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Return to Loire

2009/11/11

After a nice meal at Loire toward the end of September, I popped in again this past weekend to check out additional menu items. I wanted to try things that I had not ordered before. Some things were great, others good, and one in particular not so good.

My dining companion and I arrived a little early for the reservation so we sat at the bar to have a cocktail. Loire doesn’t have a cocktail menu so I went for my favourite aperitivo, the Negroni, while my friend had a vodka martini. Unfortunately we finished our cocktails and our table still wasn’t ready. So we waited. And waited. And started into a bottle of wine I brought (2006 M. Chapoutier Condrieu Invitare – more on that later) while waiting more. Finally after a solid 25 minutes (that included a mention to our waiter about the wait), we were finally seated. The service continued to be rocky for the next 20 minutes or so as we were generally ignored, not brought water, bread, etc. Quite disappointing. The restaurant was full but there’s no reason to be kept waiting that long, especially if reservations are scheduled appropriately through the night. Aside from an apology for the wait, no other attempt to smooth over the delay was made.

Because there were several dishes of interest on the menu, we asked the kitchen to split everything so we could do a pseudo-tasting menu.

Seared tuna loin, sprouts, squash

Seared tuna loin, sprouts, squash

First up was a seared tuna loin with sprouts, squash and a bit of dashi. This was the least favourite dish of the night as several improvements could have been made.  It lacked seasoning and needed a bit of heat. I think some slivers of chiles would have perked up the dish immensely. Finally, my friend made a good observation that the tuna appeared to be seared in advance of service as it didn’t have that warm, crusty outside and cool centre, it was just cool all the way through. Disappointing.

Sweetbreads, lobster, chard, bean puree

Sweetbreads, lobster, chard, bean puree

While the tuna was the biggest miss of the night, a special of sweetbreads and lobster was the complete opposite of that. This dish was a stunner! The sweetbreads and lobster were perfectly cooked and well-seasoned. The bean puree and chard were nice accompaniments – the former added even more richness, while the chard acted like a palate cleanser. We were in agreement that four plates of this would have made for an ideal supper. It’s sad that this isn’t on the regular menu!

Crispy pork belly, crackling, beans

Crispy pork belly, crackling, beans

I love pork belly. Love it. It’s supposed to be fatty and rich and crispy. It was fatty and rich, but this preparation wasn’t crispy enough. It could have been seared a little longer. There were other issues with the dish though. While the belly wasn’t crispy enough, the crackling was too crispy. I think biting into a jawbreaker would have been easier. The dish would have benefited from the beans being pureed and finally, and most importantly, where was the sauce? It was sorely lacking in sauce. The dish wasn’t horrible, but it could have been so much better. Previous iterations of the pork belly dish at Loire have been so much better!

Duo of beef

Duo of beef

A braised short rib and piece of seared flank steak formed the duo of beef. The “duo” at Loire is usually duck, but they changed it up this time! I was quite disheartened with the change when reading the menu because I love duck, but this was also very good. Surprisingly, the flank was the better of the two pieces of beef! Carrots, corn, and cubed rutabaga rounded out the dish with a nice reduction of the braising liquid. This was very tasty.

Chocolate and peanut butter ganache with vanilla ice cream

Chocolate and peanut butter ganache with ice cream

Moving on to desserts, a couple jumped off the menu. The first, a chocolate and peanut butter ganache was pretty good but a little bit on the sweet side. It didn’t get finished.

Pecan tart, honey-thyme roasted pears, butterscotch gelato

Pecan tart, honey-thyme roasted pears, butterscotch gelato

The preferred dessert was exactly what I ordered last time, regardless of how much I wanted new items. The pears and butterscotch gelato were great once again. I enjoyed the tart but it would have been nice to have the pecans toasted a little more.

As for the wines, I brought a couple nice selections from my cellar. Both were excellent. While I didn’t take formal notes, they showed quite similarly to previous bottles so I include them below. The Condrieu was delightful, the gorgeous floral, sweet nose is quite perplexing as on the palate the wine is quite dry! This Viognier is highly recommended.

The Rocche dei Manzoni Sorito Mosconi is a Barbera made from at least 70-year old vines. Between the age of the vineyard and the well-managed dose of barrique aging, the wine is lush, balanced, and simply fantastic.

  • 2006 M. Chapoutier Condrieu Invitare – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Condrieu
    Light gold colour. Huge, sweet, tropical nose of passion fruit, coconut, papaya, mango, lychee, pear nectar, honey, white flowers, and orange rind. Medium-full bodied, unctuous, with alcohol, papaya, coconut, butterscotch, pear nectar, orange oil, and lanolin notes on the palate. Long finish, with a bit of lanolin, dragonfruit, and hints of spice with time.This wine has outstanding texture and length that grows more complex when it warms. Don’t drink this wine too cold or you’ll miss its subtle nuances. (92 pts.)
  • 2003 Podere Rocche dei Manzoni Barbera d’Alba Sorito Mosconi – Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d’Alba Opaque ruby/purple colour. Aromas of vanilla, berry fruit, plums, and a bit of stemminess that blows off with air. Full-bodied, unctuous, with replays from nose. Even though there is plenty of fruit in this wine, it’s kept in check with great acidity. Long finish, ~40s. Consistently great stuff. I’d like to see where this goes with cellaring, but it’s tough to keep the mitts off! (92 pts.)

Overall, the evening was a nice one but not mind-blowing. With the number of places in this city that I have yet to visit, I would hesitate to rush back to Loire. If I was to return, I would hope that the service would be more like my initial visits and less like what was experienced at the beginning of my most recent trip.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    2009/11/13 11:14 AM

    I have had an equally un-impressive experience at Loire, but that’s beside the point. Food was average and service was deferential at best. My point(s):

    – You indicate a wait of 25 minutes. Was this following your (early) arrival, or from the time of your reso? Either way, sh!t happens. An apology should suffice. Why do you expect free stuff when the couple ahead of you takes longer than expected? Do you give free stuff away when you are late?

    – You asked the kitchen to split everything? REALLY? Ever heard of sharing? They teach that in grade school. Plus, sharing doesn’t fuc% up the kitchen’s timing for the rest of us.

    Damn resto bloggers.

  2. futronic permalink*
    2009/11/13 11:56 AM

    Chris,

    Those are valid points. Let me address them:

    The wait was 25 minutes after the reservation time. I did not include the early arrival time. I have no issues having a drink at the bar beforehand. A 5-10 minute delay in turning tables is understandable, but a wait longer than that is undesirable. As for “expecting free stuff,” at no point did I say that. I think you’re filling in your own blanks there. While it would have been nice if they offered us another drink on the house for the delay, I was fine with the apology.

    As for asking the kitchen to split everything, it was more of a situation that we were discussing a number of items of interest with the waiter. We asked if a tasting menu was possible but it wasn’t without arrangements in advance (understandable), but the waiter offered to get the kitchen to split the courses for a charge. So we accepted. That was poorly conveyed in my original post. If that wasn’t possible we would have just shared the dishes.

    To be honest, the 9-top that came in just after us would have probably screwed up things in the kitchen more than our table.

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