I HEART BACON
Monday, August 29th, 2005

Campagne Restaurant

consumed on 7/12/05

I finally made my first trip to Campagne. It was my birthday and I was torn between eating at one of my favorite restaurants or trying someplace new. In an effort to not write about the same five restaurants, over and over again, I’ve been trying to branch out and be adventurous—so Campagne won out.

It was a beautiful day, by Seattle standards, so we opted to sit outside in the courtyard patio. We started off with a round of cocktails and a small plate of gougeres. I was surprised that the gougeres were served cold, and was equally surprised that they tasted really good cold. They were airy and perfectly puffed and had an intense gruyere flavor.

Per usual, we ordered a ridiculous amount of food but I wanted to try a variety of things to get a feel for the menu. Our first appetizer was Oeuf et Saumon Fumet ($14), which was described as a “soft cooked Araucana egg in aspic with smoked salmon, wild salmon caviar, creme fraiche and brioche”. When it came to the table I just about died. It was flat out gorgeous; a perfectly cooked egg encased in a quivering, vibrant yellow aspic. What a devastating disappointment to find that the aspic was entirely for show and void of flavor. The creme fraiche was frothed until light and airy, which was pretty, but tasteless. The only flavor on the plate came from the small portion of luscious smoked salmon, the salty caviar eggs and caper berries. It was like going on a date with a really, really hot guy, then discovering he’s more boring than watching paint dry.

Our next course was Tartare de Boeuf ($10 for the small portion). This was a “raw hand-diced rib-eye with sweet onions, capers, Dijon mustard, raw egg yolk and herbs served with arugula, parmesan and pommes frites a la canard”. First off, I love beef almost as much as I love pork. And the mention of potatoes and duck fat in the same sentence makes me swoon. Needless to say, I was positive that I would love this dish. When the plate came it was, again, a beautiful presentation. The golden fries were perfect, identical rectangles stacked in log cabin formation, but when I bit into them they were soggy, starchy and tasteless. The side of arugula was overdressed and oily. The tender beef was formed into beautiful quenelles, but tasted bland despite the addition of capers and onions. At this point I was starting to question whether or not it was me. Did my taste buds pack up and leave on vacation without telling me?

The last appetizer, Assiette de Charcuterie ($13) was the saving grace. It was an assortment of pates and meats “served with cornichons, Dijon and stone-ground mustards, and house-made pickled vegetables”. The country-style pork and chicken liver pate was rich with a strong and pure liver taste. The veal tongue was incredibly tender and packed with beef flavor; this was what I wanted the beef tartare to taste like. My favorite was the duck and rabbit rillettes. It had great texture and consistency with a solid duck taste that wasn’t over-the-top liver-y and it was almost sweet… maybe a touch of Cognac? The small scatter of fleur de sel on the plate was all the accompaniment it needed.

For dinner, S ordered the Ris de Veau ($27), “roasted veal sweetbreads on house-made spinach noodles with crispy pancetta”. I personally have a hard time with sweetbreads. It’s not the taste, but rather the chalky texture combined with the oily aftertaste that coats your teeth and tongue. That being said, if I was a fan of sweetbreads, I would have loved this dish. The generous lobe of sweetbreads was nicely browned and accompanied by tender, heavenly spinach noodles in a light cream sauce with generous hunks of crisp, salty pancetta.

J ordered the Boudin Blanc aux Deux Pommes ($25) which were “black truffle flecked chicken sausage served with roasted apples and potato puree.” The sausages were impossibly delicate; like gently poached chicken mousse. The sausage texture was great but the truffle flavor was barely detectable. The sausages came with a slightly sweet reduction sauce, roasted apples and a smooth, but non descript potato puree.

I ordered the Cailles aux Feuilles de Vigne ($23), “grilled bacon and grape leaf wrapped quail with roasted black mission figs and red wine-port glaze”. When I first saw my plate I burst out laughing. The odd way it was plated made the two quail look like they were having sex; stacked one on top of the other with the bottom quail’s legs askew. At first I didn’t like this dish. It tasted under seasoned and the glaze was greasy and watered down—not at all like the rich, flavorful sauces I’ve come to expect from French cooking. The dish grew on me after several bites, but it never managed to blow me away.

My favorite plate of the night ended up being the Assiette de Fromage ($12). Someone in the kitchen really knows their cheese. It was a well thought-out and enjoyable assortment of cheese—all were paired well, perfectly ripe, and delicious. We had a luscious Pierre Robert triple cream (cow), Mimolettevielle cheddar (cow), Idiazabul (sheep), Tome St. Loup (goat) and Persille de Beaujolais, which was a pungent blue (cow). We also shared a delicious Tarte aux Peches ($8) dessert. It had a nice crust and great peach flavor accompanied by a compote of perfectly ripe strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. And cardamom ice cream to die for.

Overall, it was a very pleasant evening. The waitstaff was professional and attentive. The open-air courtyard felt romantic and summery (and very un-Seattle-like). I really wanted to love Campagne, but too many of the dishes left me wanting. The value was a bit skewed in the wrong direction; so for what we got, it seemed pricey. If I’m going to pay that much for a meal, I want it to wow me. Is that too much to ask?






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20 Responses to “Campagne Restaurant”

  1. shauna says:

    The photographs are beautiful, even if the meal left you a little wanting.

    I actually prefer the little cafe downstairs, for lunch. It’s much more reasonable, and I love ordering the croq monsieur, because it makes me feel like I’m in Paris. And the lamb burger is extraordinary. These days, I’d have to order it without the bun, but it would still be worth it!

  2. katy says:

    We just ate at Cafe this weekend – it had been a long time since we’d been there. Funny to think you were taking pics upstairs :)

  3. Kevin says:

    Megan,

    You spend entirely too much time celebrating your birthdays. No one is supposed to enjoy getting older that much.

    And I just realized it’s been entirely too long since I last ate raw beef. (As a kid, I loved raw hamburger.)

  4. megwoo says:

    Thanks Shauna! It’s true, the food was absolutely gorgeous—the taste just didn’t match.

    I haven’t been to the cafe in such a long time, but I LOVE croque monsieur AND lamb burgers, so I’ll have to pay a visit soon.

  5. megwoo says:

    Katy,
    That is funny! I think I may be going to the cafe soon… do you have a favorite dish?

  6. megwoo says:

    Kevin,
    There is no such thing as over-celebrating a birthday. Okay, maybe there is. I have a friend who has a birthday MONTH. Funny.

    So I take it your raw hamburger days were before E. coli was popular? I think I would be a little nervous making it at home, but I’m sure you could do it safely. I might need to do a little research…

  7. Reid says:

    Hi Megan,

    Happy Belated Birthday! Sure looks like you enjoyed the food you ate! =P

    I would have enjoyed it too!

  8. Kevin says:

    Megan,

    > I have a friend who has a birthday MONTH.

    Must have been a slow delivery. Her poor mother.

    > So I take it your raw hamburger days were before E. coli was popular?

    Yeah. Damned fads. But it should actually be pretty safe at home. It’s only the exposed meat that’s subject to e-coli. So if you bought a roast and trimmed off about 1/4” of the external meat (which would still be fine for cooking) the remaining meat should be quite safe.

  9. megwoo says:

    Kevin,
    Good to know. I think I may try making it at home…

  10. Happy belated too, Meg! And I appreciate the fact that you can have a disapointing course but then still enjoy the next one, if it’s genuinely good. So many food reviewers get pissy and just give up.

  11. stef says:

    my cousin brought me to the cafe for lunch :) on my birthday. i really enjoyed the lamb burger and pomme frites. what a coincidence that we both celebrated our birthdays in almost that same location. happy belated birthday – i bet the roast boar was more satisfying :)

  12. megwoo says:

    Thanks PC! Yeah, I’m a trooper when it comes to food. I want to give everything the benefit of the doubt.

  13. megwoo says:

    Stef,
    That is really funny. I think I’m going to have to try that lamb burger soon.

  14. shuna says:

    Definitively food porn, those photos!

    If I come to Seattle for the few hours between Portland train rides what might you suggest? I always go to the B & H for lemon cream pie and a chocolate pot!

  15. megwoo says:

    Hi Shuna,
    Let’s see… if you need something near the train station and it’s during lunch hours, I would highly recommend Salumi. It’s my favorite lunch place in Seattle.

    P.S. What’s the B&H?

  16. Eddie Lin says:

    Hey Megs,

    Too bad about the Oeuf et Saumon Fumet. It looked scumptious. What a waste of aspic. I especially enjoyed your comparison to going out with a really hot guy and discovering that he’s as exciting as watching paint dry.

    That’s hot.

  17. megwoo says:

    Eddie,
    Agreed. It was a complete and total waste of aspic. Bummer.

    I saw your latest post on balut, but ridiculously enough, haven’t had any time to read it. I have been obsessed with balut ever since Cindy (Food Migration) told be about it last spring, so I can’t wait to read all the gory details!

  18. Ela says:

    “Hot Quail Love” is the funniest thing that I’ve ever seen on any food blog anywhere. That plating couldn’t possibly have been unintentional…right?

  19. megwoo says:

    Ela,
    Yes, it was pretty funny!

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