"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."
That's the quote that popped into my brain as I looked down at the piece of foie gras on my plate. The small wedge of goose liver sat center stage on the oblong dish, the star of a triumverate which also included rare duck breast and a duck leg confit. The new French 75 Brasserie called this presentation "Duck Three Ways". I called it "Huey, Dewey and Louie".
And there I was, feeling like a reluctant Hannibal Lecter, about to devour my latest victims. If this were a film, it would have to be titled "Silence of the Ducks".
With a flick of my scapel, the quivering chunk of liver gave little resistance as the blade sliced cleanly through it like Jell-O. I placed it my mouth and immediately felt a surge of euphoria. The warm velvet texture of it slowly melted on my tongue, and liquified like a decadent custard. The pleasure of eating foie gras is sanguineous and carnal. It's like pornography for the palate, and you feel naughty for loving it. I imagine if vampires existed, they'd enjoy this as an amuse bouche before a night of blood letting.
The thrill of my first taste of the liver was followed by a slight twinge of guilt as I continued to enjoy this controversial product of French tradition like a ravenous animal, alternating between bites of the seared liver and the sour pieces of cooked pear. The fruit, along with the tart reduction of its juice helped to cut through the foie gras' inherent fattiness.
After finishing off the liver, which I dubbed Huey, I continued on to chew on Dewey's flesh. His breast, ripped from the carcass of the duck, was barely licked by the flames of the grill before the hunk is sliced on the diagonal, and displayed in thick, bloody slices on top of roasted potatoes. I found that the rare part of the steaks were paradoxically chewier than the more cooked portions on the outside.
Next was Louie. This third preparation of the water fowl, the confit of duck leg, is by definition, cooked in its own fat. But the charred drumstick looked like a severed limb recovered from a horrific house fire. Its skin although burnt, was smoky and crisp. The leg meat underneath, however, was dry and sinewy. Was this supposed to be a deliberate contrast to the bloody rare breast meat? I don't know, but on the whole, "Duck Three Ways" did the demise of Donald Duck's nephews justice.
We also tried that most French of appetizers; escargot. The menu describes the escargot as "basil-fed". I immediately imagined a Frenchman holding a snail in one hand and a tiny funnel in the other, vainly searching for the mouth. "What won't the French do to enhance the taste of their animals?" I wondered.
The escargot, as it turns out, were indeed, very herby. These dark chewy morsels of snail, served with garlic butter and bits of ham, had a dominant grassy note like it had been chewing up my lawn before it ended up on my plate.
My girlfriend, who treated me for this feast, had the oven roasted chicken and pommes puree. "Why don't they just call it mashed potatoes?" we asked each other. Well, because it's better than mashed potatoes. Creamy, absent of lumps and tasting of rich butter, the pommes puree elevated the simple rosemary roasted chicken to elegance.
Dessert was more status quo. The chocolate souffle was tall, fluffy and airy, and unlike the Chat Noir version I had last March, wasn't overpowered by the drenching of chocolate sauce.
The best dessert of the night, however, was the complimentary bread pudding they served me since it was my birthday. This warm plate of comforting bread mush had fresh raspberries, cream, and white chocolate. Yum!
French 75 is indeed very French. It's amazing to me that this was the same building that once occupied Martin Yan's SensAsian. What was once slapdash and chintzy is now sultry and intimate. Added to that, the French 75 staff is young, attractive, and beaming with fresh, happy smiles.
I am sure Hannibal Lecter would be quite pleased.
French 75 Brasserie
13290 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92602