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The French Poodle Restaurant, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California USA

A Real Superb Taste of France in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Peter and Linda D'Aprix 2000-6


Still good after the six years since we last sampled their cuisine in every way except for their "industrial" bread! Quelle surprise! But the rest of the meal and the soothing ambiance made up for the strange oversight. Chef Richard Zoellin's quiet and unpretentious cooking shines at his charming and intimate restaurant The French Poodle easily our favorite in Carmel and located just on the edge of the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Classically trained by his father, a well-known chef in the area for many years, Richard has the discipline of a chef usually apprenticed and working in France for a long period of time. His father is now retired leaving the restaurant to his able son Richard and his charming wife Anamaria.

His food is clean and precise with just the right balance of flavors, none competing with any other. A real sophisticated blending and matching of tastes.

Chef Richard Zoellin
Magnet de Canard

Magnet de Canard au Vie Port Sauce

Owner and Chef Richard Zoellin

Abalone

Quiet elegance of the dining room

Fresh Monterey Bay Abalone Meunière

© 2000 photos Peter D'Aprix

We were served a perfectly dressed butter lettuce salad; a fresh vegetable puréed soup (sans crème!) with a rich yet smooth and delicately balanced taste. Both main dishes were served to us properly rare to our tastes. The breast of duck (Magret de Canard au Vieux Porto) in Port sauce was the best I have had in the United States where it is difficult to find the appropriate breed of duck to make it with. I could have wished for a few more vegetables, but those that arrived with the plate were indeed delicious. Linda ordered the lamb loin (Noisette d'Agneau au Thyme et à la Moutarde de Dijon) with thyme and Dijon mustard. It also was perfectly done and delicious.

The fresh Monterey Bay abalone was truly a delight. The filet Mignon with Foie Gras, Madeira and fresh Perigord truffles was a bit rich for my taste but perfectly done. Foie Gras, never out of sight in French restaurants, is experiencing a huge upsurge of use this year in France. It is hard to find a dish that does not have it "moused, stuffed or slabbed". So M. Zoellin is right in fashion with this dish. His vegetables are done to perfection. Many are served whole, while others have been artfully sculpted into pleasing shapes.

Other dishes that we did not get to try: chicken and duck liver paté made as a mousse with truffles, crab legs out of the shell with mustard sauce, slice of warm duck foie gras with truffle juice, cognac and apples with an option (extra of course) a glass of sweet Sauterne that is classically drunk in the Perigord with foie gras. There is a grilled filet of salmon or sole done in different ways. The chicken is roasted with herbs and served with scalloped potatoes. Veal is T-bone with fresh cream and morel mushrooms or a sauteed Piccata of loin with lemon sauce and capers. Beef is a grilled tenderloin with white wine, shallots and whole grain mustard sauce. There are more but we run out of room!

Dining room

Charming French scenes depicted in an impressionist style bring a visual taste of France.

Lemon Mouse

Light lemon mousse.

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon with Goose Liver paté, madeira and fresh Perigord black truffles.

Artichoke

Simple yet elegant Castroville fresh artichoke with vinaigrette sauce.

We finished our meal with a light lemon mousse bedecked with slivers of its own zest that oozed a wonderful tart citron taste. The mousse was balanced with crème Anglaise. Linda enjoyed a Corbeille de fruits or mixed fresh fruit in this case fresh wild wood strawberries red and white. Other choices for those who love to finish with a great flair can be a chocolate lovers dream, La Marquise au Chocolate, a superb floating island for two, peach or strawberry melba, crème caramel à la orange and others.

Coffee is not Espresso but a fine café pressé (the glass beaker with the mesh plunger). Their decaf version is excellent.

They have a modest but well chosen cellar of French and US wines.

In this day of over familiarity in the dining room where waiters and waitresses seem to want to become your instant best friend, the service here was, like the meal, a perfect balance of pleasant, helpful attention while maintaining that completely correct demean. Maitre d'hotel, Christian Menkal who has lived and worked in Carmel most of his life, brings professionalism to the dining room that is much appreciated.

This little jewel of a restaurant is a must for anyone visiting Carmel in search of a meal where gracious dining is alive and well.

Open Mon-Sat. Closed Sunday.

The French Poodle - Restaurant Française
Junipero & 5th (a couple of blocks from Ocean)
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California 93921
tel: 1-831-624-8643
fax: 1-831-624-8643
No web site or e-mail yet


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No copying, reuse or partial reproduction permitted without written permission by the authors, Peter and Linda D'Aprix.

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