Aixois in Crestwood is practically an institution. But owners Emmanuel and Megan Langlade needed a new challenge, and downtown needed an upscale venue that would appeal to businessmen/women during the day, and concert or theatre goers and couples on date night during the evening. Serving one of the city’s longest happy hours during the afternoon, and even offering a private dining room for business meetings or birthday celebrations, Brasserie is trying to cover all of its bases.
The downtown Aixois Brasserie is quite attractive. Large windows dominate the space, allowing diners to take in what’s happening on the city streets. A large communal table dominates the middle of the restaurant, though small tables and bar seating is available for those desiring more privacy.
So far, Aixois is fulfilling its lofty expectations. The French fare is unfussy and for the most part hits the mark. The Croque Monsieur sandwich is a rich riff on a ham and cheese sandwich, dressed up with bechamel sauce and gruyere cheese. The simple jar of marinated olives is the perfect foil for whatever cocktail you might start your meal with, and the French fries need little more than a quick dip in a spot of ketchup. When the brasserie first opened, lamb meatballs appeared on the Happy Hour menu and, although they are off the menu for now, they deserve to be a main attraction. Sitting on a pool of what I think was tzatziki sauce (but I was so focused on the taste of the lamb that the sauce was incidental), these little bites were incredible. I like lamb, but don’t love meatballs because they are typically dry. But this was more like a mini round lamb burger, juicy and full of oomph. The shrimp cocktail was fine, but certainly not exciting or anything out of the ordinary. The remoulade with which the shrimp were served needed a kick. The pate was quite nice, especially the presentation.
The beet salad rocks. The beets are julienned and slightly pickled, the roquefort cheese and candied walnuts are the perfect (and yes, typical) accompaniment to the beets, but it’s the tangy house vinaigrette pulls it all together. It’s a large portion, but I ate every bite and then mopped up the beet juices with the awesome bread from New Traditionalist Bread.
French onion soup should be the star of the show at a French restaurant, but Aixois tasted a bit too much like beef broth and not enough like onions.
Aixois is known for its roast chicken in Brookside, so I thought I’d see if it’s as good at the downtown location. The 1/2 chicken was moist and delicious, though on this night, they switched out the mashed potatoes and gave me sweet potatoes instead. Fortunately, I love sweet potatoes; otherwise I would have been a bit miffed at the unrequested substitution.
The chicken paillard is a treat as well. Pounded thin, it resembles veal piccata, with capers, shallots and lemon sitting atop the tender piece of chicken. Served with crispy fries and a salad, it’s a complete meal.
Surprisingly, the menu also sports a pasta dish. It is predominately made up of crimini mushrooms, though goat cheese, pine nuts, garlic, balsamic vinegar and fried sage add to the flavor profile to make a winning dish.
Aixois Brasserie is a delightful venue, either as a destination or before or after a downtown event. Service is friendly and smooth, and it’s easy to hear your dinner companions, making it a rare breed these days. It’s open for lunch and dinner.