Saturday, September 5, 2009

Vermont: Cafe Shelburne

As I was staying over night in Shelburne, I needed to choose a restaurant for Saturday evening's dinner. There were plenty of available choices but I eventually selected Cafe Shelburne, a contemporary French restaurant. It seemed to get some excellent reviews, sourced many of their ingredients locally, and the menu interested me.

It is very unassuming from the outside and inside, it resembles someone's home. There are a few different dining rooms and a small bar. The dining rooms are homey, set with linen tablecloths and the tables are set far enough apart to give you a little privacy. I enjoyed the initial vibe I felt.

The restaurant is owned and operated by Christine and Patrick Grangien, both from France. On my visit, they were both at the restaurant, Christine in the front and Chef Grangien in the kitchen. It is always nice to see a chef/owner working at his restaurant, rather than handing off all of the work to his underlings.

The wine list is pretty good, with a fair share of French wines, but plenty of wine from other countries as well. Prices seemed about twice retail or less. I selected a bottle of 2004 Domaine Jean-Marc Morey Santenay La Comme Dessus ($64) and unfortunately our server had lots of difficulty removing the foil from the bottle, it seemed largely due to inexperience rather than any problem with the bottle. I wanted to offer her my assistance but I resisted. The wine though was delicious, a typical French Burgundy with delicious red fruit, mild tannins, and a slight earthiness. It paired well with our various dishes.

The food menu is enticing and fairly priced for the quality and quantity you receive. Soups, salads, and appetizers range $8.50-$12.50 while entrees range from $19-$28. There were also a few specials not listed on the menu. To start, you could select something like Lobster Bisque or Gazpacho, or maybe a Sea Scallop Salad or Artichoke Ravioli. As an entree, you might enjoy Steamed Salmon, a Rack of Lamb or Breast of Duck.

Prior to our first course arriving, we received some warm French bread with softened butter, placing me in a good mood from the start. I do love my bread. The restaurant was continuing to present an excellent mood for our meal.

Our first appetizer was the Escargot "Cafe Shelburne" ($10), snails with garlic butter, prosciutto ham, almonds, mushrooms, parsley and croutons. It sounded like an interesting mix of ingredients and they were all together in six small bowls. The crouton was at the top of the bowl, the snail in the middle, and garlic butter pooled at the bottom. These were quite delicious, the melange of flavors working well together. And there was enough garlic butter at the bottom of each bowl to dip your bread. Couldn't miss a drop.

The second appetizer was one of their specials, Lobster Ravioli with a red pepper coulis. The three ravioli were quite plump, filled with plenty of sweet lobster, and the pasta was cooked perfectly. The sauce was very flavorful, and complemented the lobster. Another sauce where bread dipping was a must.

We also tried the Fromage de Chevre Grille ($11), grilled Vermont goat cheese, endive, mesclun, with a walnut oil vinaigrette. The plate had quite a large piece of creamy, goat cheese and it too was excellent smeared on the bread. The vegetables were very fresh and the vinaigrette was mild though complementary.

After those excellent starters, we expected the entrees to be equally as good, and we were not disappointed. The Homard Roti ($28) is a shelled Maine lobster atop homemade fettuccine and topped by a lobster basil sauce. An excellent dish, with plenty of sweet and tender lobster and tasty pasta. Again, the basil sauce was on the milder side, though with clear flavor that enhanced the dish. The sauces here do not overwhelm the food, which is a very good thing. This dish also had a nice presentation with the splayed lobster on the plate (though not everyone may enjoy it as I did).

I enjoy steak tartare, though it is almost always presented as an appetizer. But it was on this menu as an entree ($24) and it intrigued me enough to order it, especially as it would be prepared tableside. They use freshly ground beef tenderloin which is then seasoned according to your own preferences. They had items including capers, scallions, egg, red wine vinegar, oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and tabasco. Our server mixed the beef with the items I requested, and then formed five roughly oval patties. It turned out to be a great choice, the silky raw beef well seasoned, and slightly spicy. It is not a dish for everyone, but the carnivores out there would likely enjoy it.

For dessert, as I was largely full, I just had some coconut sorbet, a creamy treat which seemed more like ice cream than sorbet. It had a rich coconut flavor and was quite refreshing to my palate.

Service was very good, except for the foil issues. This was certainly an excellent meal, the dishes prepared well, and with proper restraint on the sauces. I really liked the ambiance of the place too, which would be great for a date or special occasion. If you are near the Shelburne area, you should check it out. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Cafe Shelburne
5573 Shelburne Road
Shelburne, VT
Phone: (802) 985-3939

Cafe Shelburne Francais on Urbanspoon

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