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The Gossiping Gourmet: They're speaking French again at 75

February 09, 2011|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Aged USDA choice filet mignon with pomme puree, haricot vert and cabernet reduction is served at French 75 in Laguna Beach.
Aged USDA choice filet mignon with pomme puree, haricot… (KENT TREPTOW, HB…)

French 75 is becoming seriously French again. It was on its way when Dave Shofner became the chef but now with the collaboration of master chef Pascal Olhats, it has arrived, along with a recession-busting $10 entrée menu called "The Perfect 10." We've never seen the place so busy on a weeknight. Is it the $10 menu or has everyone had his fill of fusion and fallen back in love with French cuisine?

The terrace was closed in the very chilly weather, but the ambiance inside was warm, welcoming and bustling with conviviality. If the buzz from the bar and the sounds of the live jazz are not your cup of tea, ask to be seated in one of the two side rooms for something a bit quieter. The lighting is soft enough to knock a few years off your visage, the leather booths are roomy and comfortable and the wait staff is highly professional and attentive.

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We noted with pleasure that a crusty loaf, with a light textured interior, has replaced the boring baguette from our last visit. The olivada has been tweaked to have a creamier texture and a more assertive garlic flavor.

We came to try "The Perfect 10." These are four $10 grilled entrées, each accompanied by a vegetable and a starch. Filet mignon comes with pommes puree (mashed potatoes) and haricots verts (green beans); Atlantic salmon with lentils; rack of lamb with Lyonnaise potatoes; and jumbo shrimp with polenta and sautéed spinach. The four-chop rack of delicious, juicy, medium rare lamb had a nice grill flavor and was brushed with a whisper of port wine reduction. It rested on sliced potatoes that soaked up the meaty juices. A little lightly sautéed arugula provided a peppery complement. Grill flavor was also the dominant seasoning for the four moist, slightly spicy jumbo shrimp. They lounged on top of a polenta cake and were accompanied by some very good garlicky spinach. Color came from a simple sofritto of sautéed onions and peppers in a large dice. The plate was garnished with a teardrop of red pepper puree.

From the regular menu, we ordered the quail appetizer — a whole grilled quail, split in half. It was sweet and juicy and cooked to perfect tenderness. It, too, was accompanied by spinach and polenta cake. Although the seasoning was mild in the polenta and bird, a rich buttery wine reduction sauce imparted flavor to each bite.

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