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EAT, DRINK & PLAY   -   THE DISH
Dee-lish! - Le Chene
Restaurant Review
June, 2005 - Issue #8
Nestled away among the oak trees along a stretch of Sierra Highway lies what appears to be a small, stone-cobbled castle. As strange as the existence of a castle may be in Santa Clarita, even stranger may be the existence of a fine French restaurant in Santa Clarita. In fact, both anomalies are one and the same at Le Chene French Cuisine: an unexpected French dining destination in Sleepy Valley.

As out of place as Le Chene may appear to those yet to discover it, it has in fact been open since 1980 and has its share of loyal, longtime customers. For those not in the know, diners are made to feel welcome and comfortable by the maitre d' upon entering the restaurant. The decor at Le Chene is simple, yet elegant, lacking any pretentiousness or attitude that often radiates from any other French dining establishment. While waiting to be seated, diners can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail at Le Chene's bar overlooking its picturesque oak-shaded garden and patio.

Traditional French fare such as Beef Bourguignon and Duck A L'Orange are available on Le Chene's menu presented to diners on a tableside chalkboard. Although the chalkboard menus list only the names of the night's dishes, the knowledgeable wait staff can offer explanations and answer any questions diners may have. Le Chene also offers an extensive wine list with hundreds of fine wines to accompany and compliment any dinner.

To start, true Francophiles may want to sample the escargots or the rich and silky foie gras. For those less accustomed to such delicacies, the stuffed mushrooms ($8.95) are another delicious hors d'oeuvre as white button mushrooms are stuffed with tomatoes and fresh herbs, drizzled with oil, and then roasted and served on a sizzling platter.

On busy nights, as is usually the case at Le Chene on weekends, raised voices may be needed in order for diners to hear one another. Chatter from groups of families and friends, to couples young and old, emanates from the various tables to the beautiful high-beamed wooden ceilings of the intimate dining areas. Luckily, however, conversation is kept to a minimum by the time the main courses arrive, as mouths are kept full with Le Chene's outstanding French fare.

The offerings at Le Chene are ample and satisfying as all entrees are served with a choice of soup or salad, and include two vegetables as well. The Filet Mignon au Poivre ($24.50) is wonderful bistro food. Encrusted in ground peppercorns, this tender cut of beef is seared to the diner's liking and then finished with a rich cognac reduction sauce. Each of the items on the menu are a prime example of traditional French cooking, and the Bouillabaisse ($29.50) is perhaps one of its most delectable choices. Le Chene's version of the classic seafood stew features a large fragrant bowl of golden, saffron-infused fish broth overflowing with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and crab legs - a satisfying dish indeed.

For the most part, the desserts offered at Le Chene are fair. However, the Tart Tatin (upside-down apple tart, $6) was served cold and consisted of mushy apples and a limp crust. Had this tart been served warm, it may have been palatable, but perhaps it was a faux pas isolated to the particular night for this review. In any case, the Creme Brulee ($5.75) and Cheesecake ($5.25) did not disappoint.

Le Chene French Cuisine is open for dinner and cocktails seven days a week from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Le Chene is also open for Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling the restaurant at 251-4315. Le Chene is located at 12625 Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita.
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