Le Coq Rouge 

On the plate of reviewer No. 1

For years, Bacquet's made a trip to the mall tolerable. Having staked out a location on the bottom floor of Boise Towne Square, but one colossal example of America's quintessential shopping experience, Bacquet's defiantly claimed "patio" space, offered a wine-laden respite from the incessant surrounding consumerism and swaddled weary shoppers in a spirit-lifting blanket of European hospitality.

Le Coq Rouge is act two for chef Franck Bacquet and wife Linda, and it's the phoenix rising from the ashes of the now defunct Bacquet's. However, if there were an even more unlikely location than a mall for a French restaurant, it's the location of Le Coq Rouge. To say the brasserie is "hidden" among townhouses and office plazas is an understatement, but it's one that continues Bacquet's mall tradition of pushing back against the mainstream America grain.

When you decide to dine at Le Coq Rouge, call ahead first. I arrived one Saturday afternoon during stated business hours to find the restaurateurs had decided not to serve lunch that day in order to prep an upcoming dinner party. Second, when you do call ahead, make reservations to ensure that when you show up during serving hours, you'll have a seat. The strip mall space is quaint, not spacious, and is without a large area to accommodate waiting parties. Though the exterior is incongruous with the cuisine, the interior is more appropriate, dressed head to toe in kitsch--French and not, antique and not. For example, the women's bathroom has a three-hook, three-rooster wall hanging (in red, of course) and a 5-foot-tall replica of La Tour Eiffel stuffed with Christmas lights, making it reminiscent of the real deal circa 2000, when thousands of lights lit the tower in celebration of the millennium.

On assignments involving French cuisine, I typically invite along my father, falling back on his childhood in France and my Memere's culinary arsenal as a litmus. Not this time. The chatter of French in the kitchen area and curiosities like a column plastered in posters of French films--summoning Parisian Morris columns without the green paint--were enough of a foreshadow of the meal to come without relying on my elders.

At Le Coq Rouge, selecting wine is an affair accomplished off the shelf rather than from a menu, and it's typical for a guest to wander the wine aisle in search of a bottle. A Rigal Malbec ($26.99) started off our night at a slow trot, followed leisurely by a basket of fluffy cubes of focaccia (which later was replaced by a much more fitting crusty baguette). The smell of garlic punctuated the air as we perused the menu, which was handwritten on a chalkboard across the room.

After lingering over wine, a starter of escargot ($15) soon achieved garlic saturation in the air at our table. Tender, well-seasoned and generously buttered, Bacquet's escargots reinforced my opinion that fresh or canned, escargot need only a decent butter to be a rare treat.

Having been talked out of carre d'agneau in favor of the braised lamb shank ($29) by our server, I found it a suitable trade, served in a shallow pool of sauce with a citrus kick and sided with fried new potatoes and roasted baby peppers. A dish of emince de canard ($25) was served aux pommes over fettuccine, roasted baby peppers and asparagus. The dish rated second to the lamb shank, if only because the duck was slightly more well done than we'd have preferred. Dessert was a deep glass of strawberry mousse ($6.50) and a dense German cheesecake ($6.50), both topped with freshly whipped cream.

Before you rush out to Le Coq Rouge for any of the dishes mentioned here, heed my third warning: The menu changes weekly based on--as described by a server with a thick French accent--the chef's whim and what he feels like cooking.

--Rachael Daigle knows that without proper planning, escargots today, escargone tomorrow.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Le Coq Rouge here.

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