Fantastic French Cooking and Otherworldly Imported Cheeses - Bistro LQ Pop-Up [Thoughts + Pics]

The more you taste Chef Laurent Quenioux’s cooking, the more confused you might be at why this isn’t featured at a grand, fine dining brick & mortar restaurant. As the Chef-Owner of Bistro LQ (the former standalone restaurant, but now an ongoing series of Pop-Up Events around Southern California), Chef Laurent Quenioux is amiable, welcoming, passionate about food and shows a real care in every dish he creates. One bite of his Cassoulet will make you understand why it’s become an annual event (with many fans showing up to one of his seasonal Cassoulet Pop-Ups as soon as they are posted).

In its current form, Bistro LQ is now a series of Pop-Up events known as “LQ Foodings”, where Chef Laurent will post about the next few Pop-Ups on his website when they are solidified, along with the menu and a reservation link. Chef Laurent grew up in Sologne, France, and spent his early culinary years cooking in the South of France. He arrived in the U.S. (and Los Angeles) around the same time as when Chef Wolfgang Puck landed and worked with his restaurant group (in the 1980’s).

It had been awhile since we last visited Bistro LQ, and his newest pop-up was being held at his personal home. (Note: For this visit, we arranged a buyout with family and friends, all fully vaccinated and boosted, and Chef Laurent only uses 1 Sous Chef and 1 Server, and all of them are also fully vaccinated and boosted. Normally his Pop-Up events during the pandemic feature socially distanced smaller tables being used.)

(Complimentary) Vin Chaud (French Mulled Wine):

On this chilly Winter evening, Chef Laurent welcomed the guests with a complimentary glass of Vin Chaud, a traditional French Mulled Wine. Warming, delicate, cinnamon, cloves, a hint of citrus even, this was a beautiful warm drink that evoked Christmas from the first sip.

(Bread Service) Le Beurre Bordier Butter (Brittany, France) + Baguette:

Top quality, excellent French Butter, perfect on some Baguette and a nice bite before the meal.

(Amuse-Bouche) Smoked Trout | Pickled Red Onions | Creme Fraiche | Quail Egg:

A great starter: Gently smoky Trout, a little spike from the Red Onions and you get the creaminess from the Creme Fraiche and Quail Egg Yolk. The accompanying sauce was exquisite.

Spiny Lobster | Pacific Lobster | Watercress | Sichuan Spicy Relish:

This dish showed off so much of what makes Chef Laurent Quenioux so special: The plating and general approach is traditional, classic French cuisine. Just the perfectly cooked Spiny Lobster meat (meaty, plump, but delicate as it’s just cooked through) along with the Watercress Puree (stunning in its verdant purity) would already be very good, but then Laurent binds this altogether with a Housemade Sichuan Spicy Relish(?!). It sounds like it would be overpowering or “wrong” in some way, but it works. It’s got a real spicy kick to it, and lightly numbing, and the blend of flavors elevates and engages your senses to question what type of cuisine you’re actually eating. Outstanding! :heart:

We opted for the Wine Pairing on this evening, and in hindsight it was one of the highlights of the meal! Every pairing was flawless (and I’m not saying that lightly).

2020 Hiedler Gruner Veltliner (Germany):

Bright citrus and apples, lightly sweet, refreshing and I was shocked that it stood up to the Sichuan Chili Sauce and ended up being a great pairing with the Spiny Lobster.

Butter Nut Squash | Butter Nut Squash Flan | Clam Chowder | Diver Scallop:

The Diver Scallop had a great sear and was cooked to perfection, still silky and pliant in every bite, but the star of the dish was the Butter Nut Squash “Flan”: Airy, pillowy, evoking Butter Nut Squash, but like you were biting into the best Kasutera Tamagoyaki at the end of a stunning Omakase meal from a Michelin 3 Star Chef in Tokyo. The Clam Chowder base was excellent and I wish we could’ve ordered an entire bowl of it. :heart:

2019 Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups Chenin (Montlouis-Sur-Loire, France):

Refreshing, light salinity, orchard fruits notes. The Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups accentuated and paired perfectly again.

John Dory | Celery Root Risotto Style | Chanterelles | Tarragon:

The John Dory Fish was perhaps a touch overcooked on the edges, but realistically 90% of the filet was excellent, moist, tender and on point. The Celery Root Risotto was a great match, and the Chanterelle Mushrooms were bursting with deep, crave-worthy flavors.

2019 Francois Carillon Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy, France):

By itself, this 2019 Francois Carillon Bourgogne Blanc was an easy sipper and pleasant enough, some Peach and Apple notes, some nice tartness as well. But as a food pairing, it transformed and elevated the wine and the food. A perfect match where the wine and John Dory and Chanterelle Mushrooms were in total harmony.

Pintade | Guinea Hen Pintade | Red Wine Style “Coq Au Vin” | Lardon | Pearl Onions | Sweet Potato:

The cute, petite shape of this next course of a Guinea Hen Pintade belies the incredible amount of effort and devotion that Chef Quenioux has put into this dish (and all dishes). Here, Chef Laurent has slowly cooked down Guinea Hens and deboned them, creating a “disc” of the deboned Stewed Guinea Hen meat in a Coq Au Vin-style reduction (that he’s spent an entire day distilling down(!)). It tastes like an incredible, traditional Coq Au Vin (one of the best versions I’ve tried), but here it’s with Guinea Hen, along with an excellent Sweet Potato base that pairs beautifully with the Guinea Hen and the Coq Au Vin center. Incredible flavors! :heart:

2018 Domaine du Grand Montmirail (Gigondas, France):

Delicious with red berries, jammy, earthy minerality. But again, with the Guinea Hen Pintade & Coq Au Vin Sauce? Stunning!

Canadian Wild Venison | Venison Tenderloin | Date Puree | Huckleberry Compote | Jus | Braised Endive:


Venison is one of those meats that has always underwhelmed me. None of the versions I’ve had in the past have been bad at all, but it has always come across as rather bland, or sometimes too gamey. Chef Laurent’s Canadian Wild Venison Tenderloin reflects outstanding sourcing, but his execution of the dish is what elevates this to highlight of the evening:

Beautiful medium-rare, the taste of the Venison Tenderloin itself had a gentle gaminess that was unique from other versions of Venison I’ve had in the past, nothing like Lamb either. And then the usage of a Huckleberry Compote was eye-opening: It just worked so perfectly, luscious fruit berry notes, sweet-piquant, the Date Puree helped carry both elements even more, and the Venison Jus was distilled down savory goodness! Wow. :heart:

2019 Beckmen Purisma Mountain Syrah (California, U.S.A.):

On its own, some berries, black pepper, fruity notes, some almost caramel notes perhaps, tannic. It was my least favorite Wine of the evening, however, with the Canadian Wild Venison Tenderloin and Huckleberry Compote? Flawless pairing! It transformed my least favorite Wine of the evening into something else entirely, and made each bite of the Venison and each sip of the 2019 Beckmen Syrah taste like they were always made for each other.

(Legendary) Imported Cheese Cart:

For those that have never experienced Bistro LQ before, Chef Laurent Quenioux has a rare selection of Imported, Unpasteurized Cheeses (most from France)! Growing up in the U.S., we’re used to the taste and selection of Pasteurized Cheeses that are for sale here, but the Unpasteurized Cheeses that Chef Laurent offers is unrivaled.

They truly taste nothing like the Pasteurized Cheese equivalents we have here. They are richer, creamier, more richly flavorful, hitting further along the flavor spectrum in every direction (depending on the specific Cheese).

(Complimentary) Walnut Country Bread, Housemade Fruit Jam and Roasted Walnuts:

7 Cheese Selection - Imported Cheeses from France:

Echourgnach (encased in a Walnut rind), Brillat-Savarin (Soft, Triple Cream Cow’s Milk), Le Coulommiers, Montbriac, Comte, Saint-Nectaire and one other selection that I forgot to write down.

It is not an understatement to say that every one of the 7 Imported Cheeses were stunning. I’ve had Comte Cheese before, but this particular Unpasteurized version that Chef Laurent got in tasted richer, deeper, more complex.

I enjoyed all 7 of these selections, but my favorite was the Unpasteurized Le Coulommiers. Soft, creamy, luxurious, there’s a crazy complexity that truly fits the word “umami” to a tee. It was stunning! :heart:

The Black Truffle Honey (which Chef Laurent infuses with real Perigord Black Truffles (not a cheap synthetic “Truffle Oil” like many places)) is incredible and worth adding on to your Cheese plate.

Persimmon Pain de Gene | Ube Mousse | Cocoa Nib Vanilla | Shortbread Crumbs | Green Apple Sorbet | Cassis:

Quite tasty. The Ube Mousse was brilliant and the pairing with Green Apple Sorbet along with the Persimmon Pain de Gene was spot on. Nothing was excessively sweet, and it was a nice way to end the evening.

We’re glad to see Bistro LQ and Chef Laurent Quenioux survive the pandemic wasteland of 2020 and 2021. In some ways, his switch to Pop-Up Dinners (and selling his brick and mortar restaurant years ago) has given him the freedom to be more flexible (and during the most extreme lockdown periods, he was able to prepare nice Set Meals To-Go (easily reheated at home), along with heartier staples in larger portions).

This latest meal we had at Bistro LQ (in the comfort of Chef Laurent’s home) provided the feeling of dining with your dearest family & friends in their home - comforting, relaxing, festive - yet every course was exquisitely prepared and worthy of a Michelin starred restaurant.

The Wine Pairing was one of the best wine pairings I’ve had in years, surpassing many of the ones at fancier brick & mortar high end places around town, and add on the legendary, Imported (Unpasteurized) Cheese Cart, and you have a dining experience quite unlike any other locally. This was also the best meal I’ve had with Chef Laurent from start to finish (not a single dish was below “great”), which is even more impressive considering how challenging and stressful it’s been for him and all restaurants during the pandemic. I can’t wait to return and see what Chef Laurent has in store next.

Bistro LQ
(Check his website for future Pop-Up Event Dates and Reservations):

Update 1: Fantastic Cassoulet Dinner!


As always, a wonderful review. Thank you.

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Thanks @Bob_Brooks ! :slight_smile: Hope you get to try Bistro LQ (or their Takeout). Definitely a wonderful meal.

I’m a big fan of Brillat-Savarin. I like that it’s fairly available at nice markets and cheese stores. It goes so well with truffle but of course it doesn’t always need that level of dressing up. I got a super simple 20-second casual party snack with Brillat-Savarin: a cracker (I like rosemary), Brillat-Savarin, dill or chives, a bit of smoked salmon, and good olive oil. Of course all one really needs is a good bottle of champagne and some bread to go with the cheese. I love it in particular with a good blanc de blancs, of which there are so many good options at many price points.

Other cheeses I’ve enjoyed this year are Saint-Nectaire and Rodolphe Le Meunier “Adarre.” I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Le Coulommiers!

I like that style of cooking for hearty dishes!

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Wait, how do they import unpasteurized soft cheese? i thought it needs to be pasteurized? Or is it not soft that it can sneak by unpasteurized?

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Unpasteurized cheese can be brought in but it has to be aged to a point that it often loses its fresh taste.

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Oh right. I think the threshold is 60 days. Hence the confusion.

Hi @sck ,

Besides the great point from @Bob_Brooks, additionally the chef has sources that bring some in from France via carry-on. These days, I think it’s just via the aged method, but I need to double-check with the chef.

Looks delicious. Does he ever offer cheeses as part of a pop up?

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Hi @paranoidgarliclover ,

Happy New Year! :slight_smile: Yah, the Cheese Cart (or a Cheese Selection) is almost always part of his Pop-Up Events. Enjoy!

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Update 1:

One of the special events that Chef Laurent Quenioux hosts annually is his Cassoulet Dinner. This year, with Chef Laurent serving as the Executive Chef at The Wolves in Downtown, he was able to host the annual Cassoulet Dinner at that location instead.

Walking into The Wolves, it’s easy to see why it garnered plenty of attention for its interior design. It looks like a stunning steampunk bar; simply gorgeous.

Aperitif - Byrrh Grand Quinquina and Orange Zest:

Refreshing, lightly fruity-sweet.

Bread & Butter Bordier (Normandy, France):

Excellent French Butter, it’s creamy, has a real depth-of-flavor that most standard Butters don’t have.

I decided to try their Cocktail Pairing (they also had a Wine Pairing option) for this meal. All Cocktails were prepared by The Wolves’ “Cocktail Chef” Nathan McCullough.

"Prey For Us" Cocktail - Gin, Haricot Vert, Coconut Milk, Epazote, Fresh Lime:

When does a Cocktail no longer qualify as being a “Cocktail”? Perhaps when there are more vegetables and fruits than a Smoothie? :slight_smile: This 1st Cocktail Pairing threw up some alerts. It is wild and truly interesting to have a Cocktail with Haricot Vert (and I love Haricot Vert… just as a cooked Vegetable dish and not in my Cocktail). This was very “green”, vegetal, tasting of blended Haricot Vert, the Epazote added a fragrant herbal element, the Coconut Milk added the creaminess.

By itself, it was distinct and unusual. With the 1st course (below)? An excellent pairing that complemented the flavors.

Poached Leeks in Chicken Stock | Smoked Herring | Vinaigrette Gribiche:

The Smoked Herring was incredible: A real delicate, gentle smoke infusion, the Herring meat was moist and tender. The Poached Leeks in Chicken Stock perfectly accented each bite of the Smoked Herring. :heart:

"Let Them Talk" Cocktail - Brandy, Shiitake Mushrooms, Lavender, Cream Sherry, Honey, Fresh Lemon:

And things went off the deep end with this next Cocktail, “Let Them Talk.” A fitting name, this was odd, unique, off-putting and just not what you are mentally prepared for when enjoying a Cocktail. The actual fresh Lavender sprig exuded a strong scent (which on its own is pleasant), but then combined with the chunk of Raw Shiitake Mushrooms, and the pureed Shiitake Mushrooms in the drink? :open_mouth: :sweat:

There must’ve been additional herbs and bitters in here, because the overall sip was… medicinal, savory(!), earthy, tasting of the woods, pungent herbal and more. I’ve never tasted anything like this in a drink, and it was… not pleasant, but not horrible either. We were joined by one of my best friends (from Taiwan) and she said that it reminded her of a Chinese medicine shop.

Did it pair with the 2nd Course? Sort of, but the Cocktail was way too pungent, funky, herbal that it dominated the food even.

Poached Hen Egg Meurette in Red Wine | Lardons | Garlic Toast:

Thankfully Chef Laurent’s cooking saved the day again, and removed any oddity from the Cocktail from the bar manager. The Poached Hen Egg Meurette in Red Wine was outstanding! :heart:

A beautifully poached Hen’s Egg, the Meurette Red Wine Sauce was stunning in its concentration (all made from scratch as usual). I secretly wanted another piece of Bread to sop up all of the incredible Sauce. :blush:

1920’s Cocktail - Fig Rye Whiskey, Dry Vermouth, House Sweet Vermouth Blend, Orange Bitters & Zest:

This 3rd Cocktail Pairing thankfully returned to the realm of drinkable, a sort of cross between a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. This was fine, a touch boozy, and it didn’t really pair that well with the main course (Cassoulet). The Wine Pairing for this course worked better.

Cassoulet | Tarbais Beans, Duck Leg Confit | Homemade Saucisse de Toulouse | Homemade Saucisson a L’ail | Confit Pork Belly | Lamb Shoulder Baked for Seven Hours:

To understand how great this homely dish is from the South of France, especially in the talented hands of Chef Laurent, one only need to take a single bite and sit back and enjoy. Chef Laurent’s Cassoulet is packed with individual ingredients that could all be the star of their own dish. Let’s start with 2 types of Homemade Sausage, Saucisse de Toulouse and a Saucisson a L’ail. Chef Laurent takes the time to make 2 types of French Sausage from scratch, just because it tastes better. :slight_smile: And both Homemade Sausages are fantastic! Deeply porcine, salty, meaty, a nice snap. It adds the salt component to the overall Cassoulet.

The Duck Leg Confit is delicious! Slow cooked, succulent Duck meat that was cooked in its own Duck Fat. It was SO GOOD! :heart:

The Confit Pork Belly and Lamb Shoulder Baked for 7 Hours were more standouts. But the Tarbais Beans, plump, earthy, meaty, was maybe my favorite part of the whole Cassoulet. Taken as a whole, the Cassoulet was a massive portion, extremely comforting, hearty, and just outstanding. :heart:

Unpasteurized Cheese Plate (Imported from France):

The one downside to having a Bistro LQ Pop-Up meal outside of Chef Laurent’s home is that the famed Unpasteurized Cheese Cart rarely makes an appearance. On this evening, Chef Laurent was offering a selection of the Unpasteurized Cheeses from France - 3 Types - but that was it. It’s understandable in cutting down on food waste (since he may not sell all his rare Cheeses during this remote location Pop-Up), but it’s a highlight that shouldn’t be missed if you get to try a full Cheese Cart at one of his other Pop-Ups.

Still these 3 Unpasteurized Cheeses were excellent! Truly exuding massive flavor that you just don’t get with most Cheese you find here in America.

Charleston Brew - Cocoa Nib Bourbon, Espresso Blend, Roasted Croissant, St. George Coffee Liqueur, House Whip, Burnt Tortillas:

Reading the description definitely raised some eyebrows: A Cocktail with Roasted Croissants and Burnt Tortillas mixed in? We actually couldn’t taste Burnt Tortillas, but that was probably the charred topping, adding a naturally smoky-charred angle perhaps. The Roasted Croissant? It was probably blended in to thicken the Cocktail, so there wasn’t anything overtly tasting like actual Croissant pastry while sipping. Overall, it was a Dessert Cocktail and it was fine.

Cassis Floating Island | Almonds:

A classic Dessert, I’ve enjoyed various interpretations of the Floating Island (or, île flottante) over the years. The delicate Meringue was extremely light, like a cloud, and the Cassis / Blackcurrant Sauce was tart-sweet and worked. Although I do prefer a great Creme Anglaise instead.

This was yet another outstanding Bistro LQ Pop-Up, celebrating Chef Laurent’s legendary Cassoulet. Even if Chef Laurent only served his Cassoulet, I would a happy camper, because that dish alone is worth it, every year. But thankfully, on top of the stunning Cassoulet, Chef Laurent has additional courses that were simply incredible. The Smoked Herring with Poached Leeks in Chicken Stock is on point, and that Poached Hen Egg Meurette in Red Wine with Lardons is the best I’ve had in the city.

Bistro LQ
(Check his website for future Pop-Up Event Dates and Reservations):


Holy :mushroom:!

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