A Delightful Throwback
By Bill Gerdes
Le Rendez-Vous keeps French cuisine alive in the IE
If I were to say that Le Rendez-Vous is a rather perfect representation of a French restaurant in the 1970s and ’80s with a few modern twists thrown in, I’d expect some readers to see this as criticism, the start to a takedown, a diss if you will. But Le Rendez-Vous in San Bernardino—it’s off the 18 on the way to Arrowhead—is a throwback restaurant, in ways that delighted, surprised and at times befuddled me on a recent visit.
The outside looks dated. The sign saying “Le Rendez-Vous” is faded and dull. It’s a look designed to drive customers away, probably toward the bright shiny Applebee’s down the street. I generally don’t give a crap about what a place looks like—this apathetic response to décor is tested by the inside as well. The carpet is old and the place reminds me of several Scottish Highland hotels I’ve been to, homey, a bit camp, dim.
None of this matters much. Le-Rendez-Vous does fantastic French cuisine. It starts with a very attentive staff, one that is knowledgeable, friendly and offers a Continental-style approach to a meal. There’s no sense that they’re trying to rush diners; there’s time to enjoy, relax, have that second glass of Cab. Or to enjoy the food, the rich, creamy, buttery, at times delightfully dirty French food.
It starts with the bread, tasty French white bread, airy, doughy and tasty. Lather on some of the olive tapenade, made with green and black olive, along with pepperoncini slivers that add a kick and some wine, and I was happy. Add to this a cup of their French Onion Soup and I was even happier. This is a subtle French onion, less salty, less cheesy. Although a lid of cheese covering the cup that I happily chew through on my way to the broth, bread and onions that manage to convey complexity, not blandness. I also saw but didn’t sample what looked to be an amazing Escargot Roquefort because when there’s a chance to combine snails and blue cheese, by all means do it.
If 1979 had a signature dish it just might be the Oscar. Be it a steak or on fish, I love the idea of taking a piece of meat, dumping a bunch of lump crab on it, some Béarnaise sauce, with perhaps some asparagus and I’m sold. So I was already a believer when the Salmon Oscar arrived at my table. But still . . . this is about as hedonistic as you can make salmon, with small rivers of butter running through my plate, a restrained Béarnaise sitting on top, along with some crab, the only disappointment—and that but slight—it’s an Olympian overload of cholesterol and calories. And it’s delicious. Maybe I could quibble and say the salmon was ever so slightly overcooked—it’s 1979 in here. We actually cooked our food during the Iran-Hostage era. And we loved it.
French restaurants have been closing all around the Inland Empire; Jean’s, Gerard’s—all gone now. Le Rendez-Vous is a reminder that classic French cooking is something that never goes out of style.
Le Rende-Vous Gourmet Cuisine, 4775 N. Sierra Wy., San Bernardino, (909) 883-1231; www.LeRendezVousRestaurant.com. Tues-Thurs, 5:30pm-9pm; Fri-Sat, 5pm-10pm; Sun, 11am-9pm.