review: the crazy frenchman finally gets something right…

Le Fou Frog

(fourth visit, late December, 2005)

click on picture to see the entire Le Fou Frog photo-set

Le Fou Frog, Kansas City, Missouri

I’ve only been to Le Fou Frog, in the seedy River Market district of Kansas City for lunch. While my first visit back in the summer of 2004 was pretty good, I found the subsequent two beyond disappointing. Service was sloooow, food was cold, portions micro-scopic, their trademark skatewing fried to a jerky-crisp, lamb shank that was all shank and no lamb, and cous cous as mushy as yellow whipped potatoes… the list could go on…

I really wanted to like the Frog after hearing many “glowing” reviews. But, despite its quaint, more shabby-than-chic bistro-esque interior, I had a hard time justifying the hype.

Well, I suppose persistence paid off, as my latest trip finally snagged me a winner. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a marked improvement over previous disappointments. Enjoying a leisurely pre-holiday lunch, my party enjoyed a generous plate of sliced blood-red beets served cold under a tuft of baby spinach. The salad came with a milky-fresh buttermilk dressing ($7.75). Their mesclun salad as well was generous, fresh and pretty (approximately $5).

Lobster bisque was creamy, but unfortunately sans lobster. ($5.25). It was too shellfishy-savoury for my taste, but my friend liked it. What was suspect, however, is that despite having asked whether ordering the bisque and the prawns with penne in lobster sauce would be too much of a repeat, and being assured that the pasta sauce was much lighter, the dish ended up being nothing more than the lobster bisque poured over a generous serving of penne with an equally generous portion of fat tender prawns (approximately $15). It was good – especially the prawns, which were large and not overdone, but heavy.

Having been pleased and then very disappointed with their skate wing on previous trips, I decided to steer clear of the restaurant’s staple (served with capers and an addictive balsamic reduction sauce) and opt for the grilled Spanish mackerel amandine ($16). The generous filets of strong-flavoured, yet not fishy mackerel were very well done – more pan-fried than grilled and topped with a nice bit of shaved almonds. The fish reclined on a nutty, but very greasy bed of saffron basmati. As well, this time, the large boiled brussel sprout, green beans, oven-dried tomatoe and baby carrots were incredible improvement over previous vegital-poor main courses (as pitiful as (literally) three grean beans).

Despite the wavering performance among its savoury dishes, I will say that Le Fou Frog has been pretty solid in the pastry department. This time, a tennis ball-sized scoop of dark chocolate mousse came sailing out in a caramely tuile bowl garnished with fresh strawberries and vanilla bean sauce. While $8 was a bit steep, the mousse was very dark, dense, yet light – a pleaser. An icey dessert fiend, I have only and always had their ice cream/sorbets ($6.50 for three scoops). Le Fou Frog always has a sizeable list of flavors to choose from – and usually very interesting. This time, passionfruit, white peach, and cinnamon all managed to impress me – the passionfruit sorbet less so (a little too tangy with a hint of bitter), but the white peach sorbet was refreshing, light and “sunny,” while the cinnamon ice cream toyed with my spicier tastebuds.

Service this time was efficient, friendly, if not a bit uncoordinated. Too many questions were answered with “let me check,” or “I’m not sure” to reflect detailed staff coordination/training. That being said, I appreciate the honesty, rather than a convenience-lie or misleading ad lib… a “light” lobster sauce? eh hem

Prices can be a tad steep for the quality/quantity, but if chosen wisely, I believe the diner can be rewarded with true value. The trick, or luck, is in picking the right items…

There’s something to be said for returning to a restaurant, even if disappointed. I have come to learn (well) that one or two bad experiences may just be the product of bad luck. While I’m still not convinced that all of the “crazy Frenchman’s” crazed fans are justified in their gushing enthusiasm for this restaurant, I do think that Chef Rafael is up to some good in that kitchen of his. The menu is diverse and ever-changing – hopefully a reflection of a market-fresh approach, while offering traditional bistro fare: Croque Monsieur, escargot, roasted chicken with lemon and garlic, and moules marinieres. I say go, and if not pleased, then (if you can afford it), go again…

Le Fou Frog **
400 East Fifth Street
Kansas City, Missouri

Rating Scale
– Miserable: What else do you want to know?
* Okay: Go there if you want edible food, you won’t die, but disappointment is possible.
** Decent: Average food. Nothing to write home about.
*** Good: Memorable. Quality food and service. Would measure up to most standards…
**** Outstanding: Charmed. A jewel of a find and hard to beat.
***** Excellent: Flawless. Seamless, ie. must be very finicky to find something wrong…
****** Speechless: ‘nough said.

~ by ulterior epicure on December 21, 2005.

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