November 9, 2006

Bon Appetit!

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One extremely cold, windy, typical Ithaca night, I found myself walking through the Ithaca Commons with my parents looking for a restaurant in which to eat dinner. We had originally planned to eat at a restaurant that did not take reservations, but found a seriously long wait when we arrived, even though we had gotten there pretty early. Luckily, I remembered my friend saying very good things about Lokelani’s, a French restaurant situated at 113 S. Cayuga St, across from the Lost Dog Café. We entered Lokelani’s with little hope of being seated in ten minutes or less, but were pleasantly surprised when he offered to seat us immediately. What followed was a lovely dinner that made me forget about our previous misfortune and be thankful for quiet French restaurants that boast a warm and cozy atmosphere and a very delicious menu.
The great thing about dining with my parents is that I can order a grand, three-course dinner with no qualms, as they will be footing the bill. Of course, I enjoy their company immensely, but ordering anything and everything I want is very liberating. After perusing the menu carefully, I decided on an endive salad with apple, bleu cheese, and walnuts as an appetizer and Coq au Vin, which is a red wine braised chicken, as an entrée. My dad chose the endive salad as well and the Bouillabaise, a seafood-based soup, and my mom picked onion soup for an appetizer and the filet mignon as her main course. Although the host had said that we would not be served immediately, a waiter arrived to take our orders pretty promptly.
Once I had ordered, I was able to observe and admire the décor of the restaurant. The walls were painted a bright shade of red that was not overwhelming in the least. Instead, it made the restaurant appear energetic, which contrasted nicely with dark and somber weather occurring outside. Black and white photographs depicting old French cities as well as vintage French advertisements hung from the walls. Looking around, I felt as if I was dining in a Parisian café located on a side street away from the grand boulevards. It was a wonderful setting for the wonderful food I was about to eat.
By the time our appetizers arrived, I was famished; all the traipsing around the Commons in search for restaurants had worn me out. Lucky for me, the salad was delicious. The sweetness of the apple perfectly balanced the tartness of the bleu cheese, and the walnuts were a very nice addition. We were all so pleased with our appetizers that we began to sneak frequent glances at the kitchen to see if our entrees were being brought out. After a bit of time, our waiter emerged from the kitchen holding three wonderful looking dishes and we dug in.
The first bite of my Coq au Vin brought a smile to my face — it was delicious. The chicken was perfectly cooked and not at all dry and the red wine sauce was sweet and decadent. The portion they served me was the perfect size so I was able to finish the entire dish without feeling overly full. My parents were equally happy with their dishes. The mussels, scallops, and other pieces of fish in my dad’s bouillabaisse were cooked in a perfect broth that was thick, but not too creamy. The dish was seasoned nicely so that each piece of fish retained its individual flavor while complementing the flavors of the other fish. The filet mignon my mom ordered was cooked exactly as she specified and was so good she didn’t need to dip it in the sauce that came with the steak. The mashed potatoes served alongside the steak were made to perfection- light, fluffy, and with a hint of butter in the background. Each of our entrees disappeared just as quickly as our appetizers, and we anxiously turned to the next course.
Visiting a French restaurant and not ordering dessert is definitely some kind of crime and so, going along with this belief, my parents and I were forced to order three fantastic desserts. I am always a sucker for any dessert involving fruit and so ordered the Apple Tarte Tatin. My mom decided on the classically French dessert, Mousse au Chocolat, and my dad chose the Mille Feuille aux Fruits des Bois, a Napoleon-like dessert featuring fruit and cream layered between sheets of pastry. Coffee and tea accompanied our desserts, which were outstanding, to say the least.
As the meal drew to a close, my parents paid the bill and we left the restaurant completely satisfied. Of course I had to sit and listen to my parents give me pointers on what to include in this column, but I can’t complain. I had a fantastic French meal without having to leave the country. C’est excellent!