It is a case of re-visiting the past. Back when exceptional dinners were often completed with glasses of fine cognac, a Cuban cigar in hand. Dark wooden floor & tables, banquettes, chandeliers and lace curtains, you may think you are in France or the owner's home of Belgium.
Restaurateur Chris Janssens has been running Le Quartier in Jakarta now for a number of years, earning a host of rave reviews, and awards. He has now brought this concept to Bali, and Sanur.
The food served is a mix of the classic French, combined with a variety of fresh pasta, salads and interesting, more modern, entrees. On arrival you are served Gougeres, an intriguing 'bread' that is actually a cheese puff that has been baked with thyme and back pepper. The first one is complimentary, it is very easy to order extras, and hard to resist.
Top of the menu is a classic dish from Belgium, rarely seen in Bali, Asperges Flamande, poached white asparagus, served with a buttered boiled egg and parsley sauce [pictured]. Mussels and also very popular in Belgium, where some famous restaurants serve only that, done many different ways. Here there are three options, all of which use imported black shell mussels [not those awful green lip ones]; Moules Mariniere [cooked in white wine with celery, onions, parsley and herbs], Provencale [tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and herbs], and Poulette [mushrooms, onions and herbs in a cream sauce].
Les Petits Salades is an excellent starter. A long plate of five different small salads with contrasting tastes. Fennel Escarbeche [fennel with carrots and Spanish onion], Marinated Artichokes [olive oil and herbs], Roasted Beetroot [feta cheese and a walnut crumble], Baked Assorted Olives [roasted garlic and charred lemon] and Smokey Eggplant Caviar [bell peppers, pine nuts and balsamic]. The varying tastes tease the palate and refresh. All the individual salads can be ordered separately but I enjoyed this combined plate, small samples of each.
A French restaurant must have an Onion Soup, here it is the thick version with country style bread croutons and much cheese, almost a meal.
Escargots are on the menu, as you would expect. The snails are done 'Bon Vivant' style, baked with garlic, mushroom, smoked duck breast and spinach. The Nicoise Salad features tuna tartar with marinated artichokes and peppers in a lemon rind dressing. I thought that the Pan Seared Crab Cakes were exceptional. Mounds of fresh crab meat formed into a soft patty, the 'spicy mayonnaise' accompaniment containing an unexpected, but welcome, kick from the mix of garlic and cayenne pepper.
Charcuterie & Fromage is a section of the menu for the foodies; plates of assorted cold cuts [jamon Serrano, white ham, dry chorizo, black pudding, salami and duck rillettes], or cheeses [camembert, Danish blue, marinated feta, cumin gouda and parmesan] or one containing Jamon Serrano Cecina Pablo [50gms thereof with vanilla roasted pineapple, chilli and Parmesan shavings]. There is also a Plateau de Charcuterie et Fromage, combining a selection of both cold cuts and cheeses. You do not normally expect to find pasta, pizza and risotto in a French restaurant, so there must be a good reason for it to be here. The reason is very simple, it is because it is very good. The Pizza can be White Ham & Eggplant Caviar, with truffle oil, mushrooms, leaf spinach, egg and pine nuts. Perfect pasta is the Angel Hair Alio Oglio, with semi-dried tomatoes, basil, pine nuts and chilli. However it is the Risotto that really stands out! It can be with Porcini Mushrooms [zucchini, thyme and the jus of roasted vegetables] or the Spanish Saffron [white wine, butter and parmesan].
Main courses and there are more classic French dishes. Confit is the result of very slow cooking, in oil or fat, at low temperatures. For poultry it is usually the leg that is done this way, but any food can be. Here they offer the classic Duck Leg [sautéed French beans, mushrooms, gizzards and honey mustard] or Chicken Leg [with warm flageolet bean salad, small cubes of chorizo and garlic crumbs, the chicken leg cooked in olive oil]. An unusual confit is their Lamb Shank, cooked in olive oil with roasted vegetables, herbs and rosemary jus.
What could be more French than Coq au Vin, chicken braised in red wine, with mushrooms, bacon landons and cipollini onions. Or you can order a classic Steak Tartare. That Marseilles special of Bouillabaisse contains rock fish, scallops, prawns, squid, mussels, clams in that traditional Mediterranean sauce, rouille. Often termed a soup this one is thick enough to be called a stew.
A wood-fired grill is the centre piece of the kitchen where a variety of seafood and meats are prepared. AUSKOBE is certified wagyu beef, reared in Australia. This is the only beef served here, rib-eye, tenderloin or at the top of the list 500gm of Black Angus Entrecote, a dish that is for two persons. There are many seafood options from the grill as well; barramundi, tiger prawns, Norwegian salmon and rock lobster. A monster Seafood Platter of salmon, prawns, tuna, barramundi and calamari, in lemon butter can be prepared for a minimum of two persons.
As it is still early days for this fine dining restaurant there are a few intended menu items still be added, foie gras and fresh oysters, coming soon.
Desserts, you can almost guess the menu without looking! Crème Brulee, Profitteroles, Tarte Tatin and Coupe Dame Blanche, they are all here. No problems satisfying anyone's sweet tooth.
Whilst most of the food is unmistakably French, the wine list is very international with a carefully selected collection. The service is friendly and quite knowledgeable for such a new restaurant.
Le Bon Vivant adds a quality option to Bali's dining scene. It is a French restaurant that also looks like a French restaurant. Close you eyes and you are in Paris.
Very fine dining, maybe a bit old fashioned, but I like it!