Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Five Star Dinner of a Five Star Friend

One of my really close friends recently had the pleasure of dining at Northeastern Ohio's  only five-star restaurant, Chez Francois in Vermillion.  I would like to thank her for sharing this experience with me and allowing me to pass it on to you.  So without anymore from me:


I admit it.  I’m a food snob.  So the fact that I hadn’t been to Chez Francois in Vermilion – this region’s only 5-star restaurant – was bothering me.  But Chez Francois isn’t the kind of place you just go to for no good reason.  So, I got myself a new job, which gave people something to celebrate, and landed me a chance to check this place out.

First of all, I know what you’re thinking.  Vermilion?  What’s a 5-star restaurant doing in Vermilion?  Serving amazing food, that’s what.  And there’s a dress code.  This is a place that is truly about the complete dining experience.  It is worth the drive, trust me.  But considering that you do have quite the drive to get there, I would recommend making reservations on the early side.  Service is not at all rushed at Chez Francois, which allows you to linger in the rustic French atmosphere, enjoy your wine, and eat even more delicious fare.

We started our evening with an amuse bouche of English pea puree with crème fraiche.  It was light, fresh, and flavorful.  And it’s the perfect introduction to what Chez Francois does so well – seasonal cooking.  The menu here changes every season, so don’t get too attached to any one dish. 

Our round of appetizers included foie gras, coquilles St. Jacques (scallops, whipped potatoes, and cream sauce), and lobster in puff pastry with black currant sauce.  I highly recommend the foie gras, not just because it’s incredibly good, but it’s incredibly different.  Chez Francois gives you plenty of opportunity to challenge your palette.  This isn’t fusion cooking (not that there’s anything wrong with fusion) – this is straight-up butter, cream, truffles, rich French cooking.  The foie gras was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, served with cinnamon nut bread and a peach glaze and paired with a dessert wine.  The black currant sauce on the lobster puff pastry was divine, even if it somewhat took away from the taste of the lobster itself.

My dinner entrée was beef Wellington – filet wrapped in puff pastry, served with (more) foie gras, shaved truffles, and two different sauces (one mustard, the other similar to a bordelaise).  The beef was superb and perfectly done and the ratio of beef to puff pastry was spot-on (lots of beef, with just enough puff pastry to cover it).  But what took this dish to the next level were the sauces and truffles, giving it an intense earthy, smoky flavor.  The other diners enjoyed veal medallions, lightly breaded and topped with cream sauce and various seafood; veal chop; and lobster ravioli.

Dessert was raspberries Romanoff, with homemade vanilla and chocolate chunk ice cream.  While it was delicious, I found myself having dessert envy over the chocolate molten cake next to me.  Given the choice again, I don’t think I’d pass up the opportunity for one of Chez Francois’ chocolate creations.

Overall, it was a fabulous dining experience – from the food to the atmosphere to the service.  To make your next truly special occasion over-the-top, think about taking a drive out to Vermilion.

As an aside, there is a wine bar located at Chez Francois called Touche.  It’s more casual, but features some of the same appetizers as the restaurant.

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