If you’ve never been to Le Fou Frog, driving up to the nondescript and unattractive building may make you question all the rave reviews you’ve heard for years. But in the spirit of not judging a book by its cover, you will be pleasantly surprised once you walk in the door. It’s certainly not fancy inside, but it’s a real shock to find a restaurant with atmosphere and intimacy. People are dressed more casually than you’d expect from looking at the prices on the menu, and the place has a bit of kitschiness (more on that later), but somehow it all works. The place is definitely a scene, especially on Friday evenings.
As I typically do, I had checked out the menu online before we visited the restaurant. However, unlike most websites these days, Le Fou Frog lists a skeletal menu of sample items rather than the current menu of the day or season. So I was very pleasantly surprised when our server handed us a huge chalkboard with all of the evening’s selections. Though a bit unwieldy to pass around our table of six, the server was happy to give a complete description of each item and help us walk through the list of appetizers and entrees. Contrary to what one may think, this is not stuffy French fare. The preparations are very contemporary and most of the accompanying sauces are light, not cream-based.
Once we sorted out who was going to order what, we settled back into our cozy banquette to celebrate several birthdays at the table. Almost immediately, our appetizers were brought out and my initial thought was boy, that was so quick! However, that was certainly the last time I had that thought, as from then on our service was inexcusably slow. Once the appetizer plates were cleared, it was another 80 minutes until our dinners were served. We were told on two occasions that our food was coming right out only to wait another 15 minutes each time. We were all stunned that no apology was ever given or a complimentary dish brought out to assuage our hunger.
Fortunately, the quality of the food made up for the abysmal service.
Around the table was mushroom soup, lobster bisque, roasted beets with arugula and blue cheese dressing, and French onion soup done the classic way. As a way to jumpstart spring which at the time had not yet sprung, we also ordered the gazpacho soup special. We thought it was a bit early for tomatoes, but the flavor was as fresh as an August batch would have been. Everyone was pleased with their selection–even the ubiquitous beet salad was a cut above.
For dinner I had rare tuna with bamboo rice, seawood salad and roasted shallots. Simple but nicely presented and perfectly executed. The mammoth veal chop was tender and flavorful, but almost raw near the bone. But after waiting as long as we did for our entrees, my table mate had no interest in sending it back and risk not seeing his dinner again for an hour.
We didn’t have the patience to stick around for dessert, but the offerings were certainly appealing.
Oh, and that kitschiness I mentioned? Members of the service and kitchen staff came out to entertain the guests, including pastry chef Carter Holton, who actually has a tremendous singing voice. It was mildly amusing, but if you’re enjoying your dinner conversation you may not welcome the interruption. Ask around and you’ll discover that the cabaret portion of the evening is a longstanding tradition endearing to patrons of this long-loved restaurant.
Le Fou Frog has a great Tuesday-Friday Happy Hour, with many half-priced entrees and drink specials. The bar is small but in the warmer months of the year the outdoor patio is very popular.