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Review: L'Anne in Wheaton - long

dickson d | Nov 13, 200210:17 PM

It is important to treat yourself well at times - and fortunately, while the far west suburbs lack sorely in what one could call authentic, ethnic food, we do okay in the nice restaurant category. What with Les Deux Gros turning out meals that are comparable with almost anything in Chicago, and numerous other contenders, maybe a step off the pace, like L'Anne.

L'Anne bills itself as French/Asian cuisine, which in my three visits has meant some slightly asian-style appetizers and amuse, but decidedly mainstream meat courses with good sauces. A Pinot Noir kind of place. L'Anne's proprietress is Vietnamese, though the food really is not (and there is no relation between her and the Chinese/Vietnamese joint (I say that as praise, not to disparage) Luong Loi, down the street). The chef is a japanese fellow, Kei ????, who followed Suzy Crofton at Montparnasse.

Anyway, we went there for their special holiday dinner, with some friends. Fixed menu with wines included. I very much like letting someone else choose my food. In fact I will sometimes ask the chef or waiter to just bring me whatever food they think is good tonight. To escape from the monotony of my own preferences.

Started with a Bouvet sparkling wine from the Loire. Quite pleasant. Amuse Bouche was a maki roll, only the "seaweed" was thinly sliced smoked salmon, and there was some vegetable, I think, as well as lighlty seared salmon and tuna inside. Served with a dab of herbed mayo and watercress on the side. The smoked salmon dominated the taste with the other ingredients really just contributing texture and richness. Quite pleasant and well matched with the sparkling wine. Good start.

The next two dishes were superb. First wild mushroom ravioli & grilled scallop with mushroom broth. It smelled wonderful - with the seared, nutty scallop combining with the wild mushrooms in a delightful way. I just sat breathing it in for a bit. One big pouch of fresh, lightly sauteed, mushrooms, a single tender scallop, and the broth. Heavenly overall.

The wine with these courses was white Bordeaux, 1998 Chateau Brondelle. Complex and rich, like many white Bordeaux, but not so much fruit. Not really wines I like a lot in general, but it combined well with the food.

I expected the meal to go downhill after the first course, but the next course tasted better. Steamed Halibut on braised beets, with garlic browned butter and lemon butter. Perfectly tender, light but with a slight taste of the sea - the Halibut pretty much served as a base for the other flavors. Alternated lemon and then garlic butter, until I switched to all garlic, because the browned butter was so good. And the beets added the cliched earthiness.

Then a field green salad with some pickled beans and carrots in it, and a little dab of spicy brown dressing on the side. Woke up the mouth.

Perhaps I was getting full at this point, because the rest of the meal did not hold up to what proceeded, or maybe it was not possible to maintain such a level throughout. The wine for the meat course was a 2000 Silver Ridge Cabernet, which had a young, fruity, nose, but was surprisingly soft and rounded in the mouth for such a young wine. We drank a lot of it.

The meat course was Lamb stuffed with foie gras, plum and spinach, served in natural jus (a very reduced jus). There were potatos au gratin on the side, and some sweet potatos (in little cubes with marshmallows in them, I swear, or something sweet and gummy), and a little pan of cornbread to share. The meat was okay, the stuffing seemed slightly sweet and mushy. Not bad, but nothing special. Pretty good potatos au gratin. I do not like sweet potato, and I was too full to really try the cornbread. I did clean my plate, though.

Desert was a rich little chocolate cake with a vanilla sauce, I think. Quite nice, and simple, not horribly rich. I was happy with that.

So, after three times at L'Anne, I really like the place and the work the chef is doing. Every meal has its highs and lows - and this one had two wonderful dishes, nicely done desert and salad, and a meat course that did not come together for me. In the area, I think their food is second only to Les Deux Gros right now, and it is a better value. (I am sure that statement can elicit an argument from the Bistro Banlieue and Cochon Sauvage supporters, among others, so let's hear from you!)

The wines were good, but they are still really developing their everyday wine list being about a year old. The room is nice, airy, pretty simple with lots of windows. Service is good. Suburban business casual is about the apparel level.

I suggest you try it out for your fancy dinner date, or business din. I would like to see them make it.

Did I do good review? Can I have the job at the Tribune?

L'anne 221 W. Front St., Wheaton 630-260-1234.


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