Loulay is the newest restaurant in the empire of Seattle’s most haberdasherous celebrity chef, Thierry Rautureau. Loulay is named for Rautureau’s hometown of Saint Hilaire de Loulay, and according to the restaurant’s website will feature “menu items [that] are rooted in his childhood memories.” Hey motherfuckers: that is the FIRST time I’ve ever used brackets in a quote so drink five times.
It’s a touching concept, at any rate, but is Rautureau’s personal Proust moment compelling enough to make you pause in thought with each bite, overwhelmed with nostalgia? You’ll see.
We started with an endive salad ($7.50) This salad looked less like a childhood memory and more like it was actually plated by a child: all the stuff seemed to be randomly tossed on the plate in a disarrayed scattering of grilled apple slices, a splayed out wedge of grilled onion, and a sloppy bale of frisee, with a lonely pond of mustard vinaigrette off to the side. Each component was tasty on its own, but it was difficult to get all of it together in one bite; this salad was like herding meth heads.
Veal sweet bread ($15) was okay: cute chunks of sweet bread were fried and draped in a glossy madeira reduction, with a couple roast baby turnip halves thrown in. The watery bite of the turnip offset the richness of the sweetbreads, but in general this dish lacked a textural contrast. In theory this textural contrast would be provided by the accompanying cube of grilled brioche, but really it just ended up being a bland piece of toast, boring but nonetheless useful for sopping up the reduction, like a mop you can eat. Your mom’s a mop you can eat.
A trio of duck ($19) was really good, with a confit of duck leg, a few slices of roasted duck breast, and a heavily smoked chunk of duck sausage all swimming in a slick demiglace. Sharing the pool with the duck parts were a pile of flageolet beans and a few amaranth microgreens. The confit was shrouded in a brittle skin that barely clung to the succulent flesh beneath. The confit could be separated from the bone with the merest thought, and the breast meat was juicy like the details of my weekend with your mom. The sausage was coarsely ground and rustic, but not in a bad way, and the smoke flavor complimented the creamy pile of flageolets well. The microgreens didn’t need to be in attendance, their whispery voices lost in the shouting chorus of intense duck flavor.
Loulay also offers a four-course tasting menu, which at $49 is actually a fairly good deal. The first course was a beet salad. This was fairly pedestrian, with a couple wedges of creamy roasted beets which poked up their heads from beneath a small pile of amaranth greens. Here and there were a couple nuggets of chopped walnut.
Next up were seared scallops, which was unfortunately probably the biggest letdown of the tasting menu, because we got one seared scallop, yes ONE, as in the number of Academy Awards your mom would have if they gave out Oscars for gang bangs. Accompanying this prime number of scallops was a couple florets of roasted cauliflower. The scallops were perfectly executed, and the cauliflower was good too, but GIVE ME MORE THAN ONE MOTHERFUCKING SCALLOP OR I WILL PISS IN YOUR HAT THEIRRY RAUTUREAU AND THEN YOU WILL HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR NAME TO THE CHEF IN THE PISS HAT BECAUSE YOU WILL BE WEARING A PISS HAT.
All raging priapic complaints about the scallops aside, the third course was roasted beef and it was superb: a big tender softball of braised beef was crowned with a wreath of celery leaves, chunks of roast sweetbreads, and a turnip puree. The beef was exceedingly tender like a Lifetime Original Movie, and the flavors here were understated without being bland.
Finally the dessert course featured apple beignets: four fluffy balls of beignet, dusted in powdered sugar like an investment banker’s nose, with caramel sauce and a couple wedges of sautéed apple. Beignets, if done wrong, can become tiresome mattresses of stale pastry, but these were as light as a titty nimbus. The caramel wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and you could actually taste apple flavor amid the competing sugary noise.
Loulay is a solid restaurant with an obviously competent kitchen. That having been said, I found the food fairly impersonal, especially for a concept which specifically mentions that the menu references the chef’s childhood memories. I’m sure Rautureau has some old family recipes he could feature on his menu. After all, old people eat the dumbest fucking things, like ribbon candy or slumgullion or crazy cake or, worst of all, hot hams, which in case you aren’t ancient enough to know is a hot dog on a hamburger bun. I once overheard a nonagenarian lamenting the time J. P. Morgan was ahead of her in line, and bought up the last of the hot hams at Woolworth’s.
Even my own grandfather used to eat a tin of devilled ham for dinner, washed down with a glass of milk to which he would add a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a slice of white bread. So, Chef Rautureau, if you’re reading this, and your own grand-pere used to eat the French version of Satanic pork products and diabetic slurries, then by all means PUT THIS SHIT ON THE MENU. It’s nothing personal.
Rating: 7 hot hams out of 10.
Loulay is located at 600 Union Street.
For reservations call 206-402-4588