Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

European steakhouse chain La Boucherie aims for the American consumer and hits the bull's-eye



La Boucherie is a flat-out threat. This French outfit from Limousin appropriated the concept and ideals of the American chain restaurant, Gallicized it, expanded it all over France, then brought it here to shove into our faces. What really stings is that La Boucherie is a steakhouse – a steakhouse! What's next? Buffalo wings from Bordeaux? Texas barbecue from Toulouse?? Oh, if only we had a Department of Homeland Gastronomy. We'd build walls – good ol' fashioned WALLS, I say! – to protect national treasures such as Ruth's Chris and, umm, Outback Steakhouse from the caravans of foreign restaurants invading our shores.

OK, faux jingoistic preambles aside, there may be a niche in this city for an upper-middle-class steakhouse – one that fills the gap between an Outback and a Ruth's Chris – and if it happens to be a chain from France with more than 130 locations scattered about Europe and elsewhere, well, c'est la vie.

La Boucherie ("The Butcher Shop") is a casual, approachable eatery where the branding is as unmistakably American as a TGI Friday's in all its red-and-white striped glory. But then the laminated menu reveals glossy pics of foie gras ($17.50), roasted bone marrow ($7.50) and a seasonal terrine ($7.10). There are escargots ($9.50), buttery and even-handedly garlicked, served in a ceramic snail plate along with toasted baguette slices. Baguettes, by the way, are flown in from France, which may seem odd at first, but when you learn the restaurant is run by Claude Wolff, owner of sandwich joint Le Café de Paris on Dr. Phillips Boulevard, it makes sense. Wolff imports bread for his café from a small village in his home region of Lorraine, and uses it at La Boucherie as well.

You'll see the toasted rounds next to an alpine heap of mustardy steak tartare ($17.80) studded with onions and capers and topped with an egg yolk. It's listed on the menu along with two other ground steaks (both of the cooked variety), but unlike the other two, which are offered in small and regular-sized portions, the tartare is only offered in the larger helping. It would make sense to offer it in a smaller, appetizer-sized portion but, with some effort, we happily stuffed it all into our bouches, along with perfect thick-cut fries. Oh, the menu states the tartare will be "prepared at your table to your own liking" and "please enjoy the show." Well, it wasn't prepared at our table and, frankly, I wouldn't have trusted our well-meaning, though novice and somewhat forgetful, server to do so anyway. But we enjoyed it just fine nevertheless.

Another ground-up delight, the "maquignon" ($14.25), has a hand-formed patty wedged between two hashbrown "buns" layered with onion, bacon and cheese sauce. Looked and tasted pretty darned American to me, and I couldn't help but wonder for a moment if the French were beating us at our own game with this one.

Now to the steaks. They're USDA Choice cuts (no fancy Prime here) and ordering the mixed grill ($24.90) gets you a trio of chef's selections. We were served 3-ounce cuts of flavorless flank, superbly tender sirloin and "steak frites" (which amounted to a cut of top sirloin served with pan-roasted potatoes). The steak was great, as were the potatoes, but not exactly steak frites. For the steak-averse, there's a traditional pot au feu ($22.50), rosemary lamb shank ($19.50) and duck breast ($19.50), among other bistro classics. There's even a blanquette de veau ($20.80) for your inner Julia Child.

The wine list won't blow you away – this isn't Bern's, after all – but there's a decent enough selection, as well as Kronenbourg and La Fin du Monde beers on tap. There are a surprising number of desserts offered (12!) but the floating island ($6), comprising meringue atop crème anglaise and caramel, and the profiteroles au chocolat ($9.10) will have you humming "La Marseillaise" on your way out the door.

Zut! So much for national pride.

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