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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
(Check his website for future Pop-Up Event Dates and Reservations):
Update 1: Fantastic Cassoulet Dinner!