Le Charenton Restaurant, Exquisite Cuisine in Folsom
Rib Eye Steak
You’ve got to be slightly crazy to be in the restaurant industry, according to Chef-Owner Steven Long and his team at Le Charenton, which is how they landed on the name “Charenton”—a moniker they borrowed from a historic psychiatric hospital nestled amongst apartment buildings and boulangeries (bakeries) in the southeastern suburbs of Paris.
When I visited the restaurant (sited in the former home of Chez Daniel) during late summer, the dining room was elegant but small. By the time you’re reading this, it should be much larger and completely renovated, featuring a full bar and wine room. Alain Foisy is the fine gentleman who heads up the front of the house, where you’re sure to enjoy a subtle and refined dining experience.
The smoked salmon blini are an excellent way to start. Silver dollar-sized masa cakes are crowned with an adroitly stacked floret of smoked salmon, crème fraiche (sour cream’s richer, less sour sister) and American caviar. At once buttery, briny, rich, and intense but balanced—these blini are truly brilliant.
The rib eye is generous, well marbled and grilled to your heart’s desire—resulting in a lovely cut of meat that’s utterly tender and juicy. The steak’s supporting cast doesn’t disappoint either. The potatoes, in particular, are remarkably good. When you consider that the starchy side is often a pretty unassuming sidekick, it’s exciting to see that such a humble root can become something extraordinary in the hands of an expert craftsman. Pair this dish with a tannic Tempranillo or Cabernet Sauvignon and you’re golden.
The duck a la ménage—a roast breast, confit and sausage with flageolet beans, carrots and brandied cherry bigarade (a brown sauce prepared with bitter orange, among other things)—is inspired. Typically prepared by salting and then slowly cooking the meat in its own rendered fat at a low temperature, confit was originally a process used to preserve meats. Whether Le Charenton has its own secret twist on this tradition, I’m not sure, but they do it most proficiently. The sausage was also superb with flavors of Indian cuisine (turmeric, cumin and possibly cardamom), while the breast was on par with the best I’ve ever had.
Whether you call it nouvelle, classique, haute, New American or Euro-American…Le Charenton’s cuisine is exquisite, skillfully prepared and mouthwatering. Bon appetit!
Le Charenton Restaurant, 49 Natoma Street, Folsom, 916-292-9090.