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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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Free Spirits Tastings at K&L! Now that we have our license for spirits tastings in Redwood City and San Francisco, we’re excited to host regular free spirits tastings in those locations.  Check the Spirits Journal for an updated tasting schedule.

All tastings will feature different products from the Spirits Department and take place on Wednesdays in Redwood City and San Francisco. Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

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« Gone Astray in L.A.: A Northern California foodie reports on the Southland’s Gastronomic Scene | Main | Two Greats from Champagne »
Monday
Nov142005

Gone Astray in L.A.: A Northern California Foodie Reports on the Southland's Gastronomic Scene

Parking at Chat Noir is exceedingly easy. There is valet, for starters, which costs only $5. For this paltry sum, your car will bask in the company of such vehicular luminaries as a pride of Porches, one yellow Lamborghini, a bevy of 500-series BMWs and Lexuses of all shapes and sizes. If you are cheap or poor… well, you should not eat at Chat Noir. But if you must, you can save $5 and the humiliation of owning the only late model Subaru in the valet lot by continuing on Anton Blvd past a business park or two toward the multi—level garage. Here you will discover many floors of free parking. It is this copious free parking, along with a surprisingly interesting wine list, which may be the most compelling reason to dine at Chat Noir. It’s not that the place is terrible, or anything. It’s simply that it’s not very good. Case in point: When you sit down, the hostess asks you to select either a white or a black napkin. Given the many choices one most address in today’s fine dining establishments (Sparking water, still or tap? Salad before the main course or after? Ahi seared raw or mostly raw?), can’t we leave it up to the hostess to pick a napkin color? After our party of four survived the gauntlet of napkin options, we were presented with an amuse bouche of lobster bisque served in a shot glass. I am always suspect of amuse bouches and other things that come to me without my asking for them first. If an amuse bouche is good, I can forgive a restaurant their bravado. And they should always be good, since this is the first thing issued from the kitchen and can be considered an indication of the meal to follow. Well, we were in for a bumpy ride. A lobster might have given its life in order to make this bisque, but you could have fooled me. It tasted so strongly of smoked paprika and bacon… they might have called it bacon bisque. But, of course, I can see why they didn’t do that. What I can’t understand is why the butter that accompanies the nicely crusty bread comes with a paper film covering it. There is a paw print on the paper… a jaunty allusion to a black cat, but putting wax paper on the butter was a little too reminiscent of Howard Johnson’s to be jaunty. No, it was just plain cheesy. Cheesy, too, was the over-dressed Ceasar salad ($9), an ample serving of bite-size romaine covered with cheese. No anchovies were in evidence (the chef obviously has an aversion to fish, I’m thinking), and the croutons were soggy and tasteless (though they had been hyped on the menu as containing both garlic and thyme. Psha! The Salade Grillee ($9) issued to one of my tablemates was the very same salad as my Ceasar, only the leaves of romaine were served mostly whole after having been cooked, for some unfathomable reason, on a grill. At least they did not charge anything extra for the grilling (or the additional “e”). The Endive, Watercress and Arugula Salad ($9) was the best of the bunch, containing the aforementioned lettuces as well as a nice smattering of thinly sliced apples, sort of candied walnuts and bleu cheese. No one ordered the Basil Fed Escargots ($12), which is shame because I would have liked to pontificate more on the pretensions of listing the animals’ diet before it becomes part of yours. Although grass-fed beef is a menu staple, so I take that back. I would also have taken back the half-dozen oysters ($12), if I had been the one who ordered them. They were not cold, not fresh and not even honored with a varietal name. And so… on to the main event. I had the Sea Bass, served with a couple of baby Yukon golds, some slimy spinach and a bunch of beurre blanc sauce and topped with shavings of fried onions not dissimilar to the stuff that comes from a can. This time, the fish was fresh, and nicely cooked, with a crispy skin and a moist interior, but the sauce was so utterly cloying, it all but obscured the fine fish. I cannot recall the price, but it was too much. The 3-way Duck ($29) sounds naughty, though it was not nearly as risqué on the plate, consisting of one badly confitted duck leg, an unappetizing slab of duck foie gras sautéed to a deep and over-cooked brown and served with a too-sweet raspberry sauce, and a duck breast, seared, thinly sliced and fanned out prettily. The Steak Frites ($34), in this case a Kobe Flatiron, was topped with a thick peppercorn sauce, totally unnecessary for a nice piece of beef, and this one was. The fries were good, thin and crispy and coated with flakes of green herbs. One constant theme of the place is a ton of sauce. It is no secret to chefs in France that poor ingredients can be dressed up in a rich sauce to good effect… or to bad effect, depending on whether you’re the restaurant owner or its customer. At Chat Noir everything was drowned and overdone. The side dish of spinach served, apparently, in its own cooking water, was wet and slippery to the point of making it almost impossible to harness with a fork. Even the chocolate soufflé suffered from too much sauce, in this case a chocolate one that tasted like Herseys. The soufflé itself was not at all terrible. It was fashioned with Scharffen Berger chocolate, which made me homesick for the Bay Area. In fact, the entire dining experience made me homesick for the Bay Area. Walking the very short distance back to my car on the warm, windless night, I recalled the many hours I had spent over my years in SF circling around the Mission trying to park within hiking distance of Delfina. And I was sad. About that wine list? It includes some gems, and the prices are fair. This is saying a lot, considering. We had a few glasses of the Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc ($8) and a bottle of the 2001 Château Pallieres Gigondas ($45). It is rare to see a wine list in Orange County with a decent selection of the French stuff. Francophiles will find something tasty at Chat Noir to drink, even if the food leaves you listless. Got any tips on the foodie scene down here? Post your comments! —Elisabeth Schriber Chat Noir 655 Anton Boulevard Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (714) 557-6647

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