Quail in Huckleberry Sauce, Wild Boar with Rosemary Tarragon Sauce, Grand Marnier Soufflé
Occupation: Residential Realtor
Location: San Jose
Favorite Restaurant: La Forêt Restaurant
Reviewed La Forêt Restaurant: Thursday, May 29, 2007
La Forêt is a wonderful dining experience. It has been open for over 100 years, starting off as the first two-story boarding house in CA and serving the hard workers of San Jose’s agriculture and farming communities. Now, it is one of the premier dining experiences in Northern California.
La Forêt, apply named "The Forest," is set amongst old world oaks and bays that surround a charming creek-side setting.
The drive to the restaurant is several miles from the main highway so you feel you’ve escaped from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley. There is ample parking and the entrance is senior-friendly. Upon entering one is greeted by the friendly maître d', and since reservations are a mandatory, you will be escorted to your table immediately. There are always two to three waiters/waitresses to help pull out chairs and place napkins in your lap. We were given a wine list, more like a book, with 17 pages of fantastic wines ranging from $45.00 on up. We chose a delicious bottle of David Bruce Zinfandel for $65.00. It was the perfect complement for our delicious meal. The waiter promptly went over the specials and took our appetizer order. Then, the big decision, they asked if we would care for their special Soufflé Grand Marnier for desert, and with a gleam in my eye and a quick look at my bride, we happily agreed. It’s our favorite dessert.
We started off with a free sample of the chef’s hors d'oeuvres special. Rabbit sausage with wild mushrooms and a basket of warm bread. Mmmmmmm, delicious.
As we finished our chef’s special, our waiter brought out the appetizer we ordered.
A sea scallop with a light cream, herbs, and saffron sauce over puffed pastry. They gave us an extra scallop since my wife and I were sharing.
Quickly after our scallops were devoured, the mushrooms and shrimp salad arrived, which was equally divine. It consisted of mushrooms, bay shrimp, spinach, radicchio and red pepper vinaigrette. We tried to get the recipe for the vinaigrette, however that was a chef’s secret -- the waitress even tried as she loved it too but she also wasn’t able to coax it out of him.
It wasn’t but a minute or two after our salad was done when the entrees arrived. My wife enjoyed a well-proportioned salmon steak with a delicious Chambord and port wine sauce. I had a taste and it melted in your mouth. Not a hint of fishiness, just a perfectly prepared meal with a great port wine sauce that made the entire meal a delight for my bride. My dinner was equally exquisite. I tried the veal for the first time, since my usual, venison, wasn’t available at this time. The veal came prepared with a shiitake mushroom, cream, and Calvados brandy sauce that I carefully cherished, so as to have a little with every bite. As with my previous meals I have never been disappointed, this is just one of the best meals of the year.
All along the service was impeccable. The water glass never emptied, and the well-dressed staff in their tuxedo outfits is a wonderful change to the gum-chewing waitress at the local coffee shop.
After we finished our entrees, we sat back and enjoyed the views of the creek and atmosphere of this wonderful old home built over 100 years ago. It’s said to be haunted by Aunt Tests. Some of the old timers who work there will swear to several very strange occurrences. A dropped spoon on the floor with no one around, a cool breeze in the hallway, napkins rearranged -- sort of spooky but fun. The fine bone china and quality linens and red roses on the table quickly make you feel comfortable. The views of the majestic oaks at the sun sets over the wedding chapel give a felling of warmth and peacefulness. A special dinner like this is not for the faint of heart. One can expect a spend $200 +/- for a dinner for two depending on wine selection. However, for a special treat there’s nothing like La Forêt.
Occupation: Criminal Records Tech
Location: Daly City
Favorite Restaurant: Rotee
Reviewed La Forêt Restaurant: Thursday May 24, 2007
If I am ever asked what I would like to eat right before I die, I would request the meal I ate at La Forêt. The whole experience, with the exception of the distance to get there, can be described as heavenly. It took a good while to get to this lovely little house tucked back in a grove, nestled next to a creek, but once there, the travel time and traffic seemed to melt away once we entered. La Forêt is like going over to an elegant, old friend’s house. The entry and bar area have polished wood floors and tuxedoed wait staff standing at the ready behind the maître d'. There are two dining rooms on the lower floor with eight to ten tables with plush, patterned carpeting, brass chandeliers, and very comfortable chairs. We are seated at a table for two, next to the window that looks out over the creek. Instantly, our server for the night, a pleasant young lady, delivers the menus and wine list in green, leather-bound books. The menu is extensive, but we decide to choose two of the six-course tasting menus.
There is a lot of activity all around with the serving staff, but nothing is ever intrusive. We are able to continue our conversation, uninterrupted, as they change flatware or plates as the courses arrive and disappear. The timing of each course is perfect with never too long or too short a wait between plates. Attention is always paid to our needs, with our wine glasses being filled as needed.
The food is the main show here. We begin this culinary pleasure cruise with the escargots in garlic and Pernod sauce, which we ordered a la carte to the tasting menus. They came out of the shell, (no chance for flying snail shells) and for the first time, I actually could taste the snail, not just garlic and butter. An enormous piece of foie gras arrives in a beautiful china bowl, perfectly seared and it just melts in your mouth. It was almost too much of a good thing.
Two beautiful scallops come next, which are so delicious and well accompanied by the slightly saffron-flavored cream sauce. They are absolutely perfect with a soft center and perfect seared outside. This is quickly our favorite dish. The grilled ahi tuna in a horseradish and thyme sauce is next on the menu. It was a little overdone for my taste, and I think the meal would not have been missing anything at all if they just left this off the menu.
Our courses take a different turn now and I receive a bowl with wild boar in rosemary and tarragon sauce and my husband has the roasted quail in huckleberry sauce. I have never had boar, and this is surprisingly very mild. It was very tender as well, not so much in cutting, but a melt-in-your-mouth quality. My husband’s quail is delicious, moist, and the sauce is a perfect compliment. The final entrées come, and I have Kobe beef in a peppercorn, Cabernet, and Courvoisier sauce, and my husband receives tournedos of beef with a chanterelle mushroom and herb sauce. While the meat is fork-tender and tasty, I can honestly say that I’ve made hanger steak at home with as much or more flavor. I enjoyed my husband’s tournedos, which were very, very good and I had wished I had ordered that tasting menu at this point.
The dish that brings this meal up to the heavenly scale is the Soufflé Grand Marnier in a vanilla anglaise sauce, heavy with Grand Marnier liqueur. This soufflé is so light that when my spoon pierces the top, it sighs and then deflates and gives up its soft, fluffy, airy insides to be bathed in a luxurious, intoxicating sauce. This is the absolute perfect ending to a wonderful and delicious meal.
I will most probably never go back to La Forêt, due to the distance, two hours of driving, and the cost, almost $300.00 for two, bringing our own wine. It is a very special place for very special occasions with exceptional service and fine cuisine. I am happy I had the experience.
Occupation: Middle School Teacher
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Pauline's Pizza
Reviewed La Forêt Restaurant: Saturday, May 26, 2007
In spite of favorable reviews from some colleagues of mine who love La Forêt, I was truly skeptical about this place. The website looks stuffy and overly formal, the menu greatly favors meat and heavy preparations, it feels like a “has-been” restaurant, and it’s a fairly long drive from San Francisco.
It was a warm, summery Saturday evening when, after a wrong turn or two, we made our way along the little country road through New Almaden toward La Forêt. As we approached the restaurant, although I was still skeptical, I was beginning to feel charmed by the pastoral setting. As we walked into the old inn, I felt immediately at ease. There is something very comfortable and familiar about this place. It does not feel like the Bay Area. With the country setting, the tuxedoed staff, the brass-framed floral prints, and the big bowl of Andes mints on the host’s podium, I felt like I was seven years old, out for a fancy dinner with my parents. Really, I was charmed.
We had planned to meet our friends at the restaurant for a 7:00pm reservation, but they called to say that they had gotten very lost and would be at least a half hour late. The host was very kind about holding our table for us and about guiding our friends to the restaurant over the phone. While we waited, we sat outside on the patio next to the creek and had a glass of wine. I’m not sure that the restaurant really means for the patio to be used by guests because there were only two metal chairs set out, but this was the best part of the evening. The setting is truly beautiful and it was a gorgeous night. This is just the kind of outdoor experience that San Franciscans crave. Also, the bar poured us each a veritable goblet of a delicious merlot. I didn’t know until the bill came that this enormous serving of wine cost only $10.
When our friends finally arrived and we were seated in the dining room, my skepticism was beginning to wane. Our server was sweet and enthusiastic and, in contrast to the formal surroundings, had an easy-going manner. Even though several of the entrée s looked interesting, we all decided to have the six-course tasting menu. I really wanted to try the wild boar and the Kobe beef, so I ordered the third menu, while my dinner companions ordered the second one, which had the quail and tournedos of beef. The first course was to be foie gras, which I don’t care much for, but our server was very gracious about substituting the prawns. Immediately after we ordered, the bread arrived warm (which I love), and we were served an amuse bouche. Our first course arrived shortly after, and any remaining traces of skepticism were whisked away by the perfectly cooked prawns served with a slightly tangy, creamy sauce. Delicious! The second course was a seared scallop on a piece of puff pastry in a saffron cream sauce. I thought that the bit of pastry was a little bit biscuity and tough, but the scallop was, again, perfectly cooked. In spite of the pastry, this may have been my favorite course. The third course was pepper-crusted, grilled ahi tuna. Ahi tuna might feel a little trite as it seems to have been on every restaurant’s menu over the past several years, but this one didn’t feel trite, maybe because of the horseradish thyme sauce accompanying it. By course number four, I was really getting full, but I still enjoyed the wild boar. I am not a big meat-eater, and I would never normally order game, so I was surprised that I liked this so much. The meat was tender and flavorful. Although the wild rice cake that accompanied the boar was a little too salty, its chewiness complemented the meat well. Finally, the Kobe beef arrived. I don’t know if it would be worth the $85 charged for the entrée portion, but it is butter-knife tender and delicious. It was served with a very traditional mashed potato and a couple of pieces of asparagus, carrot, and squash.
Even though I had only had a portion of each of the savory courses, I was so incredibly full by dessert, I did not know if I could manage it. However, when that beautiful, fluffy Grand Marnier soufflé arrived surrounded by cream and berries, I got my second wind. I ate every last bite!
So, in the end, I was both right and wrong about La Forêt. From the location to the ambiance to preparations, this is an extraordinarily traditional restaurant. It truly feels like stepping back into another time. However, La Forêt also serves delicious food in a comfortable setting with friendly, approachable service. As we left the restaurant that night, I joked that I would write that “La Forêt aims for pretense but misses the mark.” And it’s a good thing it does.
A couple of caveats, though: this restaurant is expensive and it is not a good place for vegetarians.