by Steven Doyle photos by Joey Stewart
A visit to a French restaurant in Dallas is certainly an experience when you realize how few of them there are in this area. Fortunately, Lavendou Bistro Provençal is one of the very best, owned and operated by one of the most amazing hosts our city has today – Pascal Cayet.
Pascal’s first job was at Tour d’Argent in Paris, overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral and arrived in Dallas in the 1980’s where he was one of the innovators for French cuisine. He was founder and owner of the famous French Country restaurant Chez Gerard on McKinney Avenue, which was one of Stanley Marcus’ favorite restaurants. It was during a period of growth that Pascal moved his restaurant north, and then it was very far north, to his location on Preston near George Bush. Thus the birth of Lavendou, this slice of France located in a cozy shopping center.
It does have an other-worldly feel inside the restaurant, which always seems busy, even on the Tuesday evening when we last dined at Lavendou. Reservations are always a comfort since you never know how busy the restaurant will be, which it always is. An added bonus is live entertainment daily.
Weekly specials are offered by Pascal, but his guests demand certain dishes remain fast and true, never leaving the menu including one of the finest examples of the Gratinée à L’Oignon, a perfectly constructed French onion soup emblazoned with copious amounts of cheese.
Special Soft Shell Crab
Our favorite way to start a meal at Lavendou is with the Foie Gras en Terrine au Sauternes, otherwise known as a generous slice of Duck Liver Terrine with
Sauternes Aspic. Simply delicious and creamy, with enough to share with a whole table unless you get greedy like us.
The menu is simple to read, even for those unfamiliar with French. We immediately spotted and begged for the Escargots à la Bourguignonne, snails served with garlic, butter and parsley (these made our favorite escargot list). Also find the beautifully smoked salmon as a delicious starter to share.
Selecting an entree might prove more difficult, but if you are like us you will choose items that everyone will enjoy and pass along samples for all to enjoy. We chose well with the Tournedos Félix Faure, Tenderloin with cracked black pepper, mushrooms, cognac and a cream sauce served with pommes frites. If you ever read Hemingway’s Moveable Feast, his autobiography of the struggles of a young writer in the 1920’s Paris, you will count at least three times he ordered this dish. Having sampled something quite similar in France, the dish rings up visions of cafe life.
We also enjoyed the Carré D’ Agneau Rôti au Jus de Romarin, rack of lamb with rosemary sauce served with ratatouille and roasted potatoes. The lamb was seasoned and sauced so perfectly, and cooked to our exact specification – very medium rare as lamb should be served.
On this evening were able to taste the softshell crab which is normally sold as a special entree, but were pleased to enjoy as a special appetizer. Possibly the very best presentation of a fresh softshell this writer has ever experienced.
The star of the table this day was the rotisserie duck with had this beautiful casis sauce and served with wild rice. The duck was as tender and juicy as one could expect, and packed with flavors that begged for more bites. Perfect duck.
We finished our meal as civilly as expected with a beautiful cheese plate, followed by a round of souffle’s (chocolate, raspberry and Gran Marnier) and a heavenly pear tart.
All was paired effectively with Pascal’s growing wine list at the hand of the master himself.
Mention Lavendou today and there will be an immediate waterfall of delightful expectation from our staff as we await our next visit to the little bit of France located in Far North Dallas.