Le Vallauris has been satisfying fans of French cuisine in Palm Springs for thirty six years. When Paul Bruggemans opened his restaurant in the ‚Äė70s, French food was not on the map in the Coachella Valley.
But Bruggermans‚Äô success with Le St. Germain in Los Angeles kept him determined to expand his horizons to the east. And it did catch on, with Le Vallauris today one of the desert‚Äôs most prominent restaurants.
Located in a restored historic landmark, you‚Äôll feel as if you‚Äôve arrived in someone‚Äôs home from another era with Flemish tapestries and Louis XV furniture.
There‚Äôs one large dining room and a smaller cozy area with just a few tables and a fireplace that leads onto a charming patio with tiny lights nesting in the Ficus trees.
The interior lighting is subdued, contributing to a romantic atmosphere. The menu is presented on an easel brought to your table, with the selections often changing depending on what items are available.
Chef Jean Paul Lair is from Vichy, France, not exactly the hub of French cuisine, but he‚Äôs been creating traditional and not so traditional dishes for many years, and along with his pastry chef, Laurent Dellac, there‚Äôs something for every palate.
From the hot breadsticks brought to your table as you‚Äôre seated to any one of nine luscious desserts, an evening here will prove memorable. Let‚Äôs start with the appetizers: there are the traditional Escargots with Garlic Butter ($13.50) and Sauteed Foie Gras ($23), but Chef Lair also offers some more novel concoctions.
My favorite: The Perigord Foie Gras and Porcini Mushroom Ravioli ($18). It‚Äôs rich. It‚Äôs flavorful. It‚Äôs perfect. There‚Äôs also a wonderful plate of Crunchy Boston Scallops wrapped in Kataifi (a Middle Eastern pastry made with a special variety of shredded phyllo dough) with Granny Smith apples ($15.50).
There are more than a dozen entrees, again providing both the expected and unexpected.
Among the expected: Dover Sole Meuniere ($44), one of Le Vallauris‚Äô signature dishes with a mustard mouselline (similar to hollandaise), and Roasted Duck with Red Current Reduction ($34). The duck is crispy yet moist and not a bit greasy.
A somewhat more exotic offering is the Couscous ($27) with a m√©lange of fresh vegetables prepared with Indian spice. It‚Äôs served with large tender asparagus and baby broccoli. There‚Äôs also a wonderful Braised Lamb Shank ($37) with tomato and white wine and Osso Bucco ($34) served with spinach and mashed potatoes.
Maybe I just have a weakness for it, but to me the desserts at Le Vallauris are the best part of the meal. Instead of a simple Cr√®me Brulee ($10), here pastry chef Dellac has added raspberries to the mix, giving us just a bit more diversity in consistency.
The Pear Tarte ($10) has a perfect buttery consistency with the pear baked in the middle of the pastry. Yummy!
Chocolate lovers will savor the Monaco Dark Chocolate Mousse ($10) with hazelnut crunch and espresso sauce or the Guayaquil Chocolate Souffle ($10.50) made with pure Ecuadorian cocoa and served with chocolate ice cream. Talk about your ‚Äúdeath by chocolate!‚ÄĚ
Le Vallauris is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner with brunch on Sunday.
385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262