|The Bistro LeRoux Open Kitchen with Wood Fired Oven|
Bistro LeRoux has now been open for a little over a year. It is located at the intersection of Route 149 and Bay Rd, about three miles east of the Adirondack Northway, Route 87. We have been hearing good things about it since their opening, but waited for the Lake George summer crowd to disperse before driving down for a visit. We really enjoy patronizing north country restaurants that remain open for the winter. Diners are especially welcome during the slow season, and the more relaxed pace in the dining room allows you to get to know the place and the personnel better than you could during the summer.
We drove down last Tuesday for dinner, not knowing if they had a bar or a wine list, as none are mentioned on the web site. (Panicked by this possibility, we stashed a bottle of Burgundy in the car just in case.)
Upon entering the restaurant, we were immediately and enthusiastically greeted by our new favorite bartender, Tiffany, who turned out to be one of the owners. Her husband and co-owner Jacob Guay was presiding over the open kitchen, which is in full view from the bar and surrounding lounge dining area. I took the picture above from my bar stool, which is right where we stayed for dinner. As I have stated before on this blog, the very best way to get to know a restaurant is to eat at the bar, as close as you can get to the service bar area. You will hear all of that night’s really good dishes; what works, what doesn’t work, (and who doesn’t work). So we ate at the bar.
We perused a very nice west coast – centric wine list that reflected Tiffany’s time spent in Napa. Most of the offerings were priced in the $30 range with 18 available by the glass, none priced over $10. The restaurant also offers “flights” of three wines with 3 ounce pours, which allows diners to sample more varieties than a full glass would prudently allow. Mary did spy a bottle of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Village (priced with a very reasonable 2 / 1 markup at $23), which is what we ordered for dinner.
The bistro style menu lists every offering as a small or large plate, allowing the smaller plates to pass as appetizers, or in our case allowing six different items to be shared as a mini-schmorgasbord. In addition to the regular menu, Tiffany mentioned an evening special of jambalaya, one of my favorites. The regular menu offerings included crab cake ($7 / $13) served with a red cabbage slaw, a delicious flat bread topped with arugula and a creamy sweet sausage and carmelized onions, and finished in the nearby wood fired oven. A bowl of seasonal creamy butternut squash bisque ($6) was finished with toasted pumpkin seeds and topped with a pinch of french fried julienned sweet potato.
We were extremely happy to see an offering of Wild Alaskan Salmon ($13 / $25) served with purple potato hash. Hopefully more restaurants will follow Bistro LeRoux’s lead and offer sustainably harvested Pacific’s, instead of farm raised and environmentally problematic Atlantic salmon. Three cheers and a gold star for that. I did order a small plate of pork shanks ($12 / $23) served with a sweet potato risotto. A plate of sea scallops were perfectly seared and served with a side of “sweet pea mashed potatoes”. The side dish was prepared exactly as it sounds and I have not seen it done that way since I was five years old and my mother tried to hide peas in my mashed potatoes. It was great. So was the aforementioned jambalaya, not done Creole style but prepared as a “white jambalaya”, the braised meats and trinity of veggies layered on top of a creamy risotto, which was layered on just a dollop of herb laced olive oil to glisten the plate. It was all finished with julienned fried sweet potato and a garnish of grated grana padano cheese – a modern interpretation of a traditional plate. It was just fabulous but I doubt that it would be recognized as jambalaya in any Cajun Big Easy diner.
Last month we received a text from friends that were eating at Bistro LeRoux for the first time. This couple runs a very traditional and very successful bistro style restaurant in the High Peaks area. Their text said ~ “This place has Culinary written all over it” (pejoratively, I think). In fact the chef / co-owner here did attend the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park. I think my friend was eating a plate just like my white jambalaya when he texted that. Traditionalists (like me) are often critical of attempts to “deconstruct” recipes and tamper with the “classics”. The kitchen here does sometimes head in that direction, but we still very much enjoyed the presentations, and the experience. The dishes we sampled were all well grounded in classic preparations; some a little playful but without getting silly. The kitchen added its own very competent signature but always stopped short of driving the dish over a cliff into a pot of “crustacean foam”. Thank you for that. (Fans of modernist cooking should not take offense. For everything there is a season; just not in my kitchen, and not on this blog.)
The eclectic menu and well prepared dishes at Bistro Leroux are only a component of a most pleasant experience. The place is fun. As we sat at the bar, the owners greeted a constant stream of smiling regulars, many of whom stopped for a drink at the bar before sitting down. Lots of martinis served at this bar. I think I could fit right in, but Mary always reminds me of how many judicial districts we have to drive through to get home. A more welcoming atmosphere and waitstaff will be difficult to come by. Sinatra serenaded us throughout the evening. I was really thrilled to see the back bar’s substantial collection of NY Yankee memorabilia including a signed picture of # 8, Yogi Berra. I think with a palm frond draped over it in reverence, Yogi could serve as an amulet to frighten away any Red Sox fans that might try to slip across Rte 149 from Vermont. I did not notice any on Tuesday.
All in all we left sated and most pleased with the experience. Bistro LeRoux will most definitely be a regular dining destination when we are in the Lake George area. Best of all, you won’t need to wait until next summer to enjoy it.
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