable, and we only had one server. Everything came out when it should have and the water glasses were never empty. Oh, a word about the bread here - incredible rolls with real butter - mmmmm! Price was $60 per person, which included three dishes and quite a bit of wine. The prix fixe is $28, so if you didn't drink yourself into a stupor, you could do this place much less expensively. But the meal was great and we all can't wait to go back!
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