By ROBIN GARR
How authentic is it?Â Hereâ€™s how: I decided to give my limited language skills a workout by ordering a dish in French. â€œIâ€™ll have the CrÃªpes aux Epinards, please,â€ I chirped, properly gargling my Rs and liaisoning the preposition so it came out something like â€œKhwehpp Oâ€™Zehpeenagghh.â€ I beamed, anticipating high praise for my tourist-French accent.
â€œSpinach crepes,â€ the friendly Francophone server chirped right back, restoringÂ the conversation toÂ English.
Funny, this always happens to me in Paris, too.
But youâ€™ll never need to worry about Parisian snootiness at Louis Le FranÃ§ais, where the staff â€“ French-bred and Hoosier-born alike â€“ is courteous and as friendly as youâ€™d expect at a dining room in an Indiana town.
Louis Le FranÃ§ais simply means â€œLouie the Frenchman,â€ and youâ€™ll find the namesake owner-chef, Louis Retailleau, turning out delicious country French fare in a bright, sunny-color venue where both the food and the mood come strikingly close to matching his native ProvenÃ§e.
Louis Le FranÃ§ais is open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays and for brunch on Sundays. The lunch menu keeps things simple with a short list of soup or salad ($) and four Plats Principaux (â€œmain dishesâ€) from $8 for the sandwich du jour to $10 for Ragout de Boeuf, a French beef and vegetable stew, plus desserts. I want to go over soon for Sunday brunch, which is served from a menu, not a buffet, and includes about a dozen choices, with everything under $10 except Louisâ€™s house cured pork belly bacon and eggs ($13) or Michelâ€™s crÃªpe ($10).
The dinner menu, with main courses from $17 to $27, is revised frequently. On the summery evening of our visit, we started out cool with a bowl of chilled gazpacho ($4), a summer soup of gently spicy pureed tomatoes, bell peppers and other good things. The aforementioned CrÃªpes aux Epinards ($4) was a pair of small, tender crÃªpes wrapped like ravioli around finely chopped spinach and sauced with a light veloutÃ© scented with herbes de ProvenÃ§e. Lengths of crusty baguette with butter curls were served alongside.
Main dishes were fine, too: Two slices of tender, very mild lamb ($27) were served with its jus and a ration of herb-sprinkled rice. The ratatouille ($17) was an excellent rendition, chunks of eggplant, zucchini and tomato long-simmered with herbs until the flavors swam together, placed in a circle around a modest mound of rice.
Getting mighty full, we still gave in to dessert and were glad we did: CrÃ¨me BrÃ»lÃ©e ($7) was made in classic
fashion, with a crackling caramelized surface over a thin layer of creamy custard studded with deep melted chocolate surprises.
A full dinner with apps, mains, a shared dessert, a good value bottle of Bouchard Pinot Noir ($26)Â and coffee ($2) came to $95.23, a toll that wouldnâ€™t be out of line at a bistro on Bardstown Road â€“ or in ProvenÃ§e. First-rate service in both French and English earned a $20 tip.
Coming event: According to a recent post on the restaurantâ€™s Facebook page, Louis has big plans for a day-long event to mark Bastille Day (July 14, which happily falls on a Saturday this year) with French fare and entertainment for all! Keep an eye on their page for more details.
Louis Le FranÃ§ais, 133 E. Market St., New Albany, Ind., 812.944.1222, LouisLeFrancais.com, or search for LouisFrancaise on Facebook.