La Truffe Sauvage is located at 815 W. Bayou Pines Drive just off Lake Street. (Donna Price / American Press)
The flourless chocolate cake is served with white chocolate shavings, an artistic presentation of sauces, berries and a sprig of mint. (Cliff Seiber / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, September 08, 2012 3:12 AM
La Truffe Sauvage has a long history as a fine-dining experience in Lake Charles. The building in the Bayou Pines West development was originally Chez Oca. After an interim period as The Vineyard, it was opened in 1998 in its present incarnation. It is easy to find, just off Lake Street.
The philosophy of the “wild truffle” can be summed up in two words — fresh and local.
Co-owner Arthur Durham explained that he and partner chef Mohamed Chettouh make every effort to buy locally first, then regionally, and go beyond only for ingredients that are absolutely not available close by. The fresh herbs that flavor dishes and are used as garnishes are the closest-to-home ingredients, coming from the kitchen-door garden on the property.
The menu changes with the seasons to reinforce the idea of freshness. The ingredients that are in season come to the head of the line.
My first lunch had a good start, from the front door. I was greeted by a friendly smile and shown to a table beside a glass wall with a landscaped view just outside. Each table had a large yellow rose in a vase on a white linen tablecloth with black under cloth. Even the tea I sipped while waiting for my friend to arrive let me know I was about to have an unusual experience — it was uncommonly flavorful and smooth. The waiter said the tea was infused with mint. It didn’t taste strongly of mint but was perfectly brewed with a hint of fruity flavor.
My friend’s appetizer of roasted eggplant stuffed with feta cheese and oregano was served with a mild sauce for a nice Mediterranean beginning. For starters I chose a crab cake, lightly browned on each side and full of lump crab meat. Each course was garnished with a fresh herb sprig, the first a mild oregano.
I chose a spinach salad with breadcrumb-crusted chèvre chaud (warm goat cheese), pine nuts, bits of dried fig and crostini (tall, diagonal slices of baguette, toasted with oil and garlic). The greens were kissed with a roasted shallot vinaigrette. She had a Mediterranean salad with traditional tomato, English cucumber, feta cheese, red onion and Kalamata olives, plus not-so-traditional avocados. The oregano vinaigrette was subtle but flavorful.
We both chose crusted bounties of the sea — she a salmon filet with enough to take home for another enjoyable meal, I the soft-shelled crab with a crisp crust of chopped almonds. Mine was served with spinach-goat cheese polenta and blanched and lightly sautéed green beans.
My friend recommended the lemon gelato for dessert and reinforced the recommendation by ordering it herself. Good choice. We each had two scoops of mild-flavored, creamy-smooth ice cream under a mound of browned sweet meringue.
On the second visit, we chose different specials of the day. Hers was braised boneless beef short ribs, served with risotto and crisp-soft cooked vegetables. The ribs were topped with shaved parmesan cheese. My choice was a beef scaloppini topped with broiled Gulf shrimp and stacked on a base that contained a slice of potato and a portobello mushroom, on top of a serving of sautéed fresh spinach. It was finished with a wine reduction sauce.
The ribs were tender and tasty, and the distinctive beef short rib flavor carried over to the risotto. The beef scaloppini was delicious, and the combination of beef and wine in the sauce had a hearty flavor.
Our preludes were lobster bisque for her, topped with a crusty pom-pom of puff pastry, and for me, lobster-Jerusalem artichoke ravioli with vermouth-leek crème. Both were picture-perfect servings.
To top off the lunch, she chose a dish of three flavors of sorbet topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. My dessert was the flourless chocolate cake, sprinkled with shavings of white chocolate and edged with a pretty painting of fruit and cream sauces. The dish was also dotted with fresh berries.
The service was attentive but not intrusive, and co-owners Durham and Chettouh came out to greet all the diners, many of them recognized as regulars.
Luncheon main courses, served with vegetable accompaniments, range from $14.50 for a roasted vegetable sandwich on homemade focaccia bread to $19.50 for beef tenderloin paillard. Appetizers, soups, salads and desserts are a la carte. Dinner entrees range from $22.50 for roasted spaghetti squash or roasted half chicken to $38 for rack of lamb or Dover sole almandine.
Lunch is served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and dinner 6-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. To make a reservation, call 439-8364.