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PAO | Jan 11, 201411:02 PM

We knew Loulay was likely still working through its "new restaurant" glitches but decided to go anyway because of our familiarity with Thierry Rautureau. The restaurant poses physical challenges to the staff: it's on 3 different levels, so wait staff must run up and down 3 flights of stairs. The second level is actually a walkway between the top of the stairs from the 1st floor to the stairs to the 3rd floor and the tables there are for 2 and 1 only. Their advantage is that you can be a food voyeur and watch what everyone on the 1st floor is eating. The 3rd floor overlooks the entrance to the Sheraton. The restrooms are located past the cashier's/captain's station, so there's often a traffic jam as patrons try to get by the staff. By the time we left, the place was almost full but the noise level was only moderate, at least on the two upper floors. The lady's restroom (and I assume the men's as well) needs a wider receptacle for used towels--when I first went in I thought previous patrons had been rather rude for throwing used towels on the floor. Until I finished washing up and tried tossing my used towel into the bin and missed. The rather limited menu is divided into small, medium, and large plates, although there is a tasting menu for under $50. The waitress forgot to bring us bread until we realized the omission (we saw everyone on the first floor had bread) and reminded her after we had finished our salads of grilled endive and caramelized apple. The salads were small, but tasty, with excellent quality mustard, but heavy on the frisee, which is not my favorite salad material. My husband enjoyed his burger, cooked medium rare, but the plentiful accompanying fries were only lukewarm and a bit limp, possibly in part because the plate was not heated and there's a long way for the serving staff to go between where the kitchen presents the finished plates and the second floor. The aioli that came with the fries,however, was delicious. I LOVED my braised rabbit with wild mushrooms, arugula, and papardelle. Interestingly enough, I had just had rabbit with papardelle a week ago at Hitchcock. The Hitchcock version was good, but was really a pasta. The Loulay version was superb, and was really a stew with pasta. The dish was smoky and incredibly savory. The papardelle was perfect. The best braised dish I've ever had. The downside was it was in the "medium plate" category: I could have eaten twice the quantity. So I ordered crab beignets from the small plate category. because I was still hungry. This was the real disappointment of the meal. They were kind of chewy and gummy with only a suggestion of crab flavor. I'm not ordering these again unless they're given a complete overhaul. Desserts ranged from OK to superb. The chocolate truffle cake was only so-so, the highlight being a very good lemon cremeaux. The real star was--are you ready for this?--roasted cocoa sorbet with praline powder, hazelnuts, and candied kumquats. This was not your usual chocolate sorbet. Instead, the generous serving was like a cold, intensely cocoa-ed pudding. The candied kumquats added just the right touch of fruitiness. Put this on the list of my favorite desserts. Loulay still has some glitches to work out, but I look forward to trying the restaurant again.

Loulay Kitchen & Bar,
Hitchcock Deli
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