The Dish - Restaurant Review
Special Times
December, 2007 - Issue #38
After 27 years in the Santa Clarita Valley, Le Chene continues to delight a sophisticated gathering of diners who are more than willing to take the road less traveled in order to enjoy what is arguably the best food in the area.

Le Chene means "The Oaks" in French and is a nod to the oak trees that dot the beautiful landscape just beyond the picture windows in the main dining room. White linens drape each table, the sounds of romantic French music can just barely be heard amidst quiet conversations and the clinking of wine glasses. While many people come to celebrate a special occasion, a meal at Le Chene is a celebration in itself.

Owner and chef Juan Alonso has developed a menu of some of the most tantalizing creations this side of France. Handwritten on chalkboards, the menu itself is simple and unassuming. But the 50 entrees are nothing short of amazing. The adventurous and timid diners are certain to find something irresistible; lamb, veal, beef, venison, boar, buffalo, rabbit, ostrich, frog legs, quail, seafood and shellfish not to mention appetizers and soups make up this extensive and ambitious menu. The choices are nearly endless and I only wish that I were able to try them all.

We started our meal with the Stuffed Mushrooms ($9.95). A dozen mushrooms filled with a tomato concasse (coarsely chopped tomatoes) are drizzled with a garlic butter sauce. The Shrimp Escoffier ($10.95) is a sinful delight of three large butterflied shrimp resting in a cream, garlic and sherry sauce. The Escargot ($10) are fabulous. A half dozen delicate, tender escargot are served with a butter, white wine, garlic and herb sauce. Each bite of these wonderful starters is a treat. Along with our appetizers, we enjoyed a bottle of Juan's Galicia Stars (white table wine) ($35) grown by the Alonso Family Vineyards (Juan's family) right down the road. This lovely wine is light, crisp and fruity - a perfect complement to the rich appetizers.

A cup of French Onion Soup ($5.50) was next. The dark, oniony broth is so rich and flavorful and the topping of crusty bread lavishly covered in hot, bubbling cheese is superb.

"I could hardly contain my EXCITEMENT as our main course dishes arrived."

When Michel Delcros, the Maitre D' and 18-year veteran of Le Chene, brought the next bottle of wine to our table, we knew we were in for a treat. Juan and his family have been at it again with their Amadeo Vineyard Tempranillo 2004 ($35). This red wine is warm, full-bodied and smooth with a nice peppery finish.

I could hardly contain my excitement as our main course dishes arrived. The Filet of Beef with Roquefort Sauce ($27.70) is simply magnificent. A generous cut of perfectly-prepared tenderloin rests dreamily in a pungent, smooth and creamy Roquefort sauce that is lush and decadent. The Lamb Chops A l'ail ($27.70) are spectacular. These gorgeous frenched chops are served with a rustic textured garlic sauce ("A l'ail" means 'with garlic') that is a perfect balance for the lamb. A bit of chopped thyme tossed in at the finish adds a wonderful element of freshness to the entire dish. The Salmon Feuilette ($23.70) is a creation in understated elegance. A beautiful salmon filet is served atop steamed asparagus and rests on a puffed pastry triangle. A smooth beurre blanc sauce drizzled over the top adds just the right element of creaminess to complete the dish. Each of the entrees is perfectly prepared and simply plated. The focus always remains on the food, not overly fussy presentation.

Desserts are always a treat at Le Chene and this night was no different. Michel suggested we try the Dark Chocolate Cake ($6.25) and the Creme Brulee ($6.75) and are we glad we listened to him. The multi-layered chocolate cake incorporates chopped almonds. It comes resting on a vanilla sauce with dark chocolate drizzled over the top. This cake is very moist, not too heavy and not too sweet. The almonds add a wonderful texture to each bite. The creme brulee is incredibly creamy and the caramelized sugar top makes that terrific cracking sound when you break into it.

We ended our evening with another one of Juan's surprises - a glass of his 2002 Don Juan California Port ($10.50). This decadent port warms your soul like a blanket of down. It lingers on the palate, and gives you a reason to pause, sigh and be truly grateful for another beautiful evening enjoying spectacular food with special people in the comfortable surroundings of Le Chene.

Le Chene is located at 12625 Sierra Highway in Agua Dulce. Call 251-4315 for more information. They are open Sunday through Saturday for dinner at 5:30 p.m. Brunch on Sunday is served from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
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