Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rouge Bistro...Mais Oui!

Rouge Bistro
6060 Renaissance Place
(off Holland-Sylvania Road btwn Sylvania Avenue and Brint Road)
Toledo, OH 43623

(Due to technical issues with Blogger, this is a reprint from 1/07) Dinner on New Year's Eve is always a festive occasion. It was a pleasant surprise to enter a well decorated space and be transported to the ambiance of a contemporary French bistro.

The entryway contains a large fountain surrounded by four large columns papered with black and white photographs. The main room is divided into two areas, the elegant dining room and the bar with ample seating. The main dining room features white table cloths and modern leather chairs. The banquettes are dark wood with large black framed mirrors on the walls behind them. Dividing the bar area from the restaurant is another wood banquette decorated with large candelabras and an enormous vase with a grand bouquet of fresh flowers. The tables on the bar side are uncovered but the comfortable leather chairs remain. The bar also contains a communal table. Throughout the restaurant there are sensual large scale line drawings of female nudes on the ceiling. The red silk covered chandeliers, wood accents, red walls and black and white photographs are lovely and complement the subdued lighting.

There is something nice about leaving the bar traffic at the door on your way to a fine dining experience. However, the idea of providing a more informal atmosphere near the bar is chic for diners who prefer to dress causally. It will be a great asset for separating the business crowd from the very casual "regulars" on weeknights. We were seated on the bar side, near the front door and next to the piano and found that we were the official greeting committee as everyone heading for the bar needed to pass our table, and many others, to get there. If you watched closely, it was like seeing the diners at a row of tables doing "the wave" all night as each local celebrity entered the restaurant and headed to the bar.

The chef at Rouge is John Wesley. Most recently, found in the kitchen at Mancy's Italian. However, he is best known as the chef de cuisine at J.D. Wesley's: a locally owned fine dining establishment with an open kitchen that closed in the late '90's. Wesley's had many regulars, who were often spotted mid-week dining at the bar in jeans or sweatsuits and enjoying banter with the chef. Chef Wesley has a devoted following that will ensure the success of Rouge.
With this in mind, my dining companions and I were surprised by the ho-hum menu with entrees ranging from a slow cooked lamb shank in a citrus tomato au jus ($14) to two 8-10 oz cold water lobster tails ($58). No tantalizing essences, reductions, or unique flavor pairings to tempt us. Just the standard fare of beef tournedos, salmon, steaks, and chops. Personally, I'm bored with mashed potatoes as a featured side dish.

The salads were a la carte $5.50-$6.00. I enjoyed a roasted beet salad with haricot verts(French green beans), goat cheese and the mildest sliced fennel I've ever tasted. The dressing was a pleasant citrus vinaigrette. For dinner, I ordered the poached and braided salmon. It arrived virtually unbraided with three strands of salmon askew on a pile, and I mean a PILE, of wild rice. The Dijonnaise sauce was a sunny yellow pool sans gout. The accompanying sauteed vegetables were tender crisp but drowning in butter. My tablemate commented, "it looks like a plate slapped together for a banquet of 1,000 people".

The service was excellent. Our waiter, Jake, was previously a service star at The Vineyard. He is well versed on the menu and wine selections. He is extremely knowledgeable and attentive. It is always a special treat when the waiter can accurately describe the specials, wines on the menu and serve both the wine and the meal properly.

As it was near midnight when we finished our meal, we passed on the infamous chocolate "sac du bon bon" ($9) and other desserts to watch the ball drop over Times Square in a private home. For the uninitiated, the sac du bon bon is chocolate mousse inside of a chocolate sac with the shape and thinness of a paper bag. The sac is placed on a puddle of raspberry coulis and garnished with a little whipped cream and fresh raspberries. C'est magnifique!

I am apt to give new restaurants the benefit of the doubt during the initial weeks of being open. However, Rouge Bistro has the makings of a special place for dining in Toledo.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

PS. I returned this week to sample the appetizers. Accompanied by two friends, we ordered the fresh mussels, steamed with white, wine, garlic, shallot, and served with "thyme enhanced fries". I enjoyed using the fresh bread on the table to mop up the savory broth. The fries were sprinkled generously with a sea salt and herb mix and served in the traditionally French footed wire cone lined with parchment paper. The plate of three cheeses included St. Andre, Brie and Roquefort($9.50). While the menu suggests that the plate also contains sliced apple, the apples were replaced with chopped cucumber on an endive leaf and butterfly shaped crackers. I can only assume that a more varied assortment of cheeses and more refined crackers will come with subsequent menu updates and enhancements.

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