Oh là là! It’s French cuisine at its finest at Tapenade

By Will Parson


The fine French dining experience can be a daunting one for the uninitiated, but rest assured that Tapenade is accustomed to regulars and first-timers alike. Chef Jean-Michel Diot and his staff are ready to make the experience not only exquisite but also educational.

Tapenade Restaurant serves traditional French Provencal cuisine fused with contemporary American influences in a classic bistro atmosphere. Photos Will Parson

After all, Diot and his wife Sylvie sought out San Diego specifically as a place to raise their two children, citing the weather and the family environment. So they are well aware that they are a long way from New York where their old restaurant was one of many. However, you will feel a bit closer to Provence, where their menu originates.
Tapenade’s Maître d’ Ludovic Mifsud, himself a Provençal export, sees San Diego’s unique character positively.
“It’s definitely more laid back than you will have in New York or Chicago, which is actually really good. It’s a nice twist and we like it. I think here people try to learn a lot about food,” he said.
Accordingly, Mifsud and trusted staff will gladly guide the willing through their meals. One inevitably starts with the amuse-bouche and can then progress either to an appetizer like the Wild Mushroom Ravioli, which has been a favorite since the restaurant opened in 1998 (and is on the Happy Hour menu as well).

The venison is prepared with seasonal flavors.

Alternatively, one can head straight to an entree from the traditional menu, replete with escargots and coq au vin, or the seasonal menu, which is a bit more modern. A classic choice might be the Homard au maïs blanc, made with lobster, white corn, porcini mushrooms, English peas and a Tahitian vanilla broth.

A popular winter offering is the Noisettes de biche (Axis Venison Loin “Noisettes”), served with butternut squash, spätzles, braised cabbage and wine-poached Seckel pear.

For dessert, try a poached pear stuffed with hazelnut chocolate, plated with a smattering of fruit, a streak of caramel sauce and a scoop of ginger ice cream. It goes well with a glass of champagne.
Weekends at Tapenade keep the waiters bustling, but the main dining room isn’t overwhelming even at full capacity. Private rooms are available for larger groups, but with few at the bar, a smaller party might find that the bistro area can be quiet enough. The bistro area has the added benefit of being a more casual area, even if the service is the same. So, if you feel a little under-dressed — even for San Diego — there’s no need to worry. You can try your first escargot without a large audience.

Maître d’ Ludovic Mifsud

Tapenade Restaurant

7612 Faye Ave.

The Vibe: Fine, Familiar

Signature Dish: Raviolis aux Champignons (Wild Mushroom Raviolis)

Open Since: 1998

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Web: tapenaderestaurant.com

Phone: (858) 551-7500

Reservations: Yes

Patio Seating: Yes

Take Out: Yes

Happy Hour: From 5 p.m. Sunday-Thursday

Casey and Mac Armstrong listen to the specials.

On The Menu Recipe

Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com, click On The Menu. This week:

Tapenade’s Wild Mushroom Ravioli

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Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=36557

Posted by Staff on Mar 3, 2011. Filed under Food, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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