Breathe a sigh of relief: Le Coq au Vin is back to being the wonderful little restaurant it was in the past.
Yes, I know. A lot of you have been worried, and some of you have turned away, sadly mourning the loss of a good friend. Come back. Le Coq au Vin is once again the charming, country French restaurant you remembered. And my recent meal there was as delightful as any of the many I’ve enjoyed over the decades.
What started all the angst and hand-wringing was the sale, a few years ago, by longtime owner Louis Perrotte to Reimund Pitz. I’ll admit that my hands wrang a bit, too. It appeared at first that Pitz had bought a local legend with the intention of turning it into his own restaurant. The audacity. Well, there may have been something to that. And I think even Pitz today would admit as much.
Perhaps it became clear that too much change -- at least too fast -- was too much. Pitz and crew seem to be focusing on the core elements of the old Le Coq au Vin, which is to provide good quality food with a French accent and proper service in a cozy (if somewhat quirky) atmosphere.
Ironically, the only dish on my most recent visit that did not elicit oohs and aahs at my table was the one that lends its name to the restaurant. Coq au vin, or chicken in wine, is not meant to be an haute cuisine item, but this one was a tad too ordinary, a chicken leg quarter with a bit of the wine sauce ladled over, accompanied by simple carrots and green beans, with some plain noodles.
But other dishes at my table were ooh-worthy, especially the boeuf Bourguinon, a cocotte filled with a rich gravy of red wine reduction and wonderfully tender beef tips with carrots and potatoes. Every bit as “countrified” as the coq au vin but more richly flavored.
And my other dining companion’s duck two ways, a confit leg and sliced breast meat, was perfect. The meat was tender (the leg had an especial tender-juicy mouthfeel) and the cherry sauce and pears atop the duck gave it just the right grace notes.
My soupe a l’oignon starter was as good as any I’ve had in Paris, the stock beefy and full of onion strings, and the cheesy topping with just the right level of gooiness.
And, of course, the Grand Marnier souffle for dessert, a sweet ethereal treat. I’m not sure one is permitted to dine here without ordering one.
Little seems to have changed about the dining rooms, which are certainly one of the oddest collections of rooms in any Central Florida restaurant. But you didn’t want change, did you?
Service, as always, was first-rate. Always attentive and ready to go the extra step to make the dinner special.
There are still things on the menu that might make you question the legitimacy of the place. (Schnitzel? Really?) But the old Le Coq au Vin is still there, and it’s waiting for you to come back.
Le Coq au Vin is at 4800 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It’s open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Entrees can soar into the $30 range, but several of the dishes are available in smaller portions that will keep prices in the lower $20s. The phone number is 407-851-6980.