[Lee, MA] Chez Nous


(John Hartley) #1

Chez Nous probably likes to think of itself as a French restaurant but a quick glance at the menu tells you it isn’t. Although the occasional dish nods in the direction of France, most of the menu is comprised of dishes you’d find in any number of restaurants in America, right down to the burger. That is not to suggest that the restaurant is any the less for that. It isn’t. In fact, it’s perfectly fine. And it is popular. It’s just that it isn’t French.

They quickly bring you bread and olives. Good bread and olives – the former nicely chewy ciabatta (see what I mean about not French), the latter nicely bitter.

One of the nods to France was a pate plate – a pate de campagne, rillettes and a parfait. The pate was underwhelming in flavour. It’s something I make at home and reckon my version is closer than the restaurant’s to the ones I’ve eaten in small French towns. This lacked garlic and the strength of flavour you get from pig’s liver. It came with toast – again a really tasty bread – onion chutney and a dish of Dijon mustad. It was all decent enough…….

……Which is more than can be said for the other starter, advertised as a crab salad. Yes, there was crab, served in a glass jar. And it was mixed with chunks of cucumber. Both of them overly chilled, so the flavour of the crab was pretty much killed off. And there were chunks of orange (?) ice mixed through it, which quickly melted turning everything into almost a liquid mush. This was, to be polite, actively unpleasant.

One of the good things about the menu is that main courses can be ordered in half or full size. So that was a half size filet mignon. It came with duck fat potatoes, carrots, turnips, green beans and a red wine jus. It should have been lovely but there had been a very heavy hand with the pepper which became the dominant flavour of the whole dish. Such a shame.

Navarin of lamb was another of those nods in the direction of France. But this was not a classic navarin but a mix between that and a Moroccan lamb tagine. So, along with the long cooked meat and the vegetables (the same as had been with the steak) of the classic, there were chickpeas, couscous and, served separately, some mint yoghurt which, truth be told, served no real purpose. But, if I thought of it as just a lamb stew, then it was all fine.

None of the desserts appealed so we just had coffee. We’d had a pleasant enough meal but, if it was at home, I doubt it would make our list of places we return to regularly.