Le Provençal Returns to Classic French Cooking with a Fine Touch
There is a reason why French cooking was considered for centuries to be the best in the world, the very definition of haute cuisine. It is because Classic French Cooking, when well executed, is exquisite.
To fully appreciate what Julia Child knew, you need only eat at Le Provençal, the French restaurant on Miracle Mile next to the Miracle Theater. It has been in that location for 30 years, but has come under new ownership in the last year and a half.
The new management initially pushed the menu in the direction of interesting if edgy dishes from the Mediterranean coastline of France. But now, in deference to what their Gables customers want, they have returned to crowd-pleasing favorites from the classic French play book. And we can only say, vive la différence!
What has remained new at Le Provençal is the look, with a more modern interior that is closer to contemporary than classic French design. Outside, however, it is still a traditional Parisian sidewalk café. With its comfortable wicker chairs, the seating is what the Miracle Mile Streetscape project was all about: A widened, beautified sidewalk attracting a stream of strollers. And at night, it sparkles with cosmopolitan light.
The real star at Le Provençal, however, is the food.
Among the appetizers we tried, none faltered. The escargot, each snail bathed in a rich sauce of shallots, garlic and parsley, was spot on. The moules “poulette,” steamed mussels in an herb broth, were made all the better by crisp shoestring fries that came with it for dipping. The baked brie also came with a honey dipping sauce and chunks of apricot, and was encased in a delicate pastry shell that was flaky and tasty.
In the realm of entrees, the classic French dishes we sampled were stellar. The test of any French restaurant is their Duck a l’Orange, and Le Provençal passed with flying colors. The duck was served as medallions of breast meat in a pool of dark orange sauce, with a pungent, sophisticated flavor rather than the overly cloying sauce that can ruin this dish. Likewise, the Beef Bourguignon, which can taste like the wine it is cooked in, was instead deeply and complexly flavored, and simmered so slowly that it melted in your mouth.
The other dishes were likewise cooked with great attention to detail, in the classic French way – a superb Coquille St. Jacques with plump sea scallops, a Steak au Poivre with just the right bite – along with a not-so-traditional Risotto Forestiere richly textured with a mix of wild mushrooms, cheese and toasted pine nuts. The prix fixe menu for $39 was also excellent, offering a tomato-based fish soup and Poulet Roti (roasted chicken) with a dark, juice and truffle sauce.
And who can do vegetables better than the French, especially their crisp green beans and sweet, braised carrots? In another comparison test, the ratatouille at Le Provençal was perfectly done, flavorful but not mushy. Likewise, the classic desserts were, well, classic: fluffy chocolate mousse and crisp crème brûlée.
The only question is, why haven’t you already dined at Le Provençal and tasted the work of chef Jean Pierre Terrou? It is not the least expensive choice – most entrees range in the mid $30s – but if quality is your goal, Le Provençal will delight your palate. It has an excellent wine selection as well.
266 Miracle Mile