Le Meritage opened in early 2009 in the space in the Maison Dupuy hotel formerly occupied by Dominique Macquet’s eponymous restaurant. Chef Michael Farrell is from Virginia originally and plied his trade in such diverse locations as Colorado and Massachusetts before settling in his wife’s hometown of New Orleans.
Farrell’s love of pairing food and wine drove the restaurant’s concept –– each item on the menu can be ordered in a small or large portion, and there is a suggested wine available by the glass to accompany each. The menu is divided into sections based on those suggested pairings. The “sparklers” portion of the menu includes a tuna tartare with guacamole that Farrell suggests having with a sparkling wine from Napa, Calif. Under “full-bodied whites,” he recommends a chenin blanc to go with the seared scallop over white bean purée and andouille hash; a pinot noir is his choice to drink with the sous vide pork tenderloin, and a Spanish syrah is matched with the venison chop that’s served with “velvet” potatoes and a chocolate demiglace.
I had a chance to check out the recently revised menu last week at the invitation of the restaurant’s former publicist, who wanted to have one last hurrah before moving on to other adventures. It was a lovely night and an excellent meal.
We started with an amuse of lobster bisque served in a shot glass. It was a classic rendition that’s right up Farrell’s alley, given his time owning and operating the Summer House Restaurant in Nantucket. To start the meal proper we had the seared scallop over white bean puree mentioned above. The scallop was cooked perfectly, and its richness was offset nicely by the smooth white bean purée and the crisp pieces of andouille sausage that formed the “hash.”
Next up was a salad of lightly cooked mustard greens with quinoa. The greens retained a good bit of crunch, and the quinoa –– the Andean grain that’s seemingly becoming more popular daily –– was another interesting texture. The salad is not on the current menu, but if it is offered as a special, I highly recommend it. The custom in these parts is to cook greens for hours, and that’s a fine way to do it. But cooking them briefly is nice too, and you might be surprised at how light the result can be.
I believe my distaste for truffle oil is fairly well-documented, but the truffle foam that topped the wild mushroom risotto we had after the salad was pretty good. My problem with truffle oil is that it tends to overwhelm other flavors and stay with you throughout a meal. That was not the case here; the foam was subtle and gave a boost to the flavor of the mushrooms. This was a rich dish, and I think I’d order it in the small portion to split between two people.
For a last course we had the pork tenderloin. Farrell prepares it sous vide and plates it over a corn johnny cake with a sweet-tart quince demiglace topped with house-pickled vegetables. I’m not sure I’d go to the trouble of cooking pork tenderloin sous vide, but I can’t argue with Farrell’s results. The meat was tender and cooked through to a perfect temperature. I liked the sauce, but then I have a weakness for the combination of sweet and savory. The johnny cake was a great base for the dish, which really needed a mellow starch to balance the other flavors.
Seating in the restaurant is spread over a large irregularly shaped room with ample space among tables. This is not a restaurant at which you will strain to hear your dining companions’ conversation. The hotel’s courtyard is another draw; it’s available for special events hosted by the restaurant and always open for a post-dinner cocktail. Service on the occasions I’ve dined has been attentive, efficient and not intrusive. I expected the service to be top-notch when I dined at the invitation of the restaurant’s publicist, but it was consistent with my earlier experiences, for what that’s worth.
Le Meritage is located at 1001 Toulouse St., and you can contact them at 504/522-8800.