I get nostalgic for places I haven’t been. The vibrant towns in the middle of France that I have yet to make it to. I dream of getting lost in one of those towns, on a balmy summers night, only to turn a corner and happen upon a courtyard filled with table tops and pretty string lights and in the corner, a small restaurant run by a tough French woman and her husband where the scent of the lemon creme sauce reaches you before you even see the front door.
Le Fou Frog is that place for me, in Kansas City. In fact, when I walk through those doors I am no longer in the Rivermarket but in a restaurant, run by a tough American woman and her French husband from Marseille, where the staff knows my name and the French music plays all night long. Pushing back the heavy curtains that block the sun, cold or wind – you are greeted by a host and the backdrop is deep reds, dim lights and murmured conversation. The clatter of plates, the chime of silverware, the clinking of glasses of bubbly and the slurp of men eating the soup of the day make up a cacaphony of perfection so charming one feels as if they are in an old French fairytale. To really drive that point home, most nights, the staff sing songs during dinner. French songs, classic songs, it’s a subtle nod to life as a musical and I cannot tell you how pure and how refreshing it is to experience firsthand.
Now you’re seated at the table and what do you order? If it’s happy hour, for sure the Pommes Frites ($), they are divine. Served with mayo and ketchup if you wish, they are the frenchiest of fries. Never had Escargots Provençales ($10)? You’ve never had escargot this good, I can just about guarantee that. Even in France I haven’t tasted a more buttery, garlicky, earthy, robust flavor. They are served in the shells and there is an art to consuming them. Take your plate, take the shell grabbers, dump out the insides on your plate and careful as your mouth will begin to salivate as the butter, garlic mixture drips out of the shell, along with the snail. Dip your fresh baked bread in the delicious, mouth-watering juice and enter heaven. You will be fighting your date over every last buttery morsel. The creme de la creme for me, is their Fresh Hudson Valley Fois Gras Mousse ($19). If you aren’t sure what it is – well, maybe try a bite and then ask. It’s a controversial dish, I’ll give you that, but it’s here, it’s on the plate in front of me and I cannot tell you how many times I’m minding my own business in life and am suddently struck by the intense craving of creamy mousse with carmelized onions and raspberry jam on warm brioche. If it happens, I have no choice but to administer the cure which is a full order just for me. Anyone I’ve ever had try a bite has lost their damn mind with how surprisingly wonderful it is and they’re mildly annoyed nobody had turned them onto this before. I would be, too.
Ah the main course, the piece de resistance – I always suggest seafood. Oh! Their Moules Marinières or Mussels- I almost forgot. Shiny silver shells bathing in a white wine broth with bay leaves, sat in a bowl upon a silver stand so it becomes a delicious centerpiece so everyone at the table can imbibe (also available during happy hour). Ok, back to business. Fish! Mano from Marseille slays his fish dishes – always incredible. I always recommend the Sole Limonde ($29); lemon sole with smoked salmon, leeks, risotto and a sorrel beurre blanc. Are you jokin? It’s phenomenal. If you’re feeling fancy, which the frog will do to you, order the Queue De Hommard Sauce Vanille Et Champagne ($30.00) twin maine lobster tails in a butter sauce of champagne and vanilla served with creamy risotto; did I say decadence? It’s literal perfection and a dish I always order on special occasions, like their annual Fête de Noël, a two night dinner celebration that features 12 courses with live music, French Christmas traditions and carols and of couse, the lobster.
If meat is your thing, try the Steak Au Poivre ($42) Kansas City strip encrusted in black peppers flambeed in cognac with a sauce of veal stock, madagascar green peppercorns and cream, served with french fries and a mixed field green salad. A dish fit for the French royalty you will feel like when dining at Le Fou. The Magret Du Canard ($25) is a dish you won’t find on many menus. Duck with cracked black pepper, raspberry au jus, served with wild rice and vegetables, a rustic yet elevated dish that will make you quack all the way home (in a good way, of course).
If you have a sweet tooth you can count on homemade desserts at Le Fou; creme brulee or chocolate mousse, they will let you know the daily specials. As for me, I usually go with an additional glass of bubbly.
The staff is wonderful and warm and oh so talented. I’m partial to my favorite part-time bartender, Sam. I’m not sure when we became pals but I know I frequented there enough he learned my name and my order. The atomsphere is charming and quirky and each time I walk through those doors, I feel at home in a place that makes me nostalgic for places I haven’t been. Sitting at the bar (my favorite place save for the back patio), can cure a bad day. Their daily soups are exsquisite and have no business being so good. Their wine list never disappoints and Barbara is always excited to give you her recommendations. People are just plain happy when they’re at Le Fou, they literally will not let you be anything else. It’s a gem of a place and if you haven’t been, I implore you to go. It’s a place for a date night, a friend catch-up, take your grandmother – one size fits all and if you see me there, please say Bonjour.