425 NW Market St
Seattle WA 98107
Charming with a Dash of...
By: Bryan R
On the intersection of 6th and Market sits a small and humble house. The house is carefully constructed of brick and stone and has a lush veneer of ivy and other rambling herbs and flowers from carefully tended gardens. Despite its unpretentious nature, this house, which has been carefully converted into a cozy little restaurant, can easily claim that it is serving some of the best French cuisine in the greater Seattle area.
Upon entering the restaurant, you are shown into a somewhat small but wonderfully intimate dining area. Perhaps a dozen tables are snugly arranged around the room. Small candles create a soft and gentle lighting that complements each dining arrangement. One wall is adorned with white latticework while another wall has a mural of a wooded meadow. On the ceiling is a subtle painting of an evening cloudscape. The overall effect is of eating a leisurely meal on a veranda in early summer. And just around the main door is an entryway to a small, tastefully decorated bar and lounge area that looks perfect for a good drink with a small group of friends.
After entering and being seated at Le Gourmand, you zone into something of a time bubble where the sometimes-hectic pace of life is pleasantly calmed. The pace of the meal with its various courses is meant to be a leisurely affair requiring several hours to enjoy, starting with the appetizer and ending after dessert is served. This is intentional, so it’s best to plan on making the dinner the focus of the evening because this is truly a meal that should be slowly savored in a relaxed and peaceful environment.
Le Gourmand's staff is excellent and any one of them is more than capable of helping you guide your meal, such as assisting you with pairing appetizers with entrees or selecting dessert. Their wonderfully friendly assistance with wine selection is also worth noting, especially to those of us with only a beginner’s knowledge of wine (such as myself). The wine assortment is diverse and offers a wide range of selection catering to various preferences and dinner combinations.
After taking our seats and admiring the ambiance, it was time to consider our menu. Le Gourmand offers a wide range of options ranging from fish to beef and even rabbit. And that's just for entree! First, though, we needed to select an appetizer because we ordered from their tasting menu. Le Gourmand’s tasting menu includes an appetizer, entrée and then a salad to finish off the meal.
For appetizers, we sampled a variety of delicious options. Top on the list of recommendations are the blintzes filled with fresh sheep’s milk cheese served with a chive butter sauce that had an incredible rich and warm flavor where the chives provided just the right amount of zest. Another highly recommendable appetizer is the mussels in white wine broth which had a nice fresh taste with sweet and tangy overtones. The sole and shrimp mousseline (think minced seafood paté) and rabbit liver paté were also enjoyable.
After half an hour and another round of bread, the waiters arrived with our entrées. Bathed in a sauce of champagne, halibut stock and several other ingredients, the salmon fillet was highly ranked by one of our reviews. The salmon was “perfectly poached” and the side dish was made of small pastries that that appeared to be swimming in the champagne sauce resulting in a stylish meal that scored extra points for presentation. And if you have a taste for creamy sauces, the young rabbit in white cream sauce is highly reccomendable.
The half rack of lamb chops was good but, perhaps due to high expectations, was also a bit of a let down. We noted that the lamb was a bit overdone so be sure to specify your preference about how well you like your meat to be cooked. The sauce, however, was the highlight of this dish, with its thick, creamy consistency and perfect balance between sweet and lemon overtones. Another entree that was a bit of a let down was the sole in a browned butter sauce. Given the mild flavor of the sole, the sauce, with its strong onion base, was a bit overwhelming. Don't get us wrong, the dish was tasty, but it seemed to have some unrealized potential.
Between the entrée and the dessert, we were served a fresh salad with various greens and edible flowers that was drizzled with an intense mustard flavored sauce. We had split opinions of the salad, and either loved it or found the dressing overwhelming. If you think you may have any reservations about the salad, ask for the dressing on the side.
Of course, after a generally flavorful meal we wanted to enjoy some dessert. A rich chocolate cake with honey ice cream was the special for that evening. The cake arrived and was beautifully presented with fresh raspberries and a tart lemon-raspberry sauce. Since the cake itself was slightly dry, it was best when dipped in the sauce. We also sampled the chocolate mousse which, for a mousse, was remarkably light and could be enjoyed even with a full stomach. Lastly, we tried the crème brûlée with brandied raspberries, and found it to be fantastic as it was particularly moist and very sweet. The sharp overtone of the brandied raspberries provided an excellent contrast to the other flavors while the sugar was burnt to perfection. This dessert is definetly something to try.
And at last, the bill: Le Gourmand is by no means inexpensive. Keep in mind that the ingredients are top notch and many of them are locally sourced and organically produced; in addition, many of the meats are hard to come by in our area. The meals are fairly intricate and require a high level of expertise for preparation. Between the meal, wine, dessert and tip, the total came to nearly $100 per person.
A few last details: reserved parking is not available but street parking is not hard to come by. Reservations are highly advisable as well. Dress is semi-formal. And if you really enjoyed the meal, make sure to ask about the cooking lessons with the chef, Bruce Naftaly.
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