Well, my fellow foodies, this is it. My final Tallahassee restaurant review. But never fear - I've got one more post coming up after this one that will discuss the fate of the Tally Foodie blog, my final thoughts on the Tallahassee restaurant scene and some alternate places to look for the latest reviews. So....stay tuned!
On our last Friday night in Tallahassee, I made reservations for us a A La Provence - the restaurant that used to be Aria and that used to be Albert's Provence before that. I'm not sure what all the name changing/menu changing/ownership changing means - but I'm thinking it was for the best. Hubby and I ate here once when its moniker was Aria, and while the food was good, it was nothing to write home about. However, A La Provence should really be considered in a class of it's own when it comes to Tallahassee dining.
I have to start by talking about their truly exceptional service. No where else in Tallahassee have I been treated with such attention or been given such detailed explanations of the food and wine offerings! The servers don't just place the food down and run - they present the dish to you, making your mouth water as they divulge each and every creative ingredient that is waiting to delight you on your plate. They check on you often to make sure you are happy - but not so often that they become a pest. Water glasses are filled expertly - sometimes even by the hostess when she isn't busy seating patrons. It's as if each employee is acutely tuned in to the needs of each individual customer - and fulfills them before you even have the chance to speak. To be served in such a manner is a treat and an honor. Hats off to you, A La Provence.
Next, on to the decor. It has an all at once old fashioned, yet homey feel. With a large stone fireplace area, various landscape and still life paintings and country chairs - it feels almost as though I've stepped into my Grandmother's house. Not that I really minded. There's just something about Grandma's house that makes you feel special - you never have to lift a finger, you're served food till you're stuffed and then someone else cleans everything up! Not too shabby. But if A La Provence did want to step into the 21st century at some point, I wouldn't mind a more modern take on the place. In fact, it may bring a more youthful slant to their customer base. I can see how this place wouldn't be "cool" to bring a date to. But nonetheless, I ain't mad at 'em!
You can't be mad when you're served food as wonderful as this. A La Provence bills themselves as a "fine dining restaurant offering French Classics and Euro-American cuisine." We were told their menu changes seasonally to reflect the vegetables, fruits and seafood that are fresh at the time, although they do have a few "staples" that they always offer - these included steaks, lamb and duck.
To start off our night, we were served a complimentary "Amuse Bouche" - a French term which translates to "amuse the mouth." It was a little bite-sized treat that our server explained was to "open and delight our palates." On this night it was made with parsley, carrot, radish and mozzarella cheese in a light sauce made with tobasco, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. And open the palate it did! It was a spicy, crunchy little kicker that made both of us open our eyes in surprise and nod vigorously at each other while uttering things like "mmm" and "oooh."
Next, we were served fresh Ciabatta bread with both a sweet cream butter and an olive tapenade made with chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil. While I tried the butter, it was cold (which made it hard to knife and spread) and didn't taste very sweet at all. I would have loved a good room-temperature honey butter instead. But the olive tapenade - now that's where it was at! It was salty and tangy and yumdillyicious! I think we pretty much scraped the bottom of that bowl clean that's how good it was!
As an appetizer, we ordered their version of a Caprese Salad. Made with tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, green and black olives and fresh greens it was lightly topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. Honestly, I have never tasted mozzarella like this - it was so utterly light and fluffy, it was divine. Sometimes mozzarella can have a slightly slimy texture (which I know a lot of people like, and I personally don't mind either), but this mozzarella just knocked my socks off. You gotta just try it for yourself!
As if we needed any more food at this point, I ordered the Pistachio Crusted Rainbow Trout as my entree, which came with an heirloom tomato confit, calloo spinach, spring herbs and a tomato-horseradish vinaigrette. This fish was cooked to absolute perfection. It was moist and melty on the inside and the outside of the skin was cooked to a crispy, flaky crust with the pistachios providing a bit of extra salty deliciousness. When combined with the tangy-ness of the vinaigrette and the mushiness of either the tomatoes confit or spinach, it was a delectable combination of textures and flavors. Although I couldn't seem to put my fork down, the trout eventually defeated me. It was a rather large piece of fish, and in hindsight, hubby and I probably could have split it and been just fine. It was the perfect summer dish, with light and bright flavors and a consistency that just melts in your mouth.
Hubby ordered the Veal Chop with Grilled Peaches, which I also thought was a fine harmony of flavors. Served with a succotash made with peas, corn and shallots and topped with a homemade mushroom sauce, it was an excellent pairing of savory and sweet with the succotash providing a nice crunch. Hubby didn't quite care for the grilled peaches (I think he thought they were too girly), but to me, a bite of veal wasn't complete without a bite of the grilled peach that was so a-mushingly good!
Needless to say, we were sad that we visited this new found gem on our last weekend in Tallahassee. If we had eaten there sooner, we probably would have spent many a Friday or Saturday date night enjoying the various delectable delights that A La Provence has to offer. And don't be fooled into thinking that because the service and food were so outstanding that the prices were astronomical. The amuse bouche and the bread were free. My trout was $22 and hubby's veal was $28. Again, not too shabby. Simply put, it was an utterly special way to end our time in Tallahassee.
Tally Foodie Rating:
Atmosphere - B
Taste - A+
Presentation - A+
Service - A++
Price - $$
A La Provence
1415 Timberlane Road
Tallahassee FL 32312
Posted by Tally Foodie Thursday, August 5, 2010