Friday, April 8, 2011

Philippe & Lounge (Galleria)

I met Philippe a whiles ago whenst he was designing the concept of this restaurant, so I've been very interested in visiting and finally stopped by today after his nudgings.  So, I tell him I'm going to come by with some girl friends and he sure did make us girls feel special!  The staff made it very clear they were waiting for us, that's so nice.

Wow, isn't it nice?! There's a lounge section you walk through before you get to the actual dining area.  I just love the look in the lounge.  Rich colors, masculine touches, with contemporary and rustic finishes.  It's lunch hour, well late lunch, so this area is empty at the moment.

Love love the bar area, so visually appealing.  The base of this bar is made of wooden wine boxes and the bar stools are a combination of velvet and reptile print, totally sexy.

Everything is so shiny and sparkly, very very nice.  Upstairs is nice and posh, love the decor and furnishings, great style.  I love how much sunlight comes into the restaurant.  The upstairs atmosphere feels more elegant than the lounge, obviously.  It's a bit more refined, more feminine touches, white hydrangea arrangements in glass vases, nice antique finished cabinets.  No photos of the dining area, didn't want to walk in taking photos and look like a tourist.  Must be discreet in my photo blogging skills.  We got there at 230pm and it was fairly busy for 2ish in the afternoon.  There were maybe 10 sets of lunchers...of the high end type, for sure. 

The truth is, I hadn't heard very good things.  My girlfriends went a few weeks ago and confirmed the rumors.  This time with me, we decided to let them suggest dishes for us.  This is a house salad that Syndi ordered, pretty standard, really subtle flavors.  I loved the inclusion of basil, unexpected and yum. 

The bread comes out and I just think it's in such a cute container.  It's a cloth bread basket!  Takes me back to the good ol' ancient days or something.  Picturing Jesus say, my sister, pass the bread please.  Ok, anyways, it was a cute, unconventional bread basket.  So, does anyone actually eat bread at these things, I think before I reach in.  Yeah, actually, I do...always.  I'm not kidding you, it must've literally been pulled right out of the oven and straight to our table, super warm.  I cut into one, steam flying out of it!  Put on some butter, which was really soft, oh my wow...that was some damn good bread.  Next Nikki eats one, then Syndi and we all concur, the bread is really good.  I know, it sounds like we all done drank the koolaid.  It's bread, how can it be so wonderful?  It's just regular bread, no special herbs or anything, but the combination of the perfect outside texture, warm inside, it was just unexpectedly really good.

At Philippe's suggested recommendations, Syndi got the grilled salmon steak with broccoli pesto, spaghetti squash, virgin vinaigrette, $19.  I'm really picky with cooked salmon since most of the time cooked salmon is fishy.  Nik says if it's fresh it shouldn't.  I'm not sure I believe her, since every time I've had it, it's fishy.  But, we all try Syndi's salmon at her ok, and it really was good.  First of all, it didn't taste fishy and the combination of the salmon, pesto and citrus flavors were perfect, popping in my mouth.  It tasted really clean but it didn't taste totally light to me and I wondered if salmon is fattening.  I still don't know yet, I'll have to research it later.  I know it's good for you, just not sure of the nutritional facts, I may have eaten more if I knew it was ok.

I don't typically order seafood, but since Philippe recommended the lobster ravioli
with shiitakes, sugar snap peas, roasted red peppers, ginger-coconut sauce, $18. I ordered it since I'm usually ok with Lobster.  I'll be honest, I didn't like my dish as much because I just don't really care for heavy flavors and I never order ravioli.  But even still, I thought the flavors were nice, but I couldn't eat too much of it.  The girls really liked it, thought it was second best between the three.

Philippe suggest the Duck Confit if we were feeling "indulgent", he said.  Of course Nikki decides it's exactly what she wants.  Duck Confit with potatoes, mushrooms + bacon sautéed in truffle oil, $18. I had no intention of trying it.  My experience with duck has always been too strong or gamey.  When the dish came out, I thought what the heck, I'll try it.  Wow, what a surprise, this was my favorite!  My goodness, it was so divine, I don't even know how to describe it.  The duck was crispy, sweet, salty...pure yumminess!  Served with those thin crispy potatoes, oh my gosh, so good.  The texture, the crispiness, mm mm...I'll stop there, I hate it when people overhype things.  If you go eat there, you must have the Duck Confit.  We were all in agreement, best dish.

That sweet "French Cowboy" sent out desserts on the house.  Caramel Chocolate Mousse (with caramel ice cream + salty cashews $8).  I thought the caramel chocolate mousse just melted in my mouth, delicious. 

I don't see this dessert on the menu so it must've been something he just whipped up.  It was a trio consisting of a strawberry mint gelato, strawberry gazpacho and a strawberry waffle with vanilla bean ice cream.  I thought the strawberry and mint gelato was interesting,  Very light, freshing, tangy and perfect.  The gazpacho was different and had a lot of substance.  The strawberry waffle thing was good, but it probably could have used a little bit more sweetness, but still it was nice the way it was.

I thought even the expresso was good!  Strong, just the way I like it.  They originally brought out nonfat milk, eck!  Who uses nonfat milk for expresso?  That just about helps nothing at all.  Syndi was giggling, said it looked like breastmilk.  We're like fish out of water, see how refined we are?! 

I thought the cups were neat and had a European flair, small and with much character.  This is the back of the cup.

Philippe chatting it up with us.  He was a great sport, he let our young inspiring little chef, Nikki, take a tour of the kitchen.  I thought it was a great restaurant, from the atmosphere, food, chef, and staff.  They have these paper place mats with charming quotes by Philippe, very fun and great place to have a nice lunch or dinner.  All our meals were under $20, so it's not somewhere you'd go on a daily basis, but if you'd like to have a nice meal, it's not an arm and a leg.  I'd also recommend you let the server or Philippe suggest their best dishes.  Philippe keeps saying it's "casual".  It's really not.  Maybe it's because he's of a different caliber.  Casual to the average person is Tiny Boxwood's, Barnaby's, Cafe Express, etc.  Philippe & Lounge is fine dining for sure.  Maybe slightly less because it has a lounge in the name and because he says so (shaking head) nn..nn...not by any sense of the definition.  I came in jeans and we all were wearing sandals, so we were probably the most casually dressed and while we were okay, it's not casual by any stretch of the imagination.  Anyways, loved the restaurant, food, atmosphere, chef, staff...the whole thing, great first experience.  Go try the Duck Confit!

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