Food & Drink Jul 8, 2010 at 4:00 am

The Chef in the Hat's New Venture Fails to Knock the Socks Off

He declined to remove his hat for this photograph.


I realize this is but a minor quibble, but olive oil does not have cholesterol in it.
"hatting about" is a perfect description of what Thierry does.
Luc's website calls its food "heartwarming," but this burger has other designs on your cardiac system.

God, I love that line. And I think it's perfectly acceptable to take your napkin and discreetly discharge something disagreeable...if you don't broadcast what you're doing.
Thierry is a much better self promoter than he is a cook. But I wouldn't expect Seattlites to know any better.
Oh Bethany, this stoops even a bit below your level. Playing pitbull, writing bad reviews for all the restaurants who don't advertise for your rag has gotten a bit predictable.
This was the worst review I have seen from a writer. A dagger thrown at a truely a talented chef. The Guy was awarded the James Beard. His food and work ethic are great. He has dedicated his life to food someone with no back of the house experience writes a very cold review about a great guy. Karma Karma
"If you wanted to taste the meat, you're out of luck. Your napkin looks like something terrible happened."

I've had their burger 3 times. And let me tell you something, I could taste the meat just fine and it was perfectly cooked and delicious. I think this reviewer is used to neat little wrappers found on burgers at McDonalds to keep her hands clean and that's why she can't handle a real burger.

"the soufflé potato crisps are zeppelin emissaries of the deep fryer, fun for the novelty of them"

The reviewer doesn't know how to appreciate the technique and skill necessary to souffle the fries. It's not "fun", it's called technique.

Overall I am skeptical about Ms. Clement's ability to review restaurants of high caliber food like at Luc's. She should stick to reviewing Cheesecake Factories.
Well Ms. Clement,
I have to say that your review just sounds like some sort of passive aggressive dig at the restaurant than a legitimate restaurant critique. Nice try though.
I do believe anyone who dines at Luc will feel the thought that Chef Thierry has put into each item on the menu and fall in love with item they try upon each visit.
why is bethany always hating on Thierry? you'd think he stomped on her kitten with all the bad reviews she's given him.
Why even review a place 90% of your readers will never go to, esp. if it's lousy?
Sounds like he was spot in dressing down the saute chef. Maybe you would have been more sympathetic after you had tasted your rubbery halibut.
His behavior, and the downsides of the kitchen's work, are exactly what 70% of the failing chefs in Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares are like. Successful people who are riding on ego and reputation, letting their work suffer, and slowly watching their once-excellent restaurants go downhill. Evidently Thierry hasn't gotten to that point yet, but he should learn by example and get back into the kitchen...especially when the restaurant reviewer dearly wants him to. (And what kind of restaurateur ignores the reviewer while schmoozing some random people?)
I completely agree Bethany. I live in the neighborhood, and have given Luc 4 chances. I really wanted to love it. While I will say the worst thing about the place is the Madison Park crowd, the food doesn't make up for them. The bean stew is too buttery (something i never thought i would say), and the same pasta you described I thought had an overly muddy sauce. My trout was way underseasoned, and the salad was too acidic. The same cheese plate can be had by a quick trip to Costco, which I found really disappointing.

Now Voila is great. Not that the food is necessarily brilliant, but it's solid neighborhood French bistrot fare in a place that feels like a neighborhood restaurant. And you don't feel like you died and woke up in the part of hell reserved for people from Broadmoor.
I've eaten at fancy restaurants and dropped a few hundred (typical range $200 to $500) for a meal - I think your review, Bethany, is a good one, and tells us what we need to know.

Food critics should be feared, not live in fear.
kittens taste best in a light honey dip.
@10, why do you assume Stranger readers won't eat there?
I'm guessing the complaints about "passive aggressive" tone in the review are focused on the references to the chef's hat. If Rautureau is going to make a fetish of his hat, BJC has every right to make a theme of it in her review. It's a connecting thread - not the sum total of her commentary, which is very much focused on the food.

My opinion is that Clement writes a judicious and thoughtful review, nearly every time her pen hits paper. Frankly, her food writing is my favorite content in The Stranger. Her wit, turn of phrase and honest appraisals and understanding of the food's sourcing and flavors (far beyond Tony Bourdain's "Oh, that's good!" or the metaphor-simile circuses in other publications) are consistently delightful experiences for this reader. Her tone reminds me in every good way of M.F.K. Fisher.

And let's be honest -- if that's even possible in this town: if she wanted to, Clement could write a caustic, bitchy review and put another notch in her chef-killer knife handle like so many other (far less informative and entertaining) food writers. But she doesn't. I believe this is because she truly loves food and the people who create it for us -- she's not interested in destruction. She's interested in illumination and, where merited, celebration. It's impossible for me to believe someone could write this well about something they disdain.

In this case, Bethany has put a stick in the eye of one of Seattle's most self-promoting sacred cows. I've eaten at Rover's. It's marginally better than Canlis. It's certainly not a patch on the restaurants of other highly visible chefs such as St. John and Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road in London or Per Se in NYC; and it's an also-ran compared to the work of less public chefs like Bruce Naftali at Seattle's own Le Gourmand.

Chefs who work the room are not in the kitchen. Rautureau needs to get back there and allow his guests to be greeted by great food...not Seattle's version of the celebrity chef.

Another great review Bethany. Thank you for it.
It's fun to notice how the most critical comments are going the route of "you have no idea how hard he works/how hard it is to make that/buuuuttt it's MEEEEAAN!" instead of addressing the legitimate gripes that she had.

Writing from the point of view of how much effort the chef expends while making the food means that my pancakes would get a 10/10 every time, so I guess I couldn't complain about using that metric too much. A review such as this, written as a consumer (and not the producer) of meals is much more valuable, provided that your audience is likely to be on the same side of the counter.
"Chefs who work the room are not in the kitchen."

JTC speaks the truth. I've reached my tolerance threshold for "celebrity chef" culture, thank you very much.
I'd like to see the IP addresses from the anonymous pro-Luc comments. I'd bet one of those burgers that they came from the same ISP, if not the same IP. Astroturfy: "fall in love with item[sic] they try upon each visit."
@20: also, in all these threads, the James Beard Award keeps being brought up, as though it makes the halibut better retroactively.
Let's be honest, agree or disagree with this particular review, Bethany is by far the weakest contributor at the Stranger. Her default key is bratty petulance. And her inability to objectively convey information is irritating beyond belief. There are facts and there are opinions, and a good review needs both. Bethany feels that so long as she couches something in the cloak of "opinion" she is free to be as snarky as possible, all with her self-delighted undertone that shouts--"Gee look how clever and funny I am." The Stranger really does need to get a food critic who is as good as the MASTERFUL Jen Graves, whose art reviews are perfect examples of great writing and great criticism.
@22 -- Won't argue with your personal like/dislike of any individual writer as it's your call for yourself (I like BJC's work, you don't. Fine.), but I would pose the consideration that art criticism and food criticism are fundamentally different.

Art typically touches us through the sense of sight (I understand there are exceptions) and then morphs almost immediately into a primarily intellectual experience with emotional overtones. Food is experienced through nearly every sense and is much more basic, being one of the most profoundly human experiences along with breathing, sex, and other bodily functions.

As such, I would argue that food, and therefore discussion of it, is much more intimate to the human condition and therefore allows more playfulness, teasing, smacking and familiarity than does the more intellectual and "exalted" position held by art.

I'm sure someone smarter than me can knock this on its head in a millisecond, but I think a less formal, more earthy and opinionated relationship between food critic and reader is entirely appropriate.
@23 Bethany Jean is that you? It's cheating to sock-puppet here! But if you're not BJ, let me just say, you're certainly welcome to your opinion. That said, check out, if you have not already, some writings of one of the greatest food writers of all time: MFK Fisher. Go here:…
I've heard this is "the new spot" to try, but a lot of these guys are doing amazing happy hours and dining deals that are quite competitive - deals at Canlis, Happy Hours at John Howie Steak Restaurant in Bellevue, and than of course the Attic in Madison Park. Probably the best beef Puyallup in town, bar none. And the Red Onion - amazing chips.
Folks - let's get back to the food. I've eaten at Rovers & Luc. I've not been impressed by either. I've eaten in some of the best restaurants in Tokyo, NYC, London and Paris. The best meal I've ever had was in Joel Robuchon's cafe in Ebisu, Tokyo - not the restaurant on the second floor but the CAFE. I've been there twice, didn't spend as much money as I did on a similar meal at Rover's and the food/experience was incredible - not even comparable. Luc's was OK. The big cheese platter was too big, the trout amandine had too much butter and was not as good as Cafe Campagne's, the mackerel was good but needed more acidity to offset the richness of it. Nice service but you have to put up with the snobs from Madison Park and Broadmoor. I found the heavy handedness with butter, creme freche, oil and portions to be over indulgent and unnecessary. I'd go back but if given a choice, I'd rather go to Cafe Campagne or Le Pichet. There, I don't have to decide on menu choices based on a predictable pattern of very rich food intended to serve the nouvaeu riche neighborhood in which it resides.

What's wrong with you people? That's the problem with Seattle, you guys are so provincial. I have traveled the world and eaten in the best places, Thierry is one of the most talented chefs in this country. Why don't you start by educating yourself ? Then you can judge .
I consider Rover's the best restaurant in Seattle. I'd pay for Rover's anytime I can afford it (not often). So I wanted to like Luc, I really did. Twas not to be. For the price range there are probably a half dozen restaurants I'd rather eat at in Seattle and that's really the problem. So much competition at that price point makes this a very difficult niche to fill competitively and Luc is not there yet. Like all new restaurants, if it survives a year I'll try it again and see if it settles into a more dependable and desirable rhythm of cooking and service.
Regarding the crowd there, Rautureau financed Luc's opening in a way that assures that crowd would be there. If you invested you basically get 'dividends' in the form of gift certificates spendable at Luc or Rover's every quarter until you were reimbursed with interest. Minimum investment amount was $1,000 and invitation to invest was sent to existing Rover's patrons. Of course you see a tony crowd here, they're merely getting their money's worth for investing. Expect this brigade to clear out in the next 2 years and then see who really stays. That will be the real crowd. So Luc is half done I think, it needs to bake a little longer before it's true character comes through.

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