Cityview Online
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Weather
Food Dude

Sponsored Advertisement

By Jim Duncan Reviews

Le Jardin
841 42nd St., 943-1926 Wed. - Sat. 4 -10 p.m.

Le Jardin

Go figure the restaurant business. With frightful inflation dominating the economy, 2008 should have been a quiet year of survival in Des Moines. Instead, it’s becoming our most spectacular year ever, with more superb restaurants opening already this year than in any year in the past. Le Jardin is the latest and could well become the most influential business model. Tag Grandgeorge’s Alsatian bistro in the Shops at Roosevelt shares space, rent and overhead expenses with La Mie, a pâtisserie that serves breakfast and lunch. The pragmatism of that idea is timely, but such arrangements can only work if both parties are committed to a similar standard of quality. With a rare brand to protect, La Mie could not have found a better match. Like the pâtisserie, Le Jardin practices French culinary arts with diligence. They brine their own meats, raise some of their own foods, prepare their own charcuterie and keep a seasonal menu that promises the best available fresh foods.

Appetizers matched multiple, simple flavors in handsome presentations. Brie Martin Collet (a cow’s milk cheese with distinctly different textures) was served with baguette slices and a marvelous rhubarb and berry compote. A rather lean pork terrine paired nicely with a Cumberland sauce (red currants), cornichons (small gherkin pickles) and whole grained mustard. A paté of chicken and pistachios was complemented by Iowa smoked ham, cornichons and fresh tarragon mayonnaise. Homemade duck prosciutto was the best appetizer, unabashed in saltiness with fat that tasted like dried fruit. It was served with a creamy green peppercorn cheese and dried tart cherries. Other appetizers were less adventurous, sticking to cheeses, fruits and breads. One deeply flavored soup used a duck stock and subtle curry to bathe potato ghocchis with carrots that had been roasted just long enough to turn sweet. Salads brought greens as fresh as any in town, plus heirloom tomatoes and beets from local gardens.

Entrees continued the habit of matching trios of flavors, in more substantial servings. Seared Muscovey duck breast, with spiced honey from Iowa Orchards, looked fantastic with crisp skin and less fat than one expects. Roasted turnips and baby carrots grounded the dish nicely and a cassis reduction did wonders for them. A Provencal chicken crepe soared with lavender blossoms fresh enough to actually taste, grape tomatoes and a tapanade that didn’t overwhelm everything else in olive essence. Coquillies Saint-Jacques (seared scallops) seemed quite happy in Grandgeorge’s peppery sherry glaze, fresh micro greens in sherry vinaigrette and roasted fingerling potatoes. It’s probably the most adventurous scallop dish in town. Le Jardin treated simple chicken breast to lavish amenities. Perfectly cooked, Sheeder Farm chicken was served in a fresh cream pool of morels, truffles and other wild mushrooms. This sauce could convert heretics to the true faith of pasture-grazed dairy cows. The super star of the menu was a dish that Grandgeorge almost took off the menu — hangar steak, a cut of beef appreciated more in Europe, where flavor trumps texture, than in the U.S. where people are not as fond of chewing. Grandgeorge’s steak was marinated 24 hours to soften its texture, pan-seared perfectly and served with onions treated to sweet, smoked paprika, with a demi glace and Burgundy butter.

Service was amongst the best informed and most enthusiastic in town. Our waiter could answer every difficult question about the food and preparations. She steered me off some dishes and touted others as if they were her firstborn children — admitting that she grew some of their ingredients on her family farm. Prices were quite reasonable. Appetizers and salads cost $4 - $7. Wine $22 - $37. The most expensive entrée was $22 and three fourths of them were priced $10 - $14. Servings were so generous that I could only handle two desserts — a petit pot de crème with chocolate and a pound cake with more of the rhubarb and berry compote.

Side dish
Niman Ranch’s Farmers Appreciation Dinner is Saturday, Aug. 23 at Fort Des Moines Hotel. Paul Bertolli (San Francisco), Adam Perry Lang (New York) and Perry Whatley (Yosemite) are the headlining chefs. Animal welfare advocate Dr. Temple Grandin will speak. Cost is $100; call (641) 579-6549 for reservations. CV

Food Dude Reviews 2008 2007 Reviews
Splash Raw Oyster Bar (1-3-08) Flavors of India(1-10-08)
Uncle Wendell's (1-17-08) Jesse's Embers (1-24-08)
Taste of Elegance (1-31-08) Old Country Buffet (2-7-08)
Baker’s Food & Fuel (2-14-08) Coffee (2-21-08)
Cool Basil (2-28-08) Sports Bars (3-06-08)
Daddy O’s Bodacious Foods (3-13-08) Maverick Grill (3-20-08)
Phat Chef’s (4-03-08) Shotz & Grill Cordoba (4-10-08)
Radish (4-17-08) Alba (4-24-08)
Billy Mack's (5-01-08) Jethro’s BBQ & Sports Bar (5-15-08)
Viva los Forasteros (5-22-08) Torocco! (5-29-08)
The King and I (6-05-08) Chipotle Mexican Grill (6-12-08)
Django (6-26-08) Swine (7-03-08)
Sbrocco (7-17-08) Zuzap (8-14-08)

Comment on this story | Return to top



Best Of . . . Best Of . . . (Thank You) Relish Dining Guide

Best Of 2009

Best of ... Than You


Condo & Loft Guide Wedding Guide Education Guide
Loft Guide Wedding Guide Education Guide
Nightlife Golf Guide Wine Tour Guide
Cityview Nightlife Golf Guide Iowa Wine Tour
Trips on a Tankful Pet Guide Dwelling Guide
Trips on a Tankful Pet Guide Cityview Nightlife
Holiday Party Planning Holiday Gift Guide Women In Business
Holiday Party Planning Guide Holiday Gift Guide Women in Business
Winter Games Live Smart Arts & Entertainment
Des Moines Winter Games Live Smart Arts & Entertainment Guide
Dallas Co Tourism Annual Manual Get Moving
Dallas County Tourism Guide Annual Manual Annual Manual
Johnston Green Days Summer Essentials Road Trips
Johnston Green Days Summer Essentials Road Trips
Brewfest 2009 Locally Owned Bar Guide
Brewfest 2009 Locally Owned Bar Guide