French Gourmet Restaurant Reviews

Review of the recent Opus One Wine Dinner

"Exceeding the customer's expectation" is a phrase that I hear often in the service industry, but The French Gourmet truly takes this policy to heart. The Opus One wine dinner on March 10 was a hedonist's delight, offering sensuous dishes paired with five vintages of what may be Napa Valley's most prestigious wine.

Following scrumptious hors d'oeuvres and champagne, the extravaganza started with venison carpaccio, artfully presented, bright red and sliced paper thin, with a rim of cracked pepper. The flavor was delicate and sweet, nicely complemented by the mellow earthy and woodsy tones of the 1998 Opus.

A purple-stained smile came across my face repeatedly through the evening as the sommelier gave me generous 3 ounce (at least) pours of each Opus -in contrast to other restaurants that interpret the phrase "wine tasting" too literally.

Next came a rectangular plate with, from left to right, a rainbow of flavors and textures. On the left was an arrangement of sardine and capers, offering piquant flavors of salt and vinegar to get the juices flowing. Baby field greens in the center of the plate provided mild, pleasantly bitter crunchiness on the way to the beef tartar on the right of the plate, a savory delight that made me want to ask for seconds. The 2000 Opus was refined and smooth -an elegant match for all the flavors in the dish, not just the beef.

I had not tasted rabbit before this dinner. Anyone who is lucky enough to try roasted rabbit at The French Gourmet will understand that it does not taste "just like chicken". Once again, the silky smooth Opus (2001 this time) paired with the dish beautifully. It is said that Opus One is so smooth that it can be served with dishes that normally require a white wine. This seemed to be true tonight.

The fourth course, wild boar, was served with the 1996 Opus, my favorite wine of the night. A delightful nose of blackberries, toasty oak, with an edge of menthol, led to a clean, fresh palate of black fruit and minerals.

Michel likes to include a generous intermission when planning a wine dinner, in order to increase enjoyment of the wine and food, and to avoid any sense of being rushed. The salad course featured a prosciutto-wrapped quail egg. Another first for me -the first time I ever gulped a whole raw egg. (Granted, it was only the size of a thimble.) Then came an intermezzo of melon granite, with a flavor so intense and fresh that, for all I know, it may have been a scoop of solid frozen melon.

Then it was time for the "Main Course", which I place in quotation marks, because any of the previous courses could have made a respectable main course. The salmon fillet was strikingly presented, skin side up. The French would probably eat the skin. I'm not French, so I didn't. Under the salmon was a heavenly risotto. The texture was a perfect balance between creamy and al dente -a balance that I always strive for with my own risotto, and never quite achieve. If The French Gourmet continues to make risotto this good, it may have to change its name to The French-Italian Gourmet. Or just The Gourmet. The quietly elegant 1994 Opus, with its notes of cassis, cloves, and cedar, proved a worthy accompaniment to the dish.

A decadent dessert of chocolate, with a 1975 Dow Vintage Port, was the grand finale to an evening of fireworks.

They say you can learn a lot about a man by the way he treats the waiter at a restaurant. I believe this is even more true if the man happens to be the owner of the restaurant. Once or twice during the evening, I saw Michel correct a minor detail -the proper fill level of the water glass, that sort of thing- by one of his young waiters. Michel spoke respectfully with the young waiter, without embarrassing him, as if they were fellow team members, or even family members. Michel, by his own example, teaches his staff a great passion for French cuisine and fine dining, justifiably a source of national pride, and for which all the world is the beneficiary.

CyberEater Restaurant Review

by David Rottenberg (written in 2001)
Editor, Dining San Diego Magazine
Member, California Restaurant Writers Association

The French Gourmet - You've Got To Have Gaul!

The French have a long standing tradition for culinary excellence. In fact, France recently won a major international cooking competition, "Bocuse d'Or". From the fanciest of restaurants in that country to the smallest local bistro, the food is usually good. I recall many occasions of fondly searching through the narrow, winding back streets of the Left Bank in Paris for the "perfect restaurant" and always leaving satisfied.

That tradition has found its way to the back streets of Pacific Beach, on the cusp of La Jolla. The French Gourmet Restaurant, located at 960 Turquoise Street, is a small 45 seat local restaurant that serves outstanding food. The restaurant attracts a large group of loyal repeat customers. People come back because of the high quality of the food and the reasonable prices.

The restaurant is one of three activities at the location. Upstairs houses the office of the catering division, with over 150 employees and an annual volume of over $4.5 million. The company caters wedding, parties and events. Downstairs is also the location of the bakery, which produces wonderful pastries daily and gorgeous wedding cakes. While dining at the restaurant, I could not help but notice out of the corner of my eye the continuous stream of customers purchasing pastry goodies at the counter.

Michel Maléot, founder of The French Gourmet, has been in business in San Diego for 22 years. He graduated from culinary school in France, then worked in Europe and other American cities. He opened his own business here in 1979. Over the years, his excellence as a caterer and his focus on quality control has been recognized by his industry peers. He won numerous awards including Caterer of the Year by NACE. He is the immediate past president of the San Diego chapter of NACE.

In the restaurant's dining room, the background music is French, to create an ambiance. The friendly servers are also French. The tablecloths are white and the decor is comfortable. The food is well presented and portions are well sized.

The Soupe du Jour was Carrot Soup, a steaming bowl of beautifully colored broth that was tasty and spicy. My entrée, Vol au Vent was a puff pastry filled with seafood in a cream sauce, together with couscous and vegetables. The seafood tasted very fresh. The cream sauce enhances the flavor. My favorite was the puff pastry. When saturated with the sauce, the taste was wonderful.

One could make a meal of appetizers alone. The Escargot a la Bourguignone are broiled and served a buttery garlic sauce that is a delight to sop up the French bread. The Moules Marinieres are mussels in a reduction of wine, cream and shallots. Their aroma alone gets one's salivary glands excited. The Combination Plate of chicken, duck and liver pate is a sumptuous delight. The Brie and Fruit plate is listed as an appetizer but I recommend it after dessert.

Entrees include Bouillabaisse, with fish and scallops, that is tomato based, rather than white. Lamb Shanks, a Mediterranean favorite, are slowly braised with shallots and vegetables to bring out the flavor. Calf Liver with Sautéed Onions is a local favorite. Good liver is hard to find.

Desserts are incredible! A platter of pastry is brought to the table with half a dozen selection out of the over 50 items listed on the dessert menu. I selected a large Blackberry Tart, huge blackberries on top of a pastry shell filled with creamy sweet custard. It was so good I was sorry there wasn't more.

The wine list offers excellent French house wines and other moderately priced selections.

For dessert lovers, there is a special "all you can eat" Sweet Fest every Sunday from 3pm to 6 pm. One can sample as much as desired. For early birds, there is a prix fixe dinner with many selections. For the health conscious, many dishes are marked with a "heart". The French Gourmet works with the Healthy Dining and Green Restaurant associations programs. Open for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner, The French Gourmet offers outstanding omelets and crepes.

The French Gourmet is what diners often wish for, a small and unpretentious local restaurant with outstanding food, good ambiance and reasonable prices. Dinner reservations are recommended. Call 1-800-929-1984.

Dining Around - The San Diego Union-Tribune

Wolfgang D. Verkaaik
Dining and Entertainment Coordinator

The French Gourmet...A local legend.

One of the great evolving success stories in the restaurant business over the past few decades has been the emergence of Michel and Lesa Malécot, owners of The French Gourmet. It seems everyone I have talked to have used The French Gourmet catering service at weddings, social functions and private banquets at one time or another. Their wedding cakes are fantastic, the catering service is the talk of the town (averaging 20 parties of all sizes a week) and did you know they also operate a lovely quaint little French Café at their main site in Pacific Beach? Consider it a must the next time you are looking for a delightful breakfast, lunch or dinner out. Michel is from Normandy, France. Graduated from culinary school there and went on to work as a chef in Paris, London and Germany. He arrived in San Diego in 1976 and landed a management/chef position at Le Cote d'Azur in La Jolla. A couple of years later he ventured out on his own and opened The French Gourmet Restaurant and Bakery. It quickly became a local favorite. The rest is gastronomic history at its best. The restaurant is a charmer, country French style with wine racks, pretty paintings, fresh and simple floral arrangements on white linen dressed tables and tapestry upholstered chairs. When you enter you'll walk right by the bakery showcase, a tempting moment to be sure. Chef Dawn Edwards has just introduce a seasonal menu with some real standouts. Note, they offer a real bargain here for early bird dining, a dinner for two at only $24.95 served from 4-5:30 daily. You have a choice of soup or salad and a choice of entreés such as tri tip steak, duck confit a l'Orange, chicken piccata, linguine primavera, catch of the day or the delicious roast pork roast. Items are subject to change. Some of these items are signature dishes from the regular dinner menu. That menu has a great variety of appetizers such as escargots a la bourguignon, Moules marinieres (green lip mussels with white wine, shallots and cream). A pâte combination plate, smoked salmon, Brie and fruit, and several others. The soup of choice is the French onion but the soup du jour is an equally impressive option. Salads are fabulous here, especially the spinach/mushroom and the oriental chicken salads. Entree of note: bouillabaisse, grilled seafood pasta, lamb shank, filet of sole with a salmon mousse and lobster sauce, old fashioned pork roast, filet mignon and scampi, tri tip steak, calamari steak and calf's liver with onions. Breakfast is a wonderful experience with crepes, eggs Benedict, gourmet omelet and more. For lunch sandwiches, salads and entrees are featured. The French Gourmet has won numerous culinary awards through the years. Treat yourself to the best, whether it is a meal out or a fancy wedding banquet. You'll find them at 960 Turquoise Street, between La Jolla and Pacific Beach. Call (858) 488-1725. You too will find out why every day is a delicious day at The French Gourmet.

Dear Michel,

This is just a brief note to let you know how much my wife and I enjoyed our experience at The French Gourmet Restaurant in Pacific Beach last month. The food was superb, the atmosphere was friendly, and the service was excellent. Our server Frederic was attentive and friendly; he did an exemplary job and we hope to see him next time we visit the restaurant. You have done an excellent job creating a warm atmosphere there. As we left after our meal, all of the restaurant staff wished us good night and a pleasant evening. We felt like old friends, and hope that by returning to eat there many times over the months and years we truly will be. Thank you.

Cordially,
Mr. I. N. Hayden

Dear M. Malecot,

My wife and I have been enjoying the wonderful food and service at The French Gourmet for many years now. We brought some friends over Monday evening who had never been to The French Gourmet, and we all had a great meal. You probably don’t remember us, but you introduced us to a French red wine served in the Eisch glasses that went perfectly with the rib eye steak you were serving for Restaurant Week.

Our friends were duly impressed and will no doubt be returning soon, perhaps with us for a weekend breakfast. (I think The French Gourmet is the ONLY restaurant that understands how to do Eggs Benedict exactly right!)

Best regards,
Bill Corder