Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Morgantown Edition: Pascal's Bistro
A French restaurant has opened in Cheat Lake. The chef, Pascal Le Seac'h, who has been cooking professionally for the past 30 years in France and New York City, trained at the Michelin 2-star restaurant Chanteclerc in Nice, France.
Katherine Le Seac'h, the general manager and sommelier, handles the front of house and also served in Michelin starred and James Beard Award winning restaurant The Modern. She also recently served as the bar manager at The Wine Bar.
The couple took a split-level home in Cheat Lake and transformed it into a restaurant, Pascal's Bistro. The garage area has been transformed into the kitchen, while the dining area is upstairs.
The restaurant opened on Jan. 24, and I went on Tuesday evening - their first regular day after the grand opening.
I ventured out to Cheat Lake, which was actually kind of nice to get out of town a bit. The restaurant location is just before the BFS plaza area, if you're coming from the highway. The building sits just back off the road and up a small hill. A good-sized parking lot housed only a handful of cars on this night.
There are a few stairs to climb to reach the door, so something to keep in mind for those who require mobility assistance.
Inside, it's fairly minimal - no tablecloths, few pieces of art and no frilly centerpieces. Our server brought menus, which coincide with the theme. Just a few appetizers, main courses and sides. Our server - very attentive and helpful - remained patient with me and my group as we chatted through our entire meal. She was great.
I refrained from ordering an appetizer, though both Vicki and Tony ordered the Caesar salad at $12. I'm indifferent on Caesar salad, so I wasn't too impressed. But here are Vicki's thoughts: "The Caesar salad at $12 was also outrageously priced given that it was totally average. Tasty dressing, but not much of it, with bits of bacon, fresh romaine and fresh-grated parmesan. But the croutons were stale and chewy, not crunchy. A more reasonable price? Maybe $6."
We also had a basket of bread, which wasn't bad. Either warming the bread or butter or both would make it a bit easier to spread.
For my main entree, I ordered the "Roasted Chicken Grand-Mere with potatoes, pearl onions and bacon" at $28. The chicken was nice and lightly crispy on the outside, while the meat was flavorful and tender. Fingerling potatoes were nice when soaking up some of the delicious sauce - a nice, rich, deep flavored broth. The onions were slivers - not white pearls. Bacon could have been crisper. But the flavors together were pretty good. It was quite tasty, though I still have a hard time swallowing a $28 pricetag for a chicken dish.
My side of macaroni gratin with mushrooms was killer, though. Like, worth every penny of the $6. It came out in a mini cast iron casserole dish that was just filled with this cheesy pasta with a few mushrooms throughout - I love the variation in texture - and a nice crisp topping of baked cheese. It was hearty and homey and perfect.
Tony had the braised lamb shoulder with nicoise olives and chick peas. Here was his thought: "The braised lamb shoulder was solid but not spectacular; the red wine sauce was the star, and while a full bite with lamb, sauce, chickpeas and basil was tasty, it never raised to the level I was expecting for $28."
Vicki had the steak, which was an 8 oz. strip steak and fries with bernaise or sauce au poivre: "The 8-ounce strip steak was well seasoned and perfectly cooked (medium-rare) but for $42, it should have been a melt-in-your-mouth, tender 8-ounce filet mignon. It came with fries (nothing special), a slightly salty pepper sauce and well seasoned green beans. It was filling and tasty, but nothing spectacular. A more reasonable price would have been around $28."
Lisa had the trout, which was served with curried carrots and cauliflower. She noted she liked it, though she wished the skin was crispier. The carrots, she said, were quite good.
Lisa and I both ordered dessert: She went with the chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream, while I had the creme brulee.
She seemed to be a fan of the chocolate cake, and I also liked my creme brulee. The custard was the perfect texture, and the brittle sugar coating was thin but lovely for the overall flavor.
My overall thoughts - all the food was good. It was all quite good, really. I love the idea of a simple menu covering a range of entrees - from lamb and trout to chicken and steak and mussels. I love that we have this highly trained chef in town. My only real qualm is the price, really. I'll pay that amount of money if I plan to be blown away. Blown away, I wasn't. But, it was all good. I just wasn't overly impressed by my final bill of nearly $60 between chicken, macaroni and cheese and creme brulee plus tip.
Tony's thoughts: "Overpriced, but one of the better places in town if you're willing to pay extra for the idea of French food in Morgantown. When I think of French food, I want a technically superior dish with depth in its composition and flavor. The technique and care are there, but I didn't have anything that I would necessarily want again - or something that was innovative in any way."
Vicki's thoughts: "I would go back — if the prices were 30 percent lower. The food was good, but not great. And at Pascal’s prices, every dish needs to be great. Memorable, in fact. You’re clearly not paying for ambience in this location; our floor and table trembled five times during dinner from something slamming or dropping in the kitchen (a converted garage) underneath us."
Overall, good dishes. The service was lovely. With prices like that in Morgantown, people expect something really innovative - not just well-executed.
They have an upcoming Valentine's Day event, if you're interested. You can also get take out. For reservations and more information, visit the website.
Pascal's Bistro located at 186 Fairchance Road in Morgantown, WV, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30-9:30 p.m.